Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Demise of Religion in America?

Just in the last few weeks a couple of news outlets have published material on the demise of Religious Christianity in America. One was Michael Spencer’s “The coming evangelical collapse” published in the Christian Science Monitor, and the second was Jon Meacham’s “The End of Christian America” published in Newsweek. Meacham discusses the decline of Christianity in America in general while Spencer discusses what he believes is the soon and inevitable demise of Evangelicalism in particular.

I think it important to make some distinctions in what each are saying, and to perhaps even "feel good" about the conclusions they are making. What each is saying is that American faith life-styles is going through serious revisions from the past. In the past, a vast majority of Americans identified as being "Christian" -- but we know from some fairly strong research/data that many people in our country identified with Christianity only from a cultural position; in other words, they didn't necessarily hold on to Christianity as a faith that directed their lives on a daily basis. The eventual result is that the children of a cultural faith distanced themselves from cultural norms that were inconsistently shown by the generation before them...translated, they didn't see "going to church" as an essential part of their lives if it wasn't really representing a change. An example of that is in a statistic like this: the number of younger adults that identify with the Southern Baptist Church has declined from 100,000 to 35,000 in the last decade.

There are many "causes" for this shift occurring, and yet I think it's mostly the inevitability of a "cultural" identification with the Christian faith disintegrating because what has been lost in the church is the "Kingdom" identification with faith that Jesus came to proclaim.

I don't think this is necessarily bad news. If you get the chance, head over to Greg Boyd's web site and blog at and read a longer article on this. Greg has been speaking out for over a decade on the need for the church to align itself with the Kingdom of God over against an American cultural form...And, I have been in hearty agreement with him. I first began to see the affects of cultural Christianity in 1979 when the national election between Jimmy Carter (Democrat) and Ronald Reagan (Republican) became a battle around "moral conservatism" wrapped up in Christianeze that dismissed Jimmy Carter's faith as irrelevant. I thought this was a dangerous co-opting of Kingdom principles back then and yet saw this continue through the 80's, 90's and into this decade until one can see the decline of influence in the last few years. The danger for me was biblically based -- the church is not called to make a society conform to the Kingdom of God, but rather to live out Christ in such a way that people choose to enter into the Kingdom as a choice of faith.
In politics, we have "fallen" people making political decisions based on their own self-idealized positions...which may or may not reflect principles of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God stands as a contrast to all political systems of government -- whether we agree with their politics or not. I consider myself fairly conservative on lots of political decisions, but I would not want to equate conservative politics with biblical revelation! As a church historian there is two millennium of bad lessons to learn from this.

In the end, what I propose is that we in the church return to a pre-Constantinian place and seriously dialog about being "Kingdom citizens". We may find that some of the religious baggage of the American church is well worth jettisoning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some things to Read

The time between Easter and Pentecost is from Spring to Summer here in Wisconsin. For me, it's a time for golf, yard work, and reading!

The golf game is a life-long work in progress. Yesterday I watched The Masters with Linda and got caught up in the drama that was Phil and Tiger, as well as the three way playoff that Angel Cabrera won. I felt really bad for Kenny Perry who is one of the few pros who has come to Milwaukee to the Bank Championship. All that being said, it is the game of golf that I love. I haven't made my first round of the year, but Friday this week looks good!

Yard work is also a life-long work in process...but I do enjoy the outside work. My job has too much desk time attached to it, so the chance to get outside and do the work of making the yard, garden, etc...look decent is a great diversion.

With lots of outdoor times, the indoor times are less and less; but at least when I do, reading is a better time spent than t.v. I've got several books on my reading list. One is a current read - a novel by Andy Andrews entitled "The Lost Choice". I read a previous book of his - "The Traveler's Gift", which I highly recommend. I've also ordered and will be reading Greg Boyd's new book: "The Myth of a Christian Religion" which I am very much looking forward to. I enjoy Greg Boyd as a writer, speaker, thinking, theologian. I find that much of Christian writers, as well as speakers, lack real theological content. Greg is a theologian...which is a compliment because it means he first is concerned with the dimension of God's character, heart, and revelation before His own. Lastly, I'm ordering - even before it's published - Dallas Willard's newest book, "Knowing Christ Today". Dallas Willard is also one of the sharpest thinkers of Christianity today. Both Dallas Willard and Greg Boyd direct me back to The Kingdom of God and help me think about the Kingdom in relation to the world I live in. I recommend good books by good really makes a difference.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter For Those Along the Way

Easter is a Joy-filled and mysterious event. The picture comes from Rembrandt's collections. He captures really well (even if Renaissance people play the parts) of the scene that first morning. And it was morning that it all began. Just imagine the women's and men's surprise that Sunday morning when the grave was empty and the angel of the Lord delivered the news to them that day. And, it was to women that they first appeared. It's amazing...God chose to use those who weren't even credible in a court of law... amazing - and like most Kingdom things - upside down!

