Revelation 6:2



“I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”


The Mayan calendar is in the news these days. According to some it predicts the world will end on the 21st of December, 2012. Last year, a university team who has discovered the oldest version of the Mayan calendar to date, announced that the calendar does not predict the end of the world. The whole thing, they say, is a misreading of the calendar fueled by pop-culture hysteria. 

Misreading history is as old as history itself. Whether the Mayans actually had the end in mind when their calendar was produced or not, many peoples over the centuries have read the signs of the times and concluded that catastrophe was right around the corner. So far, at least, those readings were misreadings, at least in some ultimate sense.

How well are the signs of the times being read and understood today? How do we know, for example, if the currently popular lens of secularism, with its’ Godless, Spiritless universe, is not in actuality providing a fundamental misreading of life and history? 

The Christian faith does not have a calendar which uniquely plots historical progress. What we do have is the New Testament Book of Revelation, which some have used as a lens through which events and time are viewed, usually with embarrassing, even tragic consequences for those who tried to pin down dates, events and times. Those who have taken it upon themselves to predict the future have largely misread the book and its’ meaning. 

When we put the question, ‘What does it reveal?’ to the Book of Revelation, what kind of answer should we expect? Is it a collection of hidden clues, like some ancient ‘Da Vinci Code’, just waiting for the right sleuth to unlock it’s mysteries? If so, then the countless number of misreadings that have resulted would seem to indicate that we have yet to find just the right key to unlock its’ meaning. There will always be room for one more charlatan to sell a new version of the end.

I want to suggest that the reading of history we receive in this book is clear, straightforward and promising. The very first words in the book tell us what to expect; the book is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The book goes on in the first chapter to amplify various ways in which we may know Him, experience Him and trust Him. Events associated with Christ are also mentioned but they are not the subject. Christ Jesus is the subject. If we may draw a reading of history from this book it would be this; history is Christ-centered.

Secularists offer up a bleak future in a heartless, ultimately meaningless cosmos. Those who read the Mayan calendar leave us to anticipate nothing but catastrophe. How’s that for a future worth waiting for; meaningless catastrophe.

The Book of Revelation is frank and realistic about the struggles faith encounters in this life. It tells us that as history moves toward it’s climax we may expect to see a hardening of the lines of battle, where the godless will say no with firmness, bitterness and ugliness.

We know that it is Christ’s suffering love, displayed in crucified weakness, that in the end saves us. At the same time the Book of Revelation assures the Church that the power of  the resurrected Christ is equal to anything Satan can send against Him. We can see this in the most commonly recurring verb in the entire book, the verb ‘nike’ , to conquer, which in every case refers to Jesus Christ, the conqueror, the One who will deliver His people from the powers of catastrophe and meaninglessness.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”



Romans 8:32-35

“If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”


Two friends who belonged to the same church were having lunch.

“Did you see that a new Bible study is starting next week?”, one friend asked the other. “Why not join me?” 

“No. Thanks anyway,” he laughingly replied. “I know the Bible is important but I like things the way they are. If I start studying the Bible, God knows what might happen!”


I think many people share the view of the man referenced above. There is a general belief that studying God’s Word is important and most within the churches would say so. At the same time there is a sense that in encountering the Bible I may be wading into treacherous waters. 

Actually, the reluctant friend, adverse to opening the Bible, was on to something. There is no question that the reading or studying of Scripture can be life-altering. Opening the Scriptures is risky business. Assumptions may be challenged, ways of living called into question. In a real sense, our friend above sensed that an adversary was lurking in the pages of the Bible. And in one sense he is right.

It is my belief that this reluctance, whatever else may be informing it, can also reflect a basic misunderstanding of the heart of the faith; namely, the grace of God. Hear me out.

As a Lutheran Christian I read the Bible in the light of my baptism, in the light of the Cross. For in baptism my old self is put to death with Christ and raised to new life with Him. This means to encounter God’s Word, whether in judgment or mercy, will always be to encounter God for me. To have God’s grace in Christ affirming me means that the Word of Scripture will only be a threat to my old self-justifying self, not to the new person who is being brought along in Christ Jesus, who is justified by grace alone.  When I read the Bible in the light of this unconditional grace, I may begin with the assumption that this Word of God is for me, not against me. 

