The Proverbs 31 Family

“She accepted the advice of Hegai,” Esther 2:15

Esther has to be my most favorite book of the Bible. It is dramatic, full of intrigue, betrayal, conniving, and bravery. This book houses some of the most interesting relationships in biblical narrative.

If you read Esther today, you might find that Esther is not really the heroic figure in the story. She does not do all that much. She is a pretty passive character. I have thought in the past that perhaps the book should be called the book of Mordecai.

Mordecai is the actor in the story. He recognizes that Esther becoming queen is advantageous for their people. He is determined to pivot her position in favor of the Jews.

He finds his opportunity in Haman. Haman is a vain man, so Mordecai picks a fight with him by refusing to bow to him, which homage was warranted by Haman’s new assignment as the king’s right hand complete with the power of the king’s signet ring.

To say that Mordecai had religious reasons not to bow is to add to the text. It doesn’t say that. Nor does it mention persecution of the Jews for failing to bow to Xerxes or his dignitaries being a problem at the time.

So Mordecai creates a problem by aggravating Haman. Then the persecution starts and Haman uses his authority and influence on Xerxes to set a date for genocide.

Mordecai is the ultimate gambler! He starts this trouble, creates a public display of mourning that catches Queen Esther’s attention, and then advises Esther to use her influence to save her people. This better work!

Esther does not have power. But she has influence as Xerxes wife. She does not have an agenda. But she trusts the agenda that Mordecai has.

Esther is only heroic in how she conducts her relationships. She is noted for listening to Hegai on what to wear when she first met the king…that worked out for her as we know. And she also listened to the advice of Mordecai.

Mordecai did not have position or influence, but he had a trusting, cooperative relationship with someone who did have position and influence– Esther.

And the plan worked, thank God.

Mordecai eventually takes the position that Haman had as right hand to Xerxes. This means that he ended up using Esther to attain even more power and influence than she had. The Bible doesn’t say anything about her feeling jilted by that– and why would she be, under Mordecai’s advisement the Jews became rich and powerful in the Persian empire.

Mordecai’s “for such a time as this,” was a statement about opportunity. It was like saying “this is our chance!”

As we journey together as Christians, our end game is the earth being filled with Christ’s glory. This means that every opportunity should be seized upon to advance the cause of Christ– regardless of “whose who.” We have to be willing at times, or all the time, to be like Esther. This is to have a heart that doesn’t cling to position, power, recognition, or “whose doing it.” It is a heart that is willing to yield.

A heart that is willing to yield takes advice. It shares it’s position and influence. It accepts the possibility of losing it’s position taking action on a plan it doesn’t totally understand.

A heart that yields is always ready for the right opportunity surrounded by the right relationships.

 

Shavuot and Pentecost

“The women represent two covenants.” Galatians 4:24

Where we have landed in the Proverbs 31 Family series— the Patriarchs’ families— is pretty perfect for the timing of the biblical calendar. In May, we’ll be celebrating Shavuot and Pentecost. I’ll be writing exclusively about the holidays for the month, picking The Proverbs 31 Family series back up in June.

Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses. Christians celebrate Pentecost at this same time, which as we read in the book of Acts was when the Spirit was given as the helper and comforter of Christ’s disciples. The giving of the Law. The giving of the Spirit.

So, what might this have to do with the families we have been reading about? Well, in Galatians 4, you’ll find Hagar and Sarah given as allegories for the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The analogy hinges on the difference between one of them being a slave and the other being free. Paul emphasizes to the Galatians that in Christ, we are not enslaved to the law but are free. He also comments that Hagar and her children are the “present Jerusalem” and that Sarah and her children of promise are of “the Jerusalem that is above.”

The Jerusalem “that is above” refers to the Kingdom of God. It’s the Jerusalem that we are waiting for. This is the life of faith— it is a life of waiting, anticipation, belief in, and fidelity to something above our comprehension and beyond our field of vision. Sarah is the mother of the children of faith.