But, it is evening as I write this and I am thinking of the journey of Jesus to Emmaus that first day and the companion's along the way that he reveals himself to. Here's a story written on that journey.

A Companion Along the Way: Easter Sunday on the Emmaus Road

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

The gleaming cloud tops and fragrant spring air would have
invigorated most travelers leaving Jerusalem that Sunday
afternoon. But these two began their trek to Emmaus staring grimly
at the trail, forcing leaden feet up the steep path to the ridge,
where they would follow the road down the Judean slopes.

Cleopas and his friend were going over and over the events of the
weekend that had climaxed with their Leader hanging limp, pale,
lifeless on a stained wooden cross. Then a hurried burial -- and

Hearing the crunch of footsteps behind them, Cleopas glanced back.
A traveler was rapidly climbing the grade, as if to join them. But
he had caught only fragments of their conversation. "What are you
talking about?" he asked, as he caught up to them.

Cleopas stopped. "Where have you been?" he asked. "Everybody in
Jerusalem has been talking about Jesus of Nazareth." He told of
their excitement. Of the arrest and crucifixion. Of the women's
tale of a stolen body and of angels. "We had hoped that he was the
Messiah," Cleopas said, "but now...." His words drifted off in
sadness as he resumed the journey.

They were at the summit, and as the road began its downward
incline, the traveler shot a strange challenge: "Don't you know
what the Scriptures say?" Cleopas just shrugged and gestured with
his hands as if to say, "We don't know."

So for the next several miles, the traveler began to talk,
patiently explaining each of the Scripture passages that spoke
about how the Christ, the Messiah, would have to suffer. Then he
explained about Messiah's glory to come.

Cleopas and his friend walked with amazement. It was as if
Scriptures that they had heard, but never understood before, began
to click into place. Their steps quickened. Their hearts were
pounding, but they didn't notice.

The miles seemed to melt away. Then suddenly, just around the bend
was their village, Emmaus. They were home. The traveler thanked
them for their company and turned again to the path, but they
didn't want to let him go. Not someone who could bring them such
hope, such understanding from the Scriptures.

"Won't you stay overnight?" Cleopas called. "It'll be dark soon.
You must! Please!"

He did stay. As they reclined around the table, Cleopas handed a
fresh round loaf to the traveler. "Would you honor us by offering
the blessing tonight?"

The traveler lifted up the bread and repeated the familiar the
Jewish blessing:

"Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth."

And then he began break it, handing a piece to each of them in
turn. Cleopas caught his breath. His eyes met the man's. Suddenly,
in that moment, he knew! Who knows how? -- but he knew. It was the
Lord! He saw the faintest glimmer of a smile on his face, and then
Jesus simply vanished.

All they could do was stare at each other for a moment in stunned

Then Cleopas jumped up. "It's true! The women were right. Jesus
is alive! He has risen!"

Their food and drink lay untouched on the table, but both men were
bounding out the door and away, running. "No wonder our hearts
burned within us while he was talking to us on the road," his
companion said later, as they paused briefly. They ended up
running, then walking, then running again nearly the whole way
back to the city.

Cleopas pounded on the upper room door. "We have seen him! We have
seen Jesus!" Peter opened the door a crack, but Cleopas couldn't
contain himself and pushed his way in. Then their story tumbled
out. "He's alive!" Cleopas concluded. "The moment he broke bread
with us, all of a sudden, we knew him."

Like these two men on their way to Emmaus, many have come to the
same startling conclusion. Unrecognized, Jesus begins to walk the
road with us, to talk to us. And if we think to, if we care enough
to ask Him in, we come to realize who He really is -- the Christ,
the Son of God, the Risen One.

This story has been adapted from Luke 24:13-35.

A Joy-filled Easter to you my companion on the way!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday - The Day In Between

The Scripture Readings for today are: Psalms 95, 88, 27; Job 19:21-27; Heb 4:1-16 &
Rom 8:1-11

Read the passages today, they are full of hope. I love Job 19...
25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
[Job 19:25-27 (NIV)]

Today is called "Holy Saturday" (in Latin, Sabbatum Sanctum ), the 'day of the entombed Christ,' is a day of rest, for on that day Christ's body lay in His tomb.
It is the Apostle's Creed which says "He descended unto the dead." It is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World. This day between Good Friday and Easter is the end of one world and time between the complete newness of covenant inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.
In that sense, this whole era is "Holy Saturday"... we wait in eager expectation for the redemption that is in Christ.

