Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen in the line of duty. Memorial Day is the day on which we honor those who gave their lives in defense of our country. It is no surprise that nearly all Americans recognize this honor, regardless of their viewpoints on religion, politics, etc. It is because we understand that freedom is never free, that “the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of patriots.”
To those who survive, my heartfelt thanks. Word cannot express my gratitude nor comfort your sorrow. I therefore ask the Lord Who is Comfort to do it for me.
While those of us who served, or are currently serving, appreciate the gratitude expressed to us on Memorial Day, we (if I may be so bold as to speak for everyone else) would greatly prefer that gratitude be focused toward those who have joined the ranks of the rarest of honors: Families of the Gold Star.
Veterans are most appropriately thanked on Veteran’s Day. Those currently serving, on Armed Forces Day.
But you know what? It’s better do express the gratitude while we’re all still around to hear it, so while I do have a bit of a…particular view…in the matter, don’t let my hobby-horse get in the way.
I am thankful for the Resurrection, which is the power of the Gospel. (1 Cor 15:13-15)
And continuing with the Holy Week comparisons, I’m thinking (Holy Coincidence, Batman!) that the Resurrection also occurred on the Feast of First Fruits. (1 Cor 15:20-23, )
He is risen, indeed!
I am thankful for silence. And this repost explains much better than I am able…
Silent and Empty
Gordon Hempton is of the opinion that you can count on one hand the places in the United States where you can sit for twenty minutes without hearing a generator, a plane, or some other mechanized sound. (His estimation is all the more dreary for Europe.) As an audio ecologist, Hempton has traveled the world for more than twenty-five years searching for silence, measuring the decibels in hundreds of places, and recording the sharp decline of the sounds of nature. ”I don’t want the absence of sound,” he tells one interviewer of his search. “I want the absence of noise.” Adding, “Listening is worship.”(1)
For the Christian church, Holy Week begins a time of silence, a week of sitting in the dark with the jarring events from the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem to the march of Christ to the grave. Holy Week moves the world through the shouts of Palm Sunday to the empty space of Holy Saturday. Though the Christian story clearly and loudly ends on the note of triumph and resurrection, there is a great silence in between, a great darkness the church curiously believes it is necessary to sit with.
Writing of Holy Saturday, the day most marked with this silence, theology professor Alan Lewis says of the Christian story: ”Ironically, the center of the drama itself is an empty space. All the action and emotion, it seems, belong to two days only: despair and joy, dark and light, defeat and victory, the end and the beginning, evenly distributed in vivid contrast between what humanity did to Jesus on the first day and what God did for him on the third… [Yet] between the crucifying and the raising there is interposed a brief, inert void: a nonevent surely—only a time of waiting in which nothing of significance occurs and of which there is little to be said. It is rare to hear a sermon about Easter Saturday; for much of Christian history the day has found no place in liturgy and worship it could call its own.”(2)
Perhaps this is because the world is generally uncomfortable with silence, uncomforted by waiting. And who can understand a messiah who stands at the crossroads of an identity as a deliverer, a political hero who could fight with force for our salvation and that of a servant, a messiah who chooses intentional suffering, who chooses to walk us through darkness on the way to redemption. If Holy Week is filled with events that silence all in disbelief, Holy Saturday levels us with the silence and emptiness that is the end of God.
Yet Holy Week attempts to prepare the world precisely for this silence. For certainly, here, after the end of God on Easter Saturday, we find not only the absence of sound, the absence of noise, but a vision of the world’s end—tipping the scales to despair and doubt, giving into suspicions that history is meaningless, evil in control, and our futures perilous. Such silence is one in which some can only manage a redirected cry for “Hosanna,” a reiterating of the lighthearted cheers of Palm Sunday, a desperate prayer for a Messiah to save us now, to deliver us from this evil and emptiness, from our suspicions and fear.
Such is indeed the cry of the Christian.
Professor and psychologist James Loder tells of the case of Willa, a young adult who was hospitalized and classified as schizophrenic of an undifferentiated type. She was born into a home where she was unwanted and abused. She was a bright child, but everyone took advantage of her such that she grew up with no sense of boundary or healthy relationships. Tragically, the very individuals who pledged to help her also became stories of abuse in her life. She was in the second year of graduate school when she finally broke down and could not finish her examinations.