Now, as you know, I have painted Sarah in a bit of an unflattering fashion. I have pointed out her prickly habit of unforgiveness toward Abraham, and her unfair treatment of her slave girl. Well, I am going to go ahead and continue on with that description of her.

Sarah is a priceless picture of what unforgiveness looks like in a believer’s life. Sarah exhibits actions and reactions that I believe are systematic of unforgiveness, and are recognizable in the lives of any person or family plagued by a habit of being unforgiving.

My family was discussing unforgiveness at lunch not too long ago, and my aunt asked, “How do I know if I have forgiven someone?”

Believe it or not, secular and spiritual alike, you can find myriad articles on that very question. People regardless of moral, spiritual, and religious persuasion are plagued by unforgiveness; they recognize its affect on their lives, relationships, —and health— and they desperately desire to shake off the shackles of old grudges and wounds that just won’t heal.

“How do I know if I have forgiven someone?” You know that you have forgiven someone when you stop acting like Sarah.

Sarah’s unforgiveness, and all of our unforgiveness, goes beyond an attitude or emotion set. Unforgiveness is not invisible. It’s not very sneaky either. It hides behind the sheer vestige of “getting along,” but come on— we see you, Unforgiveness!

Unforgiveness has a palpable agenda and physical pawns. These pawns are called: leverage and collateral. Sarah had leverage from the past and collateral in the present.

Sarah was so eager to blame Hagar’s presence in the camp on Abraham, but she shared some responsibility. Hagar had begged her to come with them away from Egypt. She could have said no. Can I posit for a moment that Sarah might have been happy to bring a living reminder of what Abraham had done wrong in Egypt along with her?

How many of us have been happy to keep a little something from the past with us to use against a loved one? A good failure from someone’s past works wonders in the “getting my way” department.

And while you are keeping the past alive, make sure to double down on the mess “he made” in the present— find a way to grow that past failure into a living, breathing piece of collateral— like Ishmael. “If you don’t…I will.” That’s collateral.

Sarah had cast Ishamael out once while just in his mother’s belly, when Abraham didn’t hop to. You better believe she’d do it again…which she did. And you can’t say that didn’t hurt Abraham, because the bible specifically says that it did.

How do you know if you’ve forgiven? If you have stopped weaponizing the past, you have forgiven. If you’ve stopped insinuating threats, then you have forgiven.

If someone is “on probation,” that’s not forgiveness. If you’re still “always right,” that’s not forgiveness. If you could write the play book for “How to Get Others to Walk on Egg Shells”— that’s not forgiveness!

So many of us, who are called by Christ’s name, feel like we have not been set free. We still feel chained down, fogged in, and like every door is painted shut. We still feel like we are under the law.

If that is the case for you, which it has been for me— God has been revealing my own spiritual baggage, praise Jesus!— you need to recall the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

I have often wondered which meaning of “as” that phrase was using. And that’s not a nit-picky, semantic question— it makes a difference. Because of how we use the word “as” in English, this line of the prayer could mean two things.

  1. “Forgive us our sins while we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
  2. “Forgive us our sins like we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

Well, the good news, and very challenging news, is I believe that it is both. The second reading, I interpret, as relating to Jubilee. To forgive like the Jews would have been in the biblical style of Jubilee. I will be touching on this subject this month in the context of Shavuot, and again during Advent.

The first reading of “Forgive us our sins” is the personally challenging reading. Forgive us “while.” That’s a conditional word. It means our ability to forgive has a direct correlation to our being forgiven. I know— of course!— that Jesus paid the penalty of our sins, as our kinsman Redeemer. However, forgiveness is an ongoing process that is dependent on us. Let me put it this way: “Free us while we free others.”

If you want to experience freedom, you’ve got to free others.

Leverage and collateral are actions. They’re not attitudes that we can’t help. Whether or not we use them is within our self-control. They are conscious, active, formulated, weaponized words and non-verbal communication that are meant to keep others enslaved by us.

And, yes, I know those others deserve it! Believe me— mine deserve it!!

Under the law they deserve it. But Jesus makes it clear that we are not under the law, but in the Spirit. And in the Spirit, our freedom depends on our freeing others.