A Prayer:

"Father, because you sent your son into the world, we have hope. Jesus, your death is complete, and your resurrection life ensures our life after death also. To you is all glory, honor, and praise. Help us to truly "rest" in your completed work as we await our own redemption. Amen."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday, The Last Station of the Cross

A Good Friday to each of you!

We come to this day to celebrate, as well as remember. If you are like me, many of you will join with Christians in remembering Christ's death on the cross. This is the final station of the cross: The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

Scripture Reading:

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.
Matthew 27: 57-60

They took the body of Jesus from the cross -- he had cried out, "It is finished" and gave up his spirit to death, and from the cross they took his body to its resting place. The huge stone over the tomb is the final sign of the permanence of death. In this final act of surrender, who would have imagined this tomb would soon be empty or that Jesus would show himself alive to his disciples, or that they would recognize him in the breaking of bread? Jesus, you are the Paschal lamb.
"Your work is done. Your Resurrection to new life will climax it. You have redeemed the world. You have offered the greatest gift: yourself. You have shown the greatest love. Your life brought good to all people, even into eternity. Help me to live a life of love. Love for you, my God. Love for my fellowman, too. Help me to give my greatest gift, myself, to you and to them, in love. Then my work will be done. I too will have brought much good to people, even into eternity."

A Prayer:

"Jesus, you came before the throne as the lamb of God that was worthy to open the scroll, because you had redeemed people from every tribe and nation. Lord Jesus, Father, and Holy Spirit, the mystery of your life and death is beyond my comprehension, but not the praise and adoration that is due you. Thank You Jesus for your blood, for your forgiveness, for your love, for your freedom, and for your victory...All Hail King Jesus!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

13th Station of the Cross

Our Scripture Readings today are: Psalms 55, 74; Jer 17:5-10, 14-17; Phil. 4:1-13; & John 12:27-36

We come to this Wednesday of Holy Week and stand before the Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Scripture Reading: "It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit'; and when he had said this he breathed his last."
Luke 23: 44-46

The cross brings us face to face with Jesus' suffering. He was alone -- all his disciples were gone, and only his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple seemingly were present. His death was agonizing and humiliating. Normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross; but the Jewish leaders wanted his death to occur before the beginning of Sabbath. It takes six hours, and he dies mid-afternoon. Pilate publicly heralded Jesus "The King of the Jews" as he died upon the cross, no doubt to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

Do we doubt God's love for us seeing the willing sacrifice of his Son on the cross? Jesus' last words, 'It is finished', express triumph rather than defeat. Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit. Amazingly, the battle was won. What the Father sent him into the world to do has now been accomplished. Christ offered himself without blemish to God and he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

In the cross of Christ we see the triumph of Jesus over his enemies -- sin, Satan, and death. No wonder, Paul would proclaim, "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).

Abbot Rupert of Deutz, wrote in the early 12th century: "The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom. The Cross of Christ is throne of love. It is the sign of God's mercy and the proof of forgiveness. By his cross Jesus has redeemed our sin and atoned for our punishment. The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God and the way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.

A Prayer:

"Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin and death. Amen."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

12th Station of the Cross

Today's Scripture Readings are: Psalms 6, 94; Jer 15:10-21; Phil 3:15-21; and John 12:20-26

On this Tuesday we stop at the 12 Station of the Cross: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple

Scripture Reading: "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home."
John 19: 25-27

This event is amazing simply because it highlights Jesus' concern for his earthly mother, Mary, during a time of excruciating pain. At the cross of Jesus were four women who loved him. It would be natural for his mother to be present. What grief and pain must have pierced her heart as she watched her son die on the cross. Go back to Jesus' birth and his presentation in the temple at 8 days of age. There, the prophetic Simeon had foretold great suffering for her (Luke 2:35). Now, it is coming true.
Along with Mary were three other women. Mary's sister, Salome was the mother of the disciples James and John (Mk.15:40; Matt.27:56). She was rebuked by Jesus when she asked him to give her sons the chief places in his kingdom. She was humble enough to both receive his rebuke and to follow him to the cross. Mary Magdalene was especially grateful that Jesus had freed her from a demon-possesed life. She would not leave him even in his death and she would be the first to return to the tomb after the Sabbath. We do not know much about the fourth woman, Mary of Clophas, who came to support the other women and to be with Jesus in his last agony.

