Monthly Archives: August 2022

Toward

“In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people…”
~Isaiah 28~

Toward the end of St. John of the Cross’s work The Dark Night, he writes about the three faculties of the soul being acted upon by God. He identifies these faculties as the intellect, the memory, and the will. Through the soul’s dark night, which can also be representative of the Christian’s earthly pilgrimage to his eternal belonging and reunion with Christ, and which was suffered most acutely by our Lord himself on Calvary’s cross, the intellect becomes faith, the memory becomes hope, and the human will is transformed into love. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are our present partaking in Christ by which Christians are given victory over every earthly enemy.

He pairs the heavenly gifts of faith, hope, and love with the Christian’s enemies; the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Against the devil we are given the gift of faith. When describing the armor of God, St. Paul identifies the shield of faith as the element by which we extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. Faith comes by hearing the word, and the word of God is divine power to silence the devil in his temptations, words of condemnation, and terrors. Hope is the strength by which we now face the world. Looking beyond it’s meager pleasures and enticements, still residing in a world where death, decay, and corruption would only lead us to despair, hope is the turned renewal of forward vision toward the God who rich in mercy has promised to love us all the way home.

“This is the ordinary task of hope in the soul;” he writes, “it raises the eyes to look only at God…” He is the only one whose grace is sufficient to sustain us when life’s storms would swiftly destroy us. He kneels there beside us in trials and sorrows, and opens his hands to collect every tear. To look to God is to behold again the one who loves, knows, and created us, who does not hide his face when we need him but holds the treasures of life and peace before us of remaking and restoring our innermost being and raising up our flesh and bone. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, a nightless hope laid up in heaven, a home in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

Nineteen Years

During our wedding ceremony I remember being embarrassed by what the pastor was wearing. The heat index was nearing 100 degrees and he had on what looked like a furry grey poncho. I’d never seen a pastor wear anything like that. I was already uncomfortable with the fact that the word “Homily” was in our wedding bulletin and that we were saying The Lord’s Prayer. My family and friends, my high school music teacher who I would’ve married in a heartbeat had he not already been so himself, all these other people, though Christians, weren’t Lutheran. I wasn’t either.

My mortification increased substantially the second he pulled out the meat cleaver, which could’ve been some kind of hatchet or ax for all I knew, and started swinging it around during the message. “Cleave to, not from” are the words from that day I will never forget. He had many other wonderful words, ones that I did not remember as readily, but would be eager to find again and absorb. For a long time I was ashamed of the wedding pictures taken during the ceremony. The onlookers seemed amused and delighted by the hatchet, but the look on my face reveals I was not.

I again recall a fight we had after our first pre-marital counseling session. The pastor hadn’t prayed with us, and I thought that was weird, like it seemed to me that the man who’d be guiding us into something as serious and monumental as marriage should’ve at least at first, or at some point along the way, consulted God in the matter. And such was the beginning of a history of poorly played notes, a record of wrongs I never dreamed of obtaining, nor ever intended to keep. Be gone the day, that horrid day, when I traded good intentions for being stuck in my ways.

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.” Praise God for forgiveness, the most beautiful of gifts, that has been granted to us alongside everlasting life. “Hold up the cross, never hold up the cross”, he said, something like that, as the homily went on. The words were as good, true, and beautiful as the marriage bond itself, this covenantal union that heals and simultaneously breaks our hearts. It breaks them as inside and out there still exists evil, and this world is not yet itself fully healed.

And it heals them because true love, of any kind, drives us to God, to Jesus our Savior, the healer and lover of all and most perfect of bridegrooms. It’s not a knock on me, or an insult to any other, to speak the truth about who Jesus is. For it is in his word of truth that our hearts are set free. He wants us to come to him with whatever it is that is on our minds, burdening our souls, or tearing open our hearts. And when we do he listens, and loves, and turns us back, that we might enter into the heart he shares and love again more fully. A love that blesses, and heals, and forgives, and lives on.

Formed

“Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”
~Psalm 111:2~

Anymore it seems to me like the reason we are here on earth is to enjoy what God has given us and love other people. If we’ve been given a mind that thinks and works, we can enjoy a life thinking on the things of God, and love others by sharing the thoughts that God gives us. If we have been given the gift of days, we can live a life of praise with our bodies, where every step is an offering of love, every breath a song that God placed in us.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a tribute far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

(When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Waats)

Abiding

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
~1 Corinthians 13:13~

I guess at some point after a break you have to come back and write again. It’s been a month, a little more, and somehow I thought the returning to writing here was going to be easier, like if I waited in the quiet just another whole day, then somehow I’d magically have the words. Indeed, with each hour that passes me by, the soulspace that at one time was duly needing to be cleared for other things, has become more and more filled with the painful reminder that I have yet to come back here. I feel now as though I have tarried too long.

Our summer camp program finished up over the weekend. Every year it goes by faster. In the beginning of the summer, I thought that one of the things I could do to keep me focused and help me through the busier season would be to take some time to showcase the ministry that happens here. As it was, this wasn’t the year for that, though it was directive again to remember that Christian ministry has gone on for millennia without the aid of flyers, social media, or broadcasters. Where two or three are gathered, where the Holy Spirit dwells, there God also is in the midst of his people.

Normally I try to write at least three paragraphs. Something that somehow got started through blogging was this thing I do where my paragraphs all have to be the same number of lines and the following paragraph has to eventually end up as the same shape as the previous one. It can really be a pain to have to do it like this, but at this point I don’t know how else to do it. Obviously it’s impossible for this to happen every time. Sometimes when you publish, what was symmetrical in the draft looks totally different on the page, with a line or a word sticking out where it wasn’t before. Still God’s light shines overhead.