We might think that we need deliverance from some ball and chain that is keeping us down. Well, let me inform you— there are two kinds of ball and chain. One is a shackle that weighs down a prisoner from escaping. The other is a weapon. It’s a medieval weapon called a “flail” or a “ball-mace.” If you’ve seen Braveheart you’ve seen this weapon. It is also a ball and chain— a ball covered in spikes, wielded and swung by a chain.

We are the one’s holding the chain, wielding reckless death to others. The scariest thing about forgiveness is that if we put our ball-mace down, if we stop holding leverage and collateral over other people’s heads, how do we know they won’t hurt us again?

We don’t know that, but life in the Spirit is a life of faith. It is “the Jerusalem that is above.” We put our faith in God not the other person. And we do it imperfectly. We forgive and have faith imperfectly. Thank God, that just like Sarah, who didn’t really by the book deserve to be hailed as faithful or forgiving, we are perceived by God, in the Spirit, as deserving and faithful.

I am so excited for Shavuot and Pentecost as we will look more deeply into forgiveness and faith, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

What are we forgiven from?— our failures under the law— Shavuot. And what are we forgiven for?— freedom in the Spirit— Pentecost.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“She went into seclusion.” Luke 1:24

The highlights of the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth are undoubtedly their visitors: the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary. With such spiritual mega-stars just dropping by, I hope Elizabeth kept her guest towels clean and pressed.

But of course, I want to look at the lowly and boring aspects of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s big moment in history– five months of seclusion and nine months of silence. Seclusion and silence.

I am a SAHM to a two year old child, so seclusion and silence are painfully familiar to me. Well– my house of course is not silent, but I do hear the deafening vacuum of my voice in the world getting sucked preemptively out of my lungs. Being at home without any agency to be in public, participate, contribute, and be measurably productive has been demoralizing for me.

The cabin fever I experience is due in part to a serious illness I suffered at age 23. It took about 7 years for me to recover. This brain illness– that I was diagnosed with just one year out of college– is scientifically studied as being triggered by “life goal achievement.” In other words, the closer I get to reaching what I’ve been working toward the more likely I am to relapse. This illness clipped my wings. It cooped me up and walled me in. Seclusion and silence have been persistent and painful themes in my adult life particularly in the areas of career and calling.

I have difficulty valuing my role as a mother and wife sometimes… or a lot of the time. There is a gap in my adult experience- working before the domesticated life- that gap aches. The heady, haughty accomplishments of a young woman in her twenties are just an imagination for me. I never got to be one of the obnoxious quasi-feminist marketing-freelance-event planning activists- from a 90’s RomCom, I guess. I often feel that I didn’t get to choose, and that as a mom my choices continue to be limited. I lack agency in my life. At least by perception, I do.

The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a story about how lacking agency, being secluded, and being silent can be the description of the prescription God has given you right now in preparation for what is upcoming in His kingdom and on His agenda. Luke 1-3 is the preparation period for Christ’s ministry. Those three chapters have a theme of preparation, and within that theme the atmosphere of preparation is lacking agency, being secluded, and being silent.

The first character we meet in the book of Luke is Zechariah. If there is anyone who should be prepared for a special assignment, it is Zechariah. He is a priest! We meet him in the Temple burning an incense offering on an altar. A righteous man, in ministry, ceremonially cleansed for special worship when the angel Gabriel tells him personally the assignment God has for Zechariah’s life. And he blows it. He speaks doubt. So he is put on mute until God’s work is done.

You’ll notice the other characters in this story do a lot of praising and prophesying. During this prep time for both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ negative speech was silenced and only praise and prophecy were allowed. Sometimes we need to be silenced for our own sake because if given a voice we would discredit and disqualify ourselves from the magnitude of service God is hiring us for.

Zechariah also had agency. He was the one who was given a command to do something. Elizabeth had no agency. Mary had no agency. Yet, they were able to quietly and calmly ponder what was happening, and be faithful in obedience. Sometimes having agency can be a stumbling block— particularly when the day’s mission is preparation.