But it's Jesus with Mary that captivates my meditation. When he recognizes his mother standing at the foot of the cross he immediately takes concern for her welfare and instructs John to take her as his own mother. And he asks Mary to accept John as her own son. By this time, we can assume that Mary was completely united with her son in his divine mission. We can say she really is the first Christian because she accepted the gospel and gave her "yes" to God's plan of redemption way back at his birth; but it's one thing to agree to an idea, it's another to pay the price of sacrifice. As Mary followed her son to the cross she is a model for us of faith and obedience, hope and perseverance, and love and fidelity. Jesus said to us, be ready to take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus in his way of love and sacrifice...that is most evident today.

A Prayer:

"Father, even as Mary's devotion is a model for my faith, so also help me to embrace the suffering of the cross in life itself. There is much pain in the world, and in our own pain we cry out for healing, deliverance and mercy. You've spoken in many ways that 'my grace is sufficient for you'; yet, it is still painful, and it is still sacrifice that calls me deeply to trust in you even when all help seems gone. You are Lord, Savior, our hope and our all things we pray. Amen."

Monday, April 6, 2009

11th Station of the Cross

Today's readings are: Psalms 51, 69:1-23; Jer 12:1-16, Phil 3:1-14, & John 12:9-19

This is Monday of Holy Week. Today we arrive at the 11th Station of the Cross where Jesus promises His Kingdom to one of the thieves next to him while hanging on the cross.

Scripture Reading: "Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Luke 23: 39-43

The thief who selfishly sought his physical salvation stands in contrast to the thief who both understood his sin and guilt, as well as understood Jesus' ultimate end - not in death, but in paradise.

Two things stand out to me in at this station, as well as in the reading. First, I read Psalm 51, but then chose to read it again, slowly, personally, in a first person voice. It's an exercise in confession, in not denying sin, and in realizing the weight of my sin before my Holy God..."against you and alone alone God have I sinned, and done evil in your sight."
It's an exercise I need to conscientiously enter into - intentionally I might add. It's like a shower after working out in the dirt and grease, it feels great to simply wash things clean..."purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."
Confession, someone said, is good for the soul. I agree. It brings about a realization that Jesus' death is real, it was for my sin that he died, and to ignore the reality of my sin is to ignore the reality of his death.

The second thing at this station today is the words, "today you shall be with me in paradise." As a Christian I have always understood the words as the promise - stated by the Apostle Paul - "that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord." Again, I love that, and don't dispute that at all. What hit me is the word, "paradise". What I realize is that terrorism has rendered that word both mythical and in some ways, as nonsense. Religious fundamentalism in Islam has meant young men will strap bombs to their torso and blow themselves up in the name of their god, because of the promise of ending up in "paradise" - a place of luxury, beauty, and virgins waiting. I scoff at such nonsense...but do I then scoff of paradise?

The word that Jesus uses is translated in greek as "paradeisos" - in otherwords, it's a transliteration, the English is essentially an equivalent of the greek's rendering the word in English in its natural form, simply because there is no word in English that expresses well what it might mean. The word "paradeisos" only appears 3 times in the New Testament greek. Originally it is implied in creation in the garden of Eden, and it ends in Revelation. To the first of the seven churches in Revelation,
7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.' Revelation 2:7 (NASB)
Around 1600, Jan Brueghel (the Elder), a dutch artist rendered the biblical idea of paradise in a beautiful painting.

This is a long blog, and it I don't want to take away from the first part of it, that through confession we honor the death of Christ for us; but I also want to meditate on this beautiful word, "paradise", and let the beauty of Jesus' word to the thief bear the weight of forgiveness, promise, hope, that it was meant to convey.

A Prayer:

"Father of mercy and grace, Jesus Son of God, redeemer and friend, to you belongs worship and adoration. It is through your suffering that I become a partaker of the glory of paradise. Lord, I wait in expectation. Lord, today, I confess before you my sins, and I acknowledge that my sins put you on the cross. In your love and mercy, forgive me and help me to live these days on the earth for the glory of your Kingdom. Someday Lord I have hope in seeing your paradise...the home built for me through Jesus my Lord. Amen."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lent - Day 40, Tenth Station of the Cross

Our Scripture Readings today are: Psalms 24, 29, 103; Zechariah 9:9-12 & Zechariah 2:9-13:9; and 1 Tim 6:12-16 and Matt 21:12-17

It is Palm Sunday and therefore the final day of Lent. Beginning today and continuing thru Saturday this is called "Holy Week", in commemoration of the events surrounding the death of Christ on the cross. It's fitting therefore that we come to this station of the cross as we begin this week.

The Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified

Scripture: "When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Luke 23: 33-34

On the cross Jesus is still serving mankind. Think about all that God is doing on the cross with his Son. 1700 years ago, Augustine wrote these words:
"As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul."