To be let in on God’s grace means that I am free to join Him in His judgments on the old person within me. For the new person in Christ in me, who trusts in God’s grace alone, does not want the old self to be let off the hook. I am actually anxious to see the old boy put in his place! Since there is no condemnation in Christ, I can face all accusers; ‘You cannot say anything about me that I have not already said about myself.’ The Word of God is only the adversary of the old, sinful person in me. 

But more than adversary of sin, the Word of God is advocate for sinners. This means that when I read and study the Bible I am encountering the one who is for me. If you want to know what Gods thinks about you, don’t look at your bank account, health, history or nature. And don’t look at your sins. Look at Jesus Christ on the Cross. There, you see God condemning the sin in you and taking you up in His grace and forgiveness. The entire Bible is the story of this God who confronts sin for us that He may be grace for us. When we read the Bible through the lens of the Cross, we encounter God not as threat but as grace, and our lives are set free to trust. 

If you have been reluctant, even averse, to picking up your Bible, I encourage you to reconsider. Make the Cross alone your lens of interpretation. And as you read, you may be confident that your merciful God will be putting the old, self-justifying you away with the crucified Jesus, even as He works to bring the new justified you to life, in the freedom of faith, with your resurrected Lord.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











Romans 16:25-27



“25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”


During an ancient war a group of Egyptian soldiers were captured in battle. They remained in captivity for sometime, obligated to the will of their captors.  In time the soldiers were freed, liberated from captivity by fellow Egyptians. But freedom did not mean the end of obligations. They were once again subject to the will of the pharaoh, who sent them off to resume the battle.

Christ sets us free to resume a life of faith and trust, a life of willing obedience to the One who has set us free. The dynamic relationship of freedom and trust that God begins with us through baptism, God also sustains in our ongoing dialog with God’s Law and God’s Gospel. Where God is concerned, Christ has neutralized the law’s pressure and the guilt\condemnation that pressure creates. At the same time, God’s law continues to expose how we have failed in our obedience to God’s command that we love Him and our neighbor as ourselves, and how we have failed to preserve God’s creation. In this respect the law drives us to Christ and His forgiveness even as it drives into daily life to be good for something.

Our American way of life may reinforce the dreams of the rugged individual but self-governance is a fiction where the Christian life is concerned. Christ has made of us a people created for the obedience of faith, not a loose gathering of little kings and queens, intent on ruling the petty kingdoms of the self. The pressures we feel upon us in daily life to be good for something, to contribute, to care of our neighbor and the world are not the soulless powers of an indifferent universe. Those pressures are the living, active power and will of God at work through His law acting on us and all people. The Holy Spirit and the Word are not casual bystanders.

It may sound surprising but the main characteristic of the life of our Savior was not love or compassion or caring. Those things were there in abundance, to be sure. What the New Testament witness is anxious to report as of prime significance is that Jesus was obedient to the will of His Father. He lived under the pressures and obligations of God’s Law, just as we must. But unlike us, His obedience to God’s good and gracious intention for Him never wavered. 

The paradox of the Christian life is that you and I have been set free for obedience, we have been cut loose in order to be bound up again, lifted to our feet only to kneel once more. Martin Luther described it this way; “The Christian is a free lord, subject to none. The Christian is a dutiful servant, subject to all.” Christ’s singular obedience to the Father, for us, resulted in His death and our freedom from sin. At the same time, that “obedience that comes from faith”, according to which we now live, is meant to guide us, to send us back into the battle, in a grateful obedience that seeks to do the the will of the Father. As the Christian attends to the Word of God, our allegiance is directed away from sin and self toward reliance on His grace, which is another way of saying God summons us to resume the primary role for which we were created and re-created in Christ; a free and willing obedience to the Father that is expressed in caring for the neighbor and the creation.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











Romans 3:23



 “For all have sinned, and fallen short…”


We’re all familiar with Murphy’s Law; ‘If something can go wrong it will go wrong.’ Or, there are those famous commentaries on Murphy’s law; ‘Murphy was an optimist’ and, ‘If you think things are getting better, look again!’ 