That preparation was a calling unto itself. Jesus was about to be born! This was a delicate and simultaneously monumental moment. The web of political movement, spiritual warfare, and human rebellion was on a knife’s edge. There was no room for error. There was no room for disbelief. There was no room for Christians who feel the need to grandstand, or demand a well-lit platform for their spiritual giftings, or to be given a more interesting assignment in a more exotic locale. God did not need people of position for this job; or people who were eloquent, or opinionated, or understanding, wise, or insightfulful, nor did He need people who were talented, young or beautiful. He needed barren old Elizabeth because she was a believer. Sometimes it’s less about what we put out into the world and more about what we take in and “ponder in our heart” about God.

The call for that day was inaction. It was quiet receptiveness. It’s expression was praise, prayer, and prophecy. Elizabeth and Mary gathered together in seclusion to share their testimonies with each other. This built them up in faith and courage for what was to happen— their ministries would both end with the broken hearts of having martyred sons.

Now, I am definitely not proposing that the role of women in ministry is a silent, secluded submission. Zechariah was after all the one who had his speech taken away. Nor do I think “a woman’s ministry is her home, husband, and children.” I am saying, that if you feel that you do not have agency; if you feel isolated, shut down, blocked, frustrated; if you are a mom with young kids; if you are a person is who ill— or taking care of someone ill– a lack of human agency has never stopped God. You don’t need to be able-bodied for God to call you up for duty. You don’t need to build up your resume before God will call your name. If God wants you qualified, He’ll qualify you.

Women as a rule lack agency more than men do. Even powerful and wealthy women often lack agency both within and outside their homes. But in her lack of agency, Elizabeth, a faithful woman led her unbelieving husband into belief. He got in his own way—kind of like I do to myself! What he had didn’t help him. What Elizabeth didn’t have did help her, and preserved her family’s usefulness to the Lord in that appointed moment.

Our belief encourages others to believe. While we believe, the testimony we build inspires those in relationship with us to turn their eyes to the Lord also. In those moments where we feel completely imprisoned by our situation, our sickness, our disability, or our social disadvantage, we have to remember that our humble morsel of belief is the thing of value.

Our belief alone can be our gentle contribution for the colossal good of our community, our relationships, our partners, our family members, and as with Elizabeth, the world.

I don’t need to be able; I need to be willing (Luke 1:38.) Today, that willingness is honoring what I don’t have, and knowing that being busy for God is not as important as being ready for God.

 

Easter

“Today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

The thief on the cross. The one who in the final minutes of his life defended Jesus. He admitted his guilt and Jesus’ innocence. He acknowledged the divinity of Christ— he was the first convert to Christianity. The first person to say, “I want to be a part of your kingdom” (Luke 23:42.)

He never had to go through the ups and downs, loopty-loops, confusion, trials, backsliding, and church-hopping of Christian life. He never argued over theology, which translation of the Bible is best, or whether Christians should smoke cigarettes or serve in the military. He got to go straight into glory. He got to bypass the doing of, and the being of, Christian life.

I wrote in my journal several months ago, “What is it to be a Christian; what is this Christian life?” The thief on the cross never had to ask that question. The Apostle Paul writes in the Book of Romans about the hope of glory and the “eager hope” with which we look forward to “join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Paul writes about how it is the work of the Spirit to help us in weakness so that we can be sanctified, justified, and glorified in the salvation we have because of Christ’s sacrifice. Because we indeed justly were receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man, Jesus, had done nothing wrong, as the one thief said to other (Luke 23:41.)

The Christian life is no longer about living according to our due reward, but rather by faith. Our hope is totally in the work of the Spirit, for the purposes of the Spirit, toward a spiritual reward. The Christian life is never about what is seen and measurable but rather what is unseen and unmeasurable. We see this hold totally true in the extremely short Christian life of the thief on the cross. He had no time to do good works, resist bad habits, contribute wise teaching, or pray beautiful prayers. He was saved and then glorified. Instantaneously! He totally got to skip the sanctification, transformation, justification phases that most of us experience.

