Led to Christ by ISIS — A Lawyer’s Prayers

I pass along to you an amazing story by Yuliya Talmazan of NBC News about how ISIS is – inadvertently – leading Syrian Muslims to Christ. Praise God! “Four years have passed since the Islamic State group’s fighters were run out of Kobani, a strategic city on the Syrian-Turkish border [northeast of Aleppo], but the militants’ […]

via Led to Christ by ISIS — A Lawyer’s Prayers

This post by Anna Waldherr strengthens and encourages a community reeling and grieving from horrific bombings – three churches and three hotels targeting those celebrating the Easter message.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put it out.” John 1.5

 

 

 

 

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Sri Lanka I cry for you

Fairest of lands

Graced with azure skies and  tranquil seas – Rolling hills and green gold – tea.

Leopard, elephant, whales blue – fauna of every hue;

Tainted now with shades of red, where innocent blood was shed.

Pearl of the Indian Ocean, you were just beginning to raise your head

after the civil war drained you of your very life

with bullets and bombs filled with lead

over foolish egoist ethnic strife.

Pearl of the Indian Ocean, you were just beginning to raise your head,

to shine to glow to beckon –

“2019 Destination”  Lonely Planet said.

with rave reviews from far and wide, well deserved oh Land of mine – 

for peace brought out the best of you, paradise isle by God’s design.

And one cruel morn was all it took to dash our hopes and smite our hearts;

8.45 am one sacred Easter morn our very souls were torn apart

For with vicious taint unknown in a land that had seen it all –

Evil exploded heinous bombs for my Christian brothers and neighbours to fall,

In pools of blood, their breaths stilled, or breathing still with loss of limb.

The dead, the wounded intermingled

Along with the blood of the perpetrator.

Sacred space profaned as you entered to test the faith.

Grieving souls, holding on, letting go.

What were your thoughts I wonder as you tousled the head of the little girl?

Humanity unwittingly slipped through your zombie like action

that left destruction in your wake

as you pursued your brainwashed ideology.

A nation mourns for we have lost our children

and once again we have lost

Our innocence, our peace, our hopes and dreams

I cry for you Sri Lanka.   Do you cry with me ??

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that you may overcome;

that you will meet hate with love and understanding

to turn back the tide of evil snatching our youth and our lives;

I pray for you Sri Lanka,  that you will not again

traverse the road we travelled before.

and that our children may continue to dream, and hope, and build.

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that we will “fight to maintain the peace”

if there be such an expression ….

Fight within our inner beings to rise above judgement

of the misguided youth who let zeal overthrow love.

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that you guard your children well

so  they will not stray into the folds of evil ones –

but will choose good over evil, peace over war and love above hate.

If this too be your prayer, will you pray with me Sri Lanka?

Easter carnage in my land

We are shattered, numb with shock.  The spectre of hate and war has raised its head again in my land and on this holy of holy days. Easter Sunday, when thousands were gathered in churches to worship the Risen Lord,  bombs exploded in three of the most visited Shrines – and in three hotels celebrating Easter brunch.

The death toll in the first 3 hours has risen to 180 and hundreds more injured.

The day started off as a day of peace and promise as we had a simple traditional meal around the breakfast table.  We had participated in a beautiful vigil service last night.  Since we do all seven readings in our church,  it is a long service but we did not even feel the passing of time so absorbed and elevated were we in the history and wondrous mystery of our salvation.

We had fellowship after service and then quite spontaneously, invited Clifford and Anne  who were celebrating their wedding anniversary for Pizza.  Cliffy’s brother had just retired from the Sri Lankan army.  As a General in the front line, he had been the target of many attacks and was seriously wounded by shrapnel and mortar on four occasions. And so very very uncannily- after ten years of peace – we found ourselves discussing the repercussions of the war and our deliverance from the 30 year ethnic conflict that had ravaged our land and our people. 

We also heard how Cliff’s family had found the 91st Psalm inside his mother’s pillow when clearing up her belongings on her demise.  She had unfailingly and unwavering prayed Psalm 91 for close on 26 years on behalf of her son, inscribing his name on all the prayers.  We were reminded of the Psalmists words  .. “though many fall all around me no evil shall touch me”  … a mother’s plea that had saved her son.  And we thanked God that the horrible war that claimed so many sons and daughters of our soil was behind us.

And then today the shattering news.

And the questions.   Is it the LTTE again? …We thought they had been defeated ??

More questions. This does not tie in with an ethnic hate attack.  Easter Sunday ???  It seems from all indications at present to be targeted towards Catholics and Christians?

