Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE? Theologically speaking, why does the cross even matter to us? And how does it matter? Ask yourself, why the cross matters to you. Maybe it doesn’t.

On the second Sunday of Lent this year, I decided to tackle the theological problem of the cross be exploring a variety explanations, from substitutionary atonement to creation theology which, simply put, says that the cross restores us and the creation to God. I see the cross somewhat differently. (more…)

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This Lent I’m preaching a sermon series at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The series is called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! 

This afternoon, after our staff meeting, Old Stone’s Associate for Care, my friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Dr. Charles D. Yoost shared this beautiful prayer from the Iona Community with me which connects so well with our Lenten  focus on the cross. Today, I share this prayer with all of you along with my own prayer that the cross may bring you closer to God and God’s purpose for your life this Lent and always.

O Christ,
The Master Carpenter,
who at the last through wood and nails,
purchased our salvation,
wield well your tools in the workshop of the world,
so that we, who come rough-hewn to your bench,
may here be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand.
We ask this for your name and for your sake.
Amen.

– From the Iona Community, Scotland

2000 YEARS AGO, IT WAS AN INSTRUMENT OF DEATH. Today, the cross is one of the most universally recognized symbols of hope! Such is the power of God. This Lent, I’m preaching a 5 part sermon series called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! The series explores and celebrates the life-giving power of the cross.

Eremon
In this first episode, Cross Training, we go to the wilderness with Jesus. Luke uses the term eremon, which sounds like a mythical land in Lord of the Rings, or a far off planet in the Star Wars trilogy but literally translated means: desolate, desolation, or desolate place. We’ve all been to eremon at one time or another.  (more…)

Identity

 

PALM SUNDAY ALWAYS SEEMS LIKE A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY TO ME. Jesus isn’t who I think he is. He never is.

On Palm Sunday we wave palms celebrating, by commemoration, Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We sing “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” And, perhaps, like the folks who gathered at the city gates of Jerusalem 2000 years ago to welcome Jesus, we sometimes imagine Jesus will bring us victory of one sort or another. Maybe he’ll fix what ails us, or get us that job we’ve been praying for, or gift us with some other miracle.

But as it turns out, Jesus was not who the crowds imagined him to be that day of palms and parades. He didn’t fix it for them at all. There were miracles, for sure. But this miracle-man also lost his cool and flipped tables around in their beloved temple. He got himself arrested and flogged. Some of the very same people who had waved palms and chanted “Hosanna” at the city gates, less than one short week later, stood in front of Pilate’s praetorium and shouted “Crucify him!” Were they just fickle in their faith? Or was it a case of mistaken identity? Clearly, Jesus had failed to live-up to their misplaced expectations, at least for the moment.

For me, even as I wave my palm, Palm Sunday is a day to remember that I don’t fully understand Jesus. I’ve studied his word for a lifetime, worshipped him, prayed to him (and, I believe, with him), and I still can’t nail him down. But then again, who could?

Maybe Jesus isn’t something to be grasped like some new life plan, or packaged as a self-help strategy. He’s not to be comprehended like a math solution, or a philosophical concept. Rather, Jesus and his die-on-a-cross love for us and the world are mystery to be lived. Jesus and his cross-shaped loved are not a destination at the end of our spiritual journey, but the journey itself. Jesus and his love for us is mystery that can only be understood by walking in his footsteps, and by carrying the cross of love with him for a little while.

In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner says that best mysteries are not to be solved but to be lived. “And you do that not by fully knowing yourself, but by fully being yourself. To say that God is a mystery is to say that you can never nail him down. Even on Christ the nails proved ultimately ineffective.”

As you journey through these final days of Lent, preparing for Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then on into the glory-filled season of Easter, I invite you to join me in living the mystery, not by trying understand Jesus but simply by being with Jesus. That’s when real miracles start to happen. That’s when the healing truly begins.

Don’t worry about grasping his version of love, just live it. Find your moments to be still with him in prayer and worship, and to look for him right beside you. He’s there. Allow his cross-shaped love to overflow from within your heart. The case of mistaken identity – yours and his, gets resolved as we work less at knowing Jesus fully, and more at fully being with him.

Love,
Mark

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent?  Our indifference, our hardness of heart.  What are we to believe?  Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”

– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Connect with CreationBy R. Mark Giuliano
The Old Stone Church, Cleveland
Adapted from a piece I wrote for Singing a Song of Faith (Toronto:UCPH, 2007) while living in Savannah, Georgia.

Of all the places to be pecking out thoughts on Lent and the natural world! As I reflect on the gift of creation this evening, my unfortunate location dawns on me: I’m stuck in my basement office at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  The musty room is windowless and poorly cooled with minimal puffs of conditioned air which feel much like my dog’s steamy breath panting in my ear.  My nicely pressed shirt looks like a damp rag and probably smells only slightly better.  No wonder they wear sear-sucker in the South.
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Romans 8:18-24: Creation is groaning for attention.

God the CreatorAs I reflect on the gift of creation this evening, my unfortunate location dawns on me: my basement office at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  The room is windowless and, tonight, poorly cooled with minimal puffs of conditioned air which feel more like my dog’s steamy breath panting in my ear.  My nicely pressed shirt looks like a damp rag and probably smells only slightly better.  No wonder they still wear sear-sucker in the south. (Click here to read more or comment)