A Prayer:

"Jesus, Son of God, on this day we honor you. We give you praise and adoration, for you have loved me with your everlasting love. You have saved me through the shedding of your blood, and I will through all eternity acknowledge your deep, deep sacrifice and love. Amen."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lent - Day 39: 9th Station of the Cross

Our Readings for Today are: Psalms 137, 144, 42, 43; Jere 31:27-34; Rom 11:25-36; John 11:28-44 & 12:37-50

Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Scripture Reading: "A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?"
Luke 23: 27-31

The day before Lent ends we come to this place where Jesus prophesies even as he suffers. Less than 40 years later Jerusalem would lay in ruins...the Romans sent an army of a million to destroy the city, the temple, and the Jewish nation. Jeremiah centuries before spoke to the people to pray for the nation of their captivity, even as the psalmist cried out in the pain of captivity. God does not delight in suffering even as he proclaims the "what will happen" fact of what our sin does to us. We live in a world desperately in need of God's intervening grace.

A Prayer:

"Father you know the world in which we live and you grieve the pain and suffering of a people who have no regard for your laws and yet reap the fruit of that sin in everyday life. We cry out with the psalmist for mercy and redemption, that which only can come through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lent - Day 38, Stations 7 & 8 of the Cross

The Scripture Readings for today are: Psalms 22, 141, 143; Jere 29:1, 4-13; Romans 1:13-24; John 11:1-27 & 12:1-10

The two stations of the cross that we are at are: Seventh Station: Jesus Bears the Cross

Scripture: "When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha."
John 19: 6, 15-17

And, the Eighth Station: Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross

Scripture: "They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross."
Mark 15: 21

The scripture reading today from Psalm 22 is worth slowly reading and meditating upon. A psalm written some 1000 years before Jesus is descriptive of the pain and the suffering of the cross.
As we enter into the end of this Lenten period we enter into the journey of Christ to the cross. It has begun as Jesus has the cross placed upon him and he struggles to carry the cross to Golgotha. Along the way Simon, forever immortalized for being selected out of the crowd of those watching to help carry the cross for him.

At this point there is no turning back. There is no place for Jesus to have spoken up and said, "It's all a mistake". He didn't, wouldn't, and because of it he suffered this ignominious shame and death...and why? For us!

A Prayer:

"Holy Father, Precious Jesus, we bow before your throne in humility and adoration. It is for our sins that you bore the cross of grief and shame. You tell us that we must pick up our cross and follow you. It is with pain and grief that you carried this cross...something we can never duplicate. So, we bow...we worship and pray. Amen."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lent - Day 36, Station of The Cross

Scripture Readings for today are: Psalms 119:145-176; 128, 129, 130; Jer. 25:30-38, Rom 10:14-21 and John 10:1-18

Today we stand at the Sixth Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns

Scripture Reading: "Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said,"Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly."
John 19: 1-3

Probably nothing is more sobering than to meditate on the scourging of Jesus and the crown of thorns on his head. The humiliation of being mocked, beaten, and the cruelty of the physical pain is not easy to sit and meditate on.
One person described the scourging like this:
"Pilate hoped that by having Jesus' scourged the Jews who brought him to trial might be satisfied with this punishment and stop asking for his death. Scourging was the usual kind of punishment given for disturbing the peace and a warning to cease from upsetting authority and civil order. It was also used to weaken a criminal who was about to be executed. The latter was considered a form of mercy since a crucified man could last for days on a cross before expiring. Roman scourging, nonetheless, was brutal, painful, and dehumanizing.When a prisoner was scourged he was stripped, bound and bent so his back was exposed. Long leather whips tied with pieces of sharp iron and bones were used for ripping apart the back. As skin was torn from the body in shreds blood gushed from the numerous wounds. Some died from the whipping alone, some were made unconscious, and some went mad."
It is for my/our sins that Jesus endured this pain. The "punishment of our sins was upon him", Isaiah proclaims. Isaiah further adds, "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted."

If we are honest, we don't understand the "why?". Theologians describe it in different ways, and I'll not go into all the theories that surround the "why?" of this pain. Suffice to say, and by faith to hang on to, that Jesus is beginning the journey of the cross that will lead to his death -- but our redemption! There is only one way to respond to this: "Thank You Lord".

A Prayer:

"Lord Jesus, for my sins you suffered and I cannot begin to express all that I need to say in the way of 'thanks'. The gift of your pain and suffering has rippled down through the aeons of time and continued to give the gift of salvation to me, to your church, and to all who continue to put their faith and trust in you. I am grateful in ways that I cannot express...except from the depth of my being with worship, praise, and adoration. Thank You Lord. Amen."