I surprised myself by being relieved when I heard that.  Yes … relief !!  for we Catholics and Christians are in the minority.  It cannot – and with the Christian spirit of forbearance – will not, be a massive blood shed.  We won’t retaliate or be drawn in like the general population was in the ethnic conflict.  Even if all Christians in our land have to die … the  general populace of around 20 m will be spared.

Am I a masochist seeking persecution? Of course not.  But you cannot help breathing a sigh of relief that the ugly spectre of LTTE terrorism may not be behind this. Our earnest prayer for our country is that God will not take us down that road again 🙏.

It is also timely that this happened on Easter Sunday when we are filled with the Resurrection hope and can hang onto the words of our Lord :

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. …

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…”

John 15.20

God give us the strength, the wisdom and the discernment to act as you did and to follow your lead and the example of love you set in your life and in your death.   Amen.

Jesus and the Cross

Jesus and the Cross

My post WHY THE CROSS? is my most read post with relatively the least number of comments,  making me somewhat uneasy on my message  which is a bit controversial  – starting off as it does with a heretical questioning of the meaning of the statement “Jesus died to save us from our sins.” and my reflections on what I think it means. 

I’ve had concerns whether I was propounding a heretical view which few wished to comment on,  or maybe reader just moved on leaving me to my idiosyncratic beliefs without engaging in dialogue on this one. 🤔

I was thus happy to read Richard Rohr’s reflection on “Jesus and the Cross – Substitutionary Atonement”  which threw some light on my seemingly heretical thinking.  Rohr, a reputed Jesuit priest lucidly answers the questions I had :

For most of church history, no single consensus prevailed on what Christians mean when we say, “Jesus died for our sins.” But in recent centuries, one theory did become mainstream. It is often referred to as the “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” especially once it was further developed during the Reformation. [1] Substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of humans, thus satisfying the “demands of justice” so that God could forgive our sins.

and takes up the subject with

both excitement and trepidation because I know that substitutionary atonement is central to many Christians’ faith. But the questions of why Jesus died and what is the meaning and message of his death have dominated the Christian narrative, often much more than his life and teaching. As some have said, if this theory is true, all we needed were the last three days or even three hours of Jesus’ life. In my opinion, this interpretation has kept us from a deep and truly transformative understanding of both Jesus and Christ.

Read Richard Rohr’s  full reflection on Jesus and the Cross, the theology of substitutionary atonement (direct link) or post copied below.   He speaks with authority of knowledge and wisdom and his reflections on his website Center for Action and Contemplation – are wonderful spiritual insights.

I am sure you will find plenty to reflect on as we enter into this holiest of weeks.

May you be blessed with the peace and love of Christ.

Image:  Various sources on the internet.  No clear copyright owner. No intention to violate copyright laws.

Jesus and the Cross

Substitutionary Atonement
Sunday, February 3, 2019

For most of church history, no single consensus prevailed on what Christians mean when we say, “Jesus died for our sins.” But in recent centuries, one theory did become mainstream. It is often referred to as the “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” especially once it was further developed during the Reformation. [1] Substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of humans, thus satisfying the “demands of justice” so that God could forgive our sins.

This theory of atonement ultimately relies on another commonly accepted notion—the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, which, we were told, taints all human beings. But much like original sin (a concept not found in the Bible but developed by Augustine in the fifth century), most Christians have never been told how recent and regional this explanation is or that it relies upon a retributive notion of justice. Nor are they told that it was honest enough to call itself a “theory,” even though some groups take it as long-standing dogma.

Unfortunately, this theory has held captive our vision of Jesus, making our view very limited and punitive. The commonly accepted atonement theory led to some serious misunderstandings of Jesus’ role and Christ’s eternal purpose, reaffirmed our narrow notion of retributive justice, and legitimated a notion of “good and necessary violence.” It implied that God the Father was petty, offended in the way that humans are, and unfree to love and forgive of God’s own volition. This is a very untrustworthy image of God which undercuts everything else.

I take up this subject with both excitement and trepidation because I know that substitutionary atonement is central to many Christians’ faith. But the questions of why Jesus died and what is the meaning and message of his death have dominated the Christian narrative, often much more than his life and teaching. As some have said, if this theory is true, all we needed were the last three days or even three hours of Jesus’ life. In my opinion, this interpretation has kept us from a deep and truly transformative understanding of both Jesus and Christ.

Salvation became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and for all of history. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is a revelation of the infinite and participatory love of God, not some bloody payment required by God’s offended justice to rectify the problem of sin. Such a story line is way too small and problem-oriented.

