Listen carefully to Chole’s words here (read them aloud once or twice):
The church is both afflicted and exhausted by the dizzying notion that God-given power should be exercised in every God-given moment. Jesus makes it clear, however, that [can does not equal should]. Jesus’ voice flattened armed soldiers, yet He permitted these self-declared enemies to stand up again. Jesus had angels at His disposal, yet declined to dispatch them. We dare not mistake these choices for passivity, resignation, or weakness. This dimension of strength was the fruit of power fully submitted to love.
Alicia Britt Chole
Jesus voluntarily chose to drink the cup of sorrow, pain and sacrifice.
I’ve written at length in this space regarding my conviction that denying pain diminishes the power of the cross.
If death isn’t awful, if life in this fallen world isn’t full of sorrow, if eternal separation from God is not Hell then why the cross?
Right here, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus acknowledges the terrible cost of salvation, of redemption, of restoration:
Only Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit understood the unspeakable cost Jesus would pay for our sins to be forgiven. Under the crushing weight of all that was to come, Jesus offered variations of the same prayer three times: ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as You will.’
“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich
I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning. And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.
Death had died.
Christ was risen-the firstfruits of many brethren.
On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall.
Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles
Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal.
The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.
Today is the day on the church calendar when we pause and reflect on the Last Supper, and the last words of Jesus to His disciples.
A year’s worth of sermons is contained in John 13-17 but this week I have been drawn to just one verse:
[Jesus said] ‘Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.’
If you’ve ever woken in the night only to have every thing you’ve left undone or done poorly or done selfishly line up like pointing fingers across your eyelids then you know the power of shame.
If you, like me, have buried a child, you know the long hours between when you hear the news and can once again touch the earthly shell of your loved one drag on and are fertile ground for what ifs, should haves and could haves.
Shame is a powerful emotion. It declares me unworthy of love, affection and even consideration.
Shame is undoubtedly what drove Peter back to his old fishing habits having denied the Master he swore to love unto death.
And shame can keep me prisoner behind walls of self-protection that aren’t really effective at all.
But I don’t have to accept those feelings, I don’t have to listen to those voices and I don’t have to live behind a stone rolled in front of my past.
Christ died for this…He not only bore my sin but also my shame. He not only died to bear my punishment, He rose to declare the debt has been paid in full!
Jesus did not merely dust me off and iron out a few of the more stubborn wrinkles in my life. He saved me because I was in desperate need of saving. I am alive only because He lives.
Alicia Britt Chole
When the women went to the tomb only to find the stone rolled away and an angel declaring the Good News, their lives were changed in an instant. There was no longer any need to live in the despair of death and fear.
And when I receive the new life God offers me in Christ, I am changed in precisely the same way. It certainly isn’t as earth shattering (literally-there was an earthquake!) nor as dramatic (no angelic visitor here) but it is just as real.
The women didn’t feel like they needed to keep visiting that tomb repeatedly to prove to themselves Jesus had risen. It was fact and they lived in light of what they knew to be true from that moment forward.
I don’t need to keep revisiting my dead sinsand past mistakes either.
Jesus has carried them away.
I am free to live in the resurrected life I share with Him.
Is shame standing watch over any dead things in your life? Jesus died to forgive you-follow His example and forgive yourself. Fast guarding that tomb. Let an earthquake or an angel roll away the stone so that you can see that nothing is there anymore. It is empty. Jesus conquered it. Jesus removed it. All that is there now is light and hope.
If you haven’t watched the body of someone you love lowered into the ground while holding your breath and praying, praying, praying that somehow, some way this isn’t real then maybe you can’t imagine what it feels like not to be spared.
Me? It doesn’t take but a single breath to go from “everything is alright” to “my world is shattered”. I feel every. single. death. added to the tally coronavirus or mass shooting or tornado destruction leaves behind.
And this weekend I add my aunt-the last of my grandmother’s siblings, the last of a generation-to that number.
So what do we do if we aren’t rescued? What do we cling to if our family isn’t spared?
What if all the prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
When Jesus entered Jerusalem He was hailed as a hero. But when He didn’t perform as expected He was cast aside.
Will I choose to believe even when it’s hard?
So what if I’m not rescued?
What if my family isn’t spared?
What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
Will I still believe?
Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?
We live in a noisy world. If we happen to be in a quiet place, we bring our noise boxes with us our pockets.
Does anyone go anywhere without their phone?
Connectivity invites us to constant interaction with others and only the rare, out of the way, unconnected corner leaves us to contemplate our own thoughts or our own feelings.
Yet we need to seek silence. We need to sit with our inner selves and reflect on the work of Christ in our hearts.
If the enemy forces us to give up quietness, we must not listen to him. For nothing is like quietness and abstinence from food. They combine to fight together against him. For they give keen insight to the inner eyes.
Abba Doulas, c. 3rd Century
Grief is brutal.
Dominic’s death and burial so closely following the pattern of Holy Week has led to superimposing my own experience on that of the disciples and Mary.
When Christ was declared truly dead, taken from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave it surely must have felt as if there was no hope. This Rabbi, this Miracle Worker, this Man of God who claimed to be the Son of God had not stopped evil men from wrongly accusing Him, wrongly convicting Him and wrongly putting Him to death.
I don’t have to imagine how that felt.
Dominic was killed late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Days of silent waiting filled the space between when I knew and when I could finally see his body.
If I could have filled that time with distracting noise I would have.
But there is no sound that can drown out grief.
I often imagine the company of those who loved Jesus sitting silent in a room together each with his or her own thoughts. What was there to say?
Today, Chole invites us to fast our voice-spoken and written-and to make space to hear our own thoughts as well as the still, small whisper of the Lord.
It’s no coincidence that communities honor the fallen with a moment of silence.
In that sacred silence we are drawn together and also forced to face our separate sense of loss, fear, hope-or lack of hope- and mortality. It is an exercise we frequently shun but should instead embrace.
Today I encourage you to sit in silence with your own loss, with the hope and light of the gospel, with the promise that every bad thing, every wicked thing, everything the enemy means for evil will one day be irrevocably and beautifully be undone and redeemed.
Have you ever been silenced by a painting, symphony or play? Have you ever been moved so deeply by an experience that words failed you and the only worthy offering was silence? In fasting our voice we are focusing-not remotely emptying-our minds to behold Jesus with love….Join the disciples today in beholding Jesus in His death.