Yet, I believe that Jesus sees all of us the way he sees the thief on the cross. I believe he sees all of us as today being with him in paradise. I believe he sees us in the Spirit, the spirit of faith, which sees things as they are when completed not as they are in process. I believe that to Jesus our moment of salvation is our moment of glorification. His mercy makes that possible, his grace makes it the operating truth.

God’s not waiting on us so He can make something reality. He is ushering us into His reality. And we are called, in this Christian life, to act according to that reality. We have to view ourselves in faith, which means viewing ourselves as complete, as co-heirs with Christ, as kings and priests, as sons of God— cause that is what glorification is, right? And we have to view each other the same way.

We cannot accept accusatory speech that contradicts what God sees of us in faith. We cannot level accusation against our brothers and sisters in Christ either. It’s very easy to become negative about other people’s faith. You know, if my husband were a better Christian, it’d be easier for me to be a better Christian. Kinda like how, if my daughter were a better kid, it’d be easier for me to be a better mom. If other people could get going a bit more in their walks with God, and give me a few less attitudes and inconveniences to trip over, I would assuredly be a better person. If the people around me would just be better, I could look a lot better.

And because other people make my personal process of transformation more difficult, I find it perfectly acceptable to condemn their level of adherence to God’s sanctification, their probability of being justified if they keep on acting like this. I feel I can comment on them, or rate them, judge them, or actually kind of hate them, because obviously they are not trying as hard as me cause if they were my sanctimonious little life would be a whole lot easier!

Yet, that attitude is completely antithetical to faith. If Jesus could say to the thief on the cross, you are glorified today simply because I say so; then He also says to us, it is today simply because I say so. That is that. There is no in between whilst which we get to fiddle around with condemnation— of ourselves or of others.

Our love for each other cannot come from what we see, but rather from what we don’t see, which is the glorification to come that God sees as already being, because of Jesus and through the Spirit.

 

Easter

“Do this in remembrance” Exodus 12 & Luke 22

Until today I was unaware of what Maundy Thursday is. It is a celebration of the command to “love each other” given at the Last Supper.* “Maundy” originates from the latin for “command.” I know the Israelites were commanded to remember the night that the angel of death “passed over” them. I know that Jesus told his disciples to remember him when they partake in Communion. I have not contemplated until today what overlap there might be between the Old Covenant Passover and the New Covenant Communion.

Unconsciously, I have always conceptualized the Last Supper as different from the Passover, though of course the Last Supper was a Passover meal. I want to lay down, real quick, a short list of similarities between to the two. In fact, let me jump to my conclusion— Jesus completed the Passover requirement and then doubled down on it at the Last Supper; which I would say is pretty consistent with everything that Jesus did whilst on Earth.

Exodus 12 gives a detailed picture as to how the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover, why they were to celebrate the Passover, and who could celebrate the Passover. Luke 22 gives us the same details about Communion according to Jesus’ instructions at the Last Supper, or First Supper if you will.

So let’s look at this without too much fuss:

How to celebrate: Celebrate with a special meal containing symbolic components.

Why to celebrate: Celebrate to remember the work of God’s salvation.

Who can celebrate: Only God’s people can celebrate this meal.

The third point caught me a bit off guard at first. I didn’t realize that Passover was only for the “native-born Israelites” or people who had effectively converted by being circumcised (Exodus 12:43-49.) “No outsiders are allowed to eat the Passover meal,” Exodus 12:43. I feel that that point is specifically important in regard to the Last Supper.

The Maundy command “to love one another” is a command for Christians to love each other. It’s not a command for Christians to love the lost soul. It is not a command for all people to love one another. When Christians participate in Communion or when they celebrate the Last Supper they are to remember that God cares about how people in the church treat each other.