References:
[1] This week I will use the phrase “substitutionary atonement” to indicate the most current version of the theory. Throughout Christian history, there have been multiple theories of substitutionary atonement. One of the earliest, the ransom theory, originated with Origen and the early church. Closely related to this was the Christus Victor theory. The ransom view of atonement was the dominant theory until the publication of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Human?) at the end of the 11th century. Anselm’s satisfaction theory of atonement then became dominant until the Reformed tradition introduced penal substitution in the 16th century. This new view of substitutionary atonement emphasized punishment over satisfaction (Jesus’ crucifixion as a substitute for human sin) and paralleled criminal law. Today, the phrase “substitutionary atonement” is often (correctly or incorrectly) used to refer to the penal theory of atonement. This week’s meditations touch the surface of 2,000 years of complex theological process.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 139-141.

Betrayed by more than a kiss.

Betrayed

Betrayed   … shouts out from the roofs, the hill tops and vales today.

Betrayed with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver.  Open, upfront  pre-meditated, caving into confusion.  Misled.  Then despair.  30 pieces betrayal price and then burial price.

Betrayed – let’s not stick around to see what happens.  Let’s flee.   Then in guilt and shame they meet again; strength in numbers and strengthened in Spirit they go out. Then they make things happen.

Betrayed – One stayed close but the coals were too hot:  ‘I know not the man’.  Fear confusion … an unplanned fall.  Then weeping, remorse and gathering of resolve.  Never again to fall.

Betrayed – self righteous arrogance, fearing a change in status quo points to a ‘blasphemer’.  Then smug satisfaction at having ‘saved’ the nation.

Betrayed – a conscience niggles, this man is innocent.  Then expediency prevails – washing of hands.  I won’t do it – do it yourself.  A good man caves in.  Archetypal politician.  He could have stopped it.

Betrayed – miracles, healing, words of wisdom and saving grace  – yet no one springs to his defence. Did they return to Him?  The Books are silent.

Friend, disciple, leader, high priest, ruler, beneficiary of uncountable grace – I see myself in all of them.   But I have the benefit of hindsight – of a Resurrection,  a Pentecost and a 2000+year old faith.   Despite this …. it continues ….

Betrayed – unless I take the road less travelled; The road, the Way of the Cross.

Posted in response to Daily Prompt, Betrayed

Image Credit: http://truthbook.com/urantia-book/paper-183-the-betrayal-and-arrest-of-jesus

The night of love ….

Love one another

Image Credit : http://freefaithgraphics.com/2015/01/love-one-another/

that final night of Jesus’s life on earth – as he prepared to bid farewell to his friends.  He knew that on the morrow, their grief and loss at the loss of their Master, ‘Rabboni’,  would be compounded by fear and confusion;  their world – which began with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem just five days previously, would come tumbling down.

How can he console them, comfort them, give them hope that all is not lost.   How can he assure them of His love for them and the Father’s love ?

How would you say farewell to friends and family if you know you are going to die the next day ?

I’d like to share a previous post on the words of love that kept pouring out of Our Lord as he gazed on his disciples gathered around him in person for the last time.    Please click on the link which shares how our Master bid farewell to his friends,  and his instructions and guidance to us.

Can you feel the love tonight 

 

The Sacrifice

As we prepare to commemorate the greatest sacrifice of all, a moving poem by The Jolly Beggar caught my eye and my heart 💖

Blogger Dorah has beautifully captured the comparison of  the biblical Father -Son sacrifices in her retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac in The Sacrifice — The Jolly Beggar

An excerpt is given below … but I suggest you read the whole for the full impact of the pathos of the sacrificial scene ….  so like the Sacrifice we will shortly commemorate.

……     When Isaac asked with mischief in his eyes,
“What trick do you have up your sleeve,
Father? An invisible lamb, I do believe!”

Slowly Abraham rose from the stones of the altar
Slowly he raised his face to his Father
Searching the heavens for a sign of reprieve
For now he could no longer deceive
The child who looked on him with trust
The child through whom his knife would be thrust  ……

Dorah maintains The Jolly Beggar and Dreams from a Pilgrimage.  blogs with poetry and prose that are really inspiring.

Burnishing this clay vessel

Burnishing myself wp

Man made in the image of God  – living like CLAY effigies ….
Scrub, scrub, scrub
Rub, rub, rub
Spit and polish –
Shine, shine, shine
Tear off the dross
Peel away the masks
Keep at it
Scrub, scrub, scrub
Deeper and deeper
There ….!!!!
You’ve reached the core of you
The light of the Living God shines through.

I have diminished and HE has increased !!!

WHY THE CROSS?

"The Son of Man came ... to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45.

“The Son of Man came … to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

With all thy getting, get an understanding  (Proverbs 4:7)

 On his death bed, Pope John XXIII (whose vision convened Vatican II) had stated:

“It’s not the Gospel that has changed, it is just that we can understand it better.” 