In the hospital, she sat for hours rocking her doll and staring into space. The head nurse on the floor told Dr. Loder that they expected Willa would never leave the hospital. One day, however, while she was sitting in her chair, someone came up behind her, put arms around her and said, “The silence is not empty; there is purpose for your life.” She turned around, but there was no one there. The power of that experience began to build sanity, and to distinguish illusion from reality. While no one thought she would ever leave the hospital, she was released after three weeks. She was eventually baptized and returned to the profession for which she was training. Commenting on this encounter with God in the silence when all else seems lost, Loder writes: “The intimacy of the Spirit runs deeper than family violence and neglect, and has immense restorative power.”(3) The intimacy of God—even unto death—runs deeper than silence.
This is the story Holy Week sets before the world this week. There is much to listen for in between the crucifying and the raising. There is always much silence and darkness to sit with, but we are amiss to call it empty.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Diane Daniel, “Listening is worship,” Ode Magazine, July 2008.
(2) Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 1.
(3) Story as told by James Loder, The Logic of the Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 264-265.
I am thankful for Passion Week/Passover preparations. One of the preparations is the removal of leaven. Generally in Scripture, leaven is a symbol for sin. Probably a good idea all around, getting rid of habits that drag you down and (eventually) cause you major trouble.
Jesus refers to the Temple as His house, so He would be required to clean it prior to Passover, yes? There are those who believe that He cleaned out the Temple on at least two different occasions, and I can go with that. I personally don’t see it as necessary to explain the so called contradiction between the Synoptic Gospel accounts (Mt, Mk, Lk) and John’s version (Jn). The different authors had different viewpoints, being different people, and more importantly, they had different reasons for writing and different audiences. I believe these differences are more than sufficient to account for the different descriptions and particulars that are brought forth. The Gospels are historically accurate, but they are not primarily histories. They very much have an agenda.
I am thankful for another year for new blessings. I certainly don’t deserve them, but because I am God’s favorite, He delights in me anyway. Go figure. Good thing He’s God and I’m not.
Like I mentioned yesterday, Janus was the Roman god of…a bunch of stuff. Check out yesterday’s post for the rest.
Yesterday’s post focused on the blessings of looking (briefly, occasionally) to the past. There is benefit for looking similarly to the future; making plans, setting goals, dreaming dreams…preparing for whatever eventualities we may face. But it is also no place to live. The blessings are now. We may anticipate future blessings, but we can’t guarantee them in particular.
I much prefer The Lord Almighty, Who Was, Who Is, and Who Is to Come. Unchanging. Outside of time. Because He is not bound by time (as its creator), past, present and future don’t mean the same thing to Him as is does to us time bound creatures. And that is such a good thing.
I have posted this before, but truth doesn’t wear out with repetition:
I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who hold the (my) future. And I am content with that. Because I do know Him, what He’s like, (glimpses) of His character, I know He has so much more good in store for me. I can hardly wait. It’s like Christmas, every day. Unwrapping my Present.
I am thankful for another year of blessings. I certainly don’t deserve them, but because I am God’s favorite, He delights in me anyway. Go figure. Good thing He’s God and I’m not.
Janus was the Roman god of…a bunch of stuff. In this context, endings and beginnings, the past and the future, for whom the Romans named the first month of the year: January. It’s kind of cool to use that as a springboard for posting..at least as a basic idea.
The problem is that there is an important component missing, imVho. The Present. True, the present is fleeing and is often overlooked, but that’s the point. One could argue that Janus sits in the present, looking to the past and the future. But if he’s looking backward and forward, what does he see of NOW? I’d say not much, Maybe a bit peripherally.
Like all Roman (and Greek and…) gods, he is created in the image of man. And we are sooo much like Janus, either focused on the past, which we cannot change, or the future, which we can change, to greater or lesser degrees, sometimes.
But in either case, doing that we’re not in the present, which is the only “place” we actually live. And focusing anywhere but here/now for any length of time means we miss out on what’s beautiful and blessing us in the present. Of course, we should look to the past occasionally: for reminders of God’s incredible track record with us as creatures and with us each personally. For learning lessons from mistakes so that we don’t repeat them (too often). But we can’t live there. More on this theme tomorrow.
I much prefer The Lord Almighty, Who Was, Who Is, and Who Is to Come. Unchanging. Outside of time (unlike Janus who sits firmly inside time. On a fence, so to speak…) Because He is not bound by time (as its creator), past, present and future don’t mean the same thing to Him as is does to us time bound creatures. And that is such a good thing.
Jehovah Rophe: The Lord is Healing (my past).