The people we go to church with can be pretty irritating. Some are over-religious. Some are too cool being obnoxiously proud of their record collection and slight drinking habit. Some are theology snobs, some are bible trivia nerds. Some volunteer for everything, others do Sunday service in a dine-and-dash fashion. Some are nosy, some are aloof. And most are self-righteously concerned about whether the people they go to church with are “really saved.” Cause, you know, if they were “really saved,” their kid wouldn’t act like that, they wouldn’t dress like that, you wouldn’t see them at the kind of places you see them at, they wouldn’t keep people’s Tupperware dishes, they’d RSVP on time, their husband wouldn’t have left like that…

Well, Jesus laid to rest the “really saved” topic at the Last Supper. Passover is celebrated to remember God’s salvation in the past from slavery and the tradition is continued forward in the hope of continued salvation. Passover celebrates an unfinished work, which is best illustrated by the Jewish custom of setting a place for Elijah at the Passover seder. When Jesus took the unleavened bread, symbolic of sinlessness, and the cup of wine, symbolic of the lamb’s blood used on the door posts by the Hebrews as a sign to the angel of death that he should pass over that house, and he said about the bread and wine “these are me,” he was saying, “it is finished.” That ongoing hope of salvation commemorated in Passover was complete. Salvation is no longer an on-going quest, but a mission fulfilled.

But, like I said, Jesus tends to double down. So with the fore-shadowing purpose of Passover completed, what was it that the Last Supper was to symbolize carrying forward? It is no longer a hope of salvation, but a reminder that Jesus has established a Kingdom for those who are saved. That Kingdom is one of love defined by servanthood, a Kingdom of thrones seated upon by the lowliest members of mankind.

Jesus famously washed his disciples feet during the Last Supper according to the Gospel of John. Peter objected to Jesus’ act of humility. But Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Jesus also said “since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.”

Belonging to Jesus requires no on-going pursuits of salvation, but an on-going pursuit of humility. The perfect opportunity to do that is amongst our annoying brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no satisfaction in serving the saved. I feel way better about myself when I evangelize or give away spare change. Loving people “who should know better” is harder. Paul says that Christians should give up all their rights for each other. We remember the Kingdom and how the Kingdom operates, when we love one another.

Perhaps the next time the gold trays with tiny cups and puffy square crackers is laid out, our reflection might center less on our “personal door-posts” and our need for the salvation in the Passover blood. Rather, remember the level of lowliness that Christ expects of us, and the tender regard for our brothers and sisters He expects us to have, as the requirement of being categorized as His own.

*”The Other Holy Day,” Christianity Today

Easter, Kid's Bible Lessons

“He isn’t here!” Mark 16:6

At Golgotha, Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He became sin for us, was rejected by his Father, and was the legal satisfaction of justice due on our behalf. This is what Jesus did when he died on Good Friday.

Three days later, he did something even more wonderful for us. We talk less often, and less dramatically, about what Jesus did in the garden. In the garden, Jesus was buried in a tomb. On Easter Sunday, he came back to life and broke through the grave that he was interned in.

Jesus was buried with our sins, but rose back to life without them. He left our sins behind in the tomb. We are told that Jesus broke the law of sin and death. When he defied death, he also played the ultimate trick on sin— sin can’t rise again. Baptism is described by the Apostle Paul as a symbol of going down with our sins into a watery grave as Jesus did, and being brought back up in a sinless life as Jesus was.

I have been hit so hard recently by the phrase “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3.) Why am I completely absolved of all guilt? Because the guilty Natalie is hidden in the tomb of Christ. What does this mean for me? It means that no one can accuse me of my sin, because that sin is sealed away. It got left behind in the garden.

On Easter, the angel told the women who came looking for the body of Jesus, “He isn’t here!” And I get to say that same thing. When the Accuser tries to condemn me. When the naysayer tries to discourage me. When my own heart begins to fail, I can shout, “She isn’t here!” The me that was a slave to sin is not here! I have risen in Christ’s resurrection, and my sin is trapped in a borrowed tomb.

Satan, the Accuser, heaps our sins back at our feet. When he does, you can say with confidence— “She is not here; that one is not me!”

