Thursday, April 23, 2009

The triumph of hope.

"From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair." -Psalm 88

This quotation is extracted from the only psalm in the Bible that concludes with not a shred of spoken hope. In it we find the zeal and faithfulness of a man who devoted himself to God, received no answers in return and spent his youth in darkness. If we probe the depths of the psalm we discover a lostness that goes far deeper than the grain of todays narcissistic 'emo' pop culture. This is the lostness of a wise man, a man of God, who contends with the forces of God's wrath, the encompassing of death, hatred among friends and the final prospect of damnation to the cold and black realm of Sheol and Abbadon. Note that his string of prayers and supplications throughout the psalm avail him no answer or change in situation; and from his position God will never answer.

Naturally this psalm offers us great encouragement. Note that though this man never received his answer from God, God took note of him enough to have his name (recorded as Heman the Ezrahite) and his prayer included in the canon to be remembered forever. God remembered him. Secondly, as the church affirms the inspiredness of the Psalter, it is worth noting that God's very Spirit breathed life into these words and made them the Word. This argues a closeness and intimacy that Heman may not have realized. Finally, we must conclude that as our lives draw near to the fires of Hell, as God's wrath lies forcefully on us and our prayers avail nothing...they avail everything. The hope and promise of God's grace, according to this psalm is completely independant of our experience and our life. We, like William Cowper the hymnist, can spend the length of our days in utter despair and never recover...and God remembers us. God records our name and our prayer, listing us as those who fear Him (Malachi 3:16).

"They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty,"in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." (Malachi 3:17-18)

Friday, April 17, 2009

A short eulogy for professor John Mcrae.

I do believe God was eternally impacted by our prayers, pleas and petitions, and yet we must
relinquish ourselves to the wise and perfect will of our Father. I hope we can find joy and comfort in how much more awesome God's plan is that He called John home....perhaps many will be sanctified and saved to the glory of Christ and the utter delight of John.Since John and I were both avid dilletantes in philosophy, I was jokingly able to tell him in the hospital," Looks like you are in for an ontological promotion John." He chuckled and mulled over the comment before saying," either way you are right."
I had a dream this morning that he was trucking into the Galatians class full of vigor and life. He was healthy and sharp, full of his unusual wit and candor. When we asked him about pancreatic cancer, he looked annoyed, baffled and professional all at once, as if cancer was merely an aggravating mathematical equation that he had to work through. Then he went on to tell his bizarre and hilarious stories, as he would always do for five minutes before circling back to some profound point he wanted to make.
In many ways this dream signifies his, mine and God's indignation that cancer should by any means rob John of of life. I do believe, without a speck of sentimentality, that John can still say-now more than ever- with a straight face and furrowed brow, one arm waving in the air and the other rubbing his buzz cut," I have been crucified with Christ! And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sonnet For Good Friday

Much is made of the strength that erects,
artifices of bronze and iron and steel,
amidst steadfast citadels we scarce can feel,
or contemplate, but only assign great defect,
to hands that absorb the iron we perfect,
hands that caress wood over zeal,
wooden, leaning tower and shame to seal,
a contract left for the grave and the earth to direct,
a few deluded whores and fishermen to mourn,
a contract made on forgotten stakes,
beneficiaries of ointment and worms,
just flames licking the subject of criminal scorn,
Who would assume such weakness makes,
The redemption of man on immutable terms?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The oddity of the way of Christ.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." -Colossians 1:16

Such has indeed been the creedal confession of the church from the 1st century onwards: that the Christ we serve is also before all things, and responsible for all things. But let that doctrinal truth sink into the pores of the intellect for awhile.... brood on it, and then examine the way of discipleship this self-same Lord and King calls us to. Examine, for instance the British Columbian horizon; buttressed with the natural fortification of the coastal mountain range. Every morning these mountains are flecked with rich colors of pink , blue or dark green by the presence of the rising sun. Dew once more settles across every square foot of every couloir, penetrating the top layer of soil and stone that can bundle over the crust of the earth for square miles at a time. Thick stratocumulus clouds drape over the peaks and curl their way down over the treeline in a hidden dance, an aromatic artwork of fragrance and colors, wetness and life and silence. The floors of such lively slopes are blanketed each day by a fresh supply of citrusy needles, cones and leaves. Higher up, alpine meadows flourish with every sort of wildflower displaying their beauty for a hidden audience; honey bees never lacking in nectar. The ptarmigans cluck and preen their greyish mantle in a thick copse of bush and alderwood. Strawberries, blueberries and salmonberries glisten in the morning sun. The waxing of eloquence over one mountain scene could go on perpetually. There is no end to the richness of this daily vista, which we as Christians dutifully wind up in our profession of faith in "one Lord whom all things were made... (from the Nicene creed)." It is humbling, awesome and faith-stirring to ascribe all of this glory to the humble man of Nazareth. But far more baffling is the simultaneous call we hear from our Lord's lips even as He goes about His mighty work of sustaining the universe: "...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Lk.14:33)" or "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Lk.6:20).

In Christ we are buffeted on every side by suffering, persecution, fears from within. We partake of His sufferings, His crucifixion. We battle long bouts of temptation, the weight of the world, sorrow, an enemy who in all seriousness wishes to damn us. The cost of discipleship overwhelms us because it demands all of us. This odd tension between crucifixion and glory would make little sense to me unless the history of the world ended in the resurrection. In the meantime, the treasures of the earth and the fullness thereof seem (if not doctrinally, experientially) off limits until the sons of God should be revealed. Not that we do not have access to every good thing, but that every good thing stands in the midst of a battle for the salvation of of the human soul. No soldier climbs out of the trench to exploit a fruit tree standing near by... not when bullets whizz overhead! Do we not experience similar things in our Christian life?