I find this statement so comforting when I grapple with questions like the meaning and purpose of the Cross – for I am a Doubting Thomas by nature.   I could not accept a+ b = c in Algebra without questioning why a or b etc. .. so it is no surprise I had difficulty accepting the statement of faith that Jesus died to save us from our sins: that he gave his life as a ransom for many that so many Christians accept without question.

Sure, I accepted it as a child.  But when the age of  so called reason hit me, what was black and white became grey, cloudy, and foggy. I realized I could not give a proper explanation if a non-Christian asked me how Christ’s death on the cross saved us from our sins  – and why God wanted such a sacrifice from his Son. I found myself fumbling to explain what I did not understand.

  1. He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice as a ransom for many. 
 I wondered if was just and fair.  Did God really want this sacrifice ?
  1. We are “saved” by his death. 
How exactly can his death ‘save’ us?  I sincerely wanted explanations. Could we not have been “saved” another way?  
  1. What is my sin that deserved such a death?
I don’t  think I commit any big sins that warrant Jesus dying on the cross for me. Maybe that alone makes me a sinner! 

Like the Jews, I too had  questions on the scandal of the cross, (1 Cor. 1.18-21) so I dug deep for answers.

  • I learned about the Jewish/Old Covenant tradition of sacrificial atonement, the unblemished lamb and the scapegoat tradition linked with the Passover.
  • I understood much more the beautiful connection to the Paschal mystery of the New Covenant.
  • I realised that the Hebrew people, though saved from death by the cross marked in blood on the lintel of the  doorpost (Exodus 12.7),  still had to journey to the Promised Land.
  • I accept that we too,  even though marked by the blood of the Cross of Jesus, still have to undertake our own Exodus from this life to the next.
  • I am also now closer to understanding that it was not only by Christ’s death on the Cross that we have been saved but by his whole life and works. His passion and death was a culmination of his life and mission.

I believe we could have been saved even without a death on the Cross if we had accepted Him and His message.  But fickle human beings that we are, we may not have accepted his message of ETERNAL LIFE or more importantly, believed in the resurrection from the dead, unless we witnessed it for ourselves.  So his very visible death was for those like me  -like Thomas -who loudly, arrogantly  proclaim that we have to ‘see’ to believe.

The consolation is that He my creator, knows our weaknesses and he gently invites us to probe deeper into Him,  to put our distrusting fingers in his wounds as he responded  to Thomas  … “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe !! ” 

"You have believed because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."  John 20:29

“You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29

And I also believe that His suffering and ignominious death  underscored His fundamental message – the paradox of  ‘death for life’:

 “Most assuredly I say to you … unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

The Cross underscores the message of giving up to your life to find new life with the Father  “… for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mark..36)   and is thus the ultimate and perfect symbol of :

  • Standing up for truth and justice –  for GOD –  even at cost of your life.
  • Moving away from the things that separate us from goodness and moving towards the source of all goodness
  • Restoring lives created in the image and likeness of God,
  • Exchanging a shallow living for eternal abundant life – DIVINE EXCHANGE .

His detractors thought they could quell his message by his death ….  yet even his death, Jesus’ message was the paradox of LIFE – for he lives amongst us still:

“Saul Saul .. why do you persecute ME”  Acts 9:4

No room for doubt here. He lives amongst his people. 

——————————-

So I found some answers to my question … “Why the Cross?   I can’t say that I have found all the answers, but I have found enough to embrace  – to wrap my arms around, to cling to that precious Cross.

What then of the answer taught in catechism that “he died to save us from our sins” ?

I would respond it is a doctrinal answer given – the wondrous paschal mystery explained in a brief dogma,  until you can find the answer and the meaning of the Cross for yourself.

And when you do, chances are you too will give the same answer  …  for there are few words that can capture the glorious essence of the saving power of the Cross.  

I would like to invite you to share your experience, love and hope in the Cross with other believers to strengthen and help fellow travellers.

Reflections on the Cross of Christ from the early church fathers
What Happened on the Cross, by John Damascene
A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
What We Behold on the Cross, by Augustine
Contemplating the Lord’s Passion by Leo the Great
The Lamb that was Slain by Melito of Sardis
The Power of the Blood of Christ by John Chrysostom
By One Death and Resurrection the World Was Saved by Basil
The Life-giving Cross of Christ by Theodore the Studite
Let us too glory in the Cross by Augustine
The Cross of Christ by Leo the Great
The Body of Christ Gives Life to Those Who Receive It, by Cyril of Alexandria
The Death of Death by Augustine

Photo credit:  The Cross – divinemercychurch.com.

Doubting Thomas – numerous sites; source unknown.

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