Satan had his one revelry day. He had his one day to tear Jesus down. On the cross, Satan got his enjoyment in accusing God Himself. But, Satan, does not get to accuse you!! Because he got his three hours, his one short day to accuse Jesus, he does not have any claim on accusing you or I. He can’t have it both ways! Satan got to taunt and torment and defile the character of Jesus the day of Jesus’ death. The cross cost the devil every ounce of license to do that to me. He wanted to shame God, it’s all he’s ever wanted; and God let him do it!– in exchange for never, ever being allowed to put shame on me. 

When the weight of your sins make you think of Christ’s death, don’t mourn there forever, because Jesus gathered up your guilt at Golgotha and buried it permanently in the garden.

“When your heart condemns you, fear not for God is greater than your heart,” 1 John 3:20. 

* This was how we started explaining Easter to our daughter. I kinda love it. With a craft paper box and a million stickers, we decorated “a garden box.” I read to her from a kid’s “say and pray” bible with a cute illustration of the garden and an angel chillin’ out on top of Jesus’ tomb. We talked about how we are decorating these beautiful garden boxes remembering how wonderful it is that our sins are locked away forever in Jesus’ tomb and that we live free with Him.

Clementine is only 2 yrs old now, but I am thinking as she gets older, we can add a time of reflection and personal confession to this craft, and maybe write down some things that have been bothering her (and us) on Good Friday, put them in the box for the weekend, and then on Easter Sunday praise God that there is nothing that can separate us from God or diminish the complete work that Christ did for us on the cross.

Easter

“This is the King of the Jews” Luke 23:38

Easter is approaching and so the Gospels have been the focal point of the sermons at church. Our pastor just read Luke 23 to us week before last. He didn’t comment all that much on the scriptures, he mostly just read them aloud. I am very familiar with the Passion of the Christ, so I didn’t expect to be hit very hard by the verbal picture that unfolded.

The description of Jesus falsely accused before Pilate, his innocence ignored in favor of a murderer, his flesh torn open until his whole being was red and raw. And then thrown atop his open wounds, a kingly robe to disparage his identity as King of the Universe. They roughly pressed into his brow an ugly crown and tempted him to prove himself.

My, how he could have proved that he is King. My, how he could have spread the wings of his glory and destroyed the whole empire with the force of a single movement, or by the mightiness of his Name alone. But instead he remained silent, swaying in exhaustion, a pitiful sight of perversity— a fraudulent display of kingship, a joke.

This mental picture of a broken, bloody, powerless, exhausted and defeated king, finally hammered in for me what it means that Jesus “became sin for us.” That is my sin! That picture of Jesus on crucifixion day is the picture of my sin! If my sin were to take shape and be personified in actual flesh, it would be Jesus knelt in his own blood, nearly in trance due to pain, wearing a dunce cap and a jester’s clothes. 

My sin is the delusion of my own kingship! I am a perverse little king, wanting to be praised and admired. I am a little dictator, wanting to have my way at even just small expenses to others. I am a little bit of a Lucifer, wanting recognition for my beauty, talents, merits, efforts, and accomplishments. I am the itsy bitsy spider dutifully spinning the web of my temporary successes. Jesus became that sin! He became a grotesque, dying, mockery because I am a grotesque, dying, mockery.

God is jealous of His glory we are told. He does not share it. Lucifer fell from heaven because he desired recognition, affirmation, a pat on the back, a flattering word, a small praise, acknowledgement, thanks…just a little glory of his own. But God does not, will not, share the glory of His crown! Not with his angels, not with nature, not with you or me. His magnitude blasts through the meagerness of any attempt at beauty that is not originated from the wealth of His own treasury. The trap set for Eve was receiving a little knowledge of her own, getting a hand on a little more than God gave. God was holding out on them, she was told, because He is jealous and won’t share the gifting that defines His power. “Get a little glory, Eve.” Original sin; the original sin that Jesus became for us.

Jesus, who really is King, became the false king that I am. He who is Truth, became falsehood for me. He who is Glory, became degenerate for me. He became ridiculous because we are ridiculous. He became despicable because we are despicable. He became an impostor because we are impostors. He became the fading glory of all my efforts revealed as illegitimate and futile. He became my incapacity. He became my failure. He became my frustration. He became my cry— “Abba, Father, why have you forsaken me!!!”