We can chuckle over such unvarnished pessimism but it has a very long history and is well-entrenched in our Lutheran heritage.

Traditional Lutheran language about sin has emphasized the totality of our sinfulness.  The older service of confession and forgiveness spoke of our being ‘sinful and unclean’. Nowadays, we use the language of being in ‘bondage to sin’. In either case the Lutheran tradition has wanted to take sin seriously. But this emphasis on the total sinfulness of humanity also has caused problems. Many of us remember a Lutheran church that constantly reinforced the sinfulness of people to the point where there was simply no point in looking for anything good. This in-house pessimism created a Lutheran culture of quietism and cynicism. The human future was bleak. What was actually a very important biblical and theological emphasis became quite destructive, psychologically, of many peoples’ self-understanding.

The modern reaction to this heavy emphasis on the corruption and sinfulness of the human has been to move in a couple of directions. On the one hand, prosperity, feel good, positive thinking ministries have attempted to say that anything is possible. There are no limits to human potential if only we adopt the right attitude, biblical principles for living, etc. The very fact that these movements have been so successful is a sign of how far the church had gone in the other direction. The corrective became a wild over reaction.

At the same time, the more liberal side of the church has also turned the wheel hard over, shifting its’s focus away from our need for a gracious God to our need to have and to be gracious neighbors. Good will and fairness will create a just and peaceful world because all of us essentially good and well-intentioned people want it to be so. Everything is affirmed, nothing is out of bounds. Unconditional affirmation will bring a glorious new day.

Both of these correctives, it seems to me, fail at a crucial point. Like the two natures of Christ, a solid, biblical affirmation of the human sees the goodness and sinfulness of humanity as a paradox. Two contradictory truths – that must be preserved for the sake of the Christian witness – are being held in tension. 

The way we as Lutherans have talked about the sinful human, therefore, is to say that we are “at the same time justified and sinful.” This does not have to be an invitation to hang black crepe all over the world and sit in sack cloth and ashes. Rather, we are making a theological, biblical distinction here, not a psychological one.

When I confess, as I do, that I am totally sinful, I am not in any sense denying that I can be good, responsible and creative. What I am saying when I confess this is, that like a drop of ink in a glass of water, sin taints or colors every aspect of my life. I may not see it or feel it but the attitude and tendency toward rebellion against God and lovelessness is always there, even in my goodness, responsibility and creativity.

So, I also confess that I am totally justified in the God\Man Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me, in whom my sin is forgiven. I am free to actually rest back in God’s grace and enjoy the gift of life, giving myself to living for all that I am worth, even with all its’ contradictions. 

Christian people can and should affirm, encourage and support human goodness, responsibility and creativity wherever we can. At the same time, our Lutheran understanding of sin and the paradox of human nature qualifies claims about human goodness, reminding us that no human effort will bring the fulfillment we ultimately long for. This realism is important both for the future here and now and for our bottom line as Christians. For it reminds us that no person or cause, however good, can be blindly identified with the work of God.

Our bottom line is the trust that salvation comes by God’s grace in Christ, apart from human goodness or effort.  Such trust does not deny human goodness and its’ role in the immediate future. Rather, such trust affirms that it is God’s gracious goodness alone that will bring the ultimate future.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Pray without ceasing.”


One of the tangible legacies of the 1960’s that continues to impact the churches, is the emphasis on personal experience as the final word in all things. Today, it is taken for granted. 

Large elements of contemporary non-denominational Christianity, for example, speak quite openly about the direct experience of God apart from any interpretation of that experience. Theology is a negative term. The bible is a transparent lens that needs no filter. The entire enterprise, in this respect represents a flight away from the belief that religious experience must have some form of interpretation. 

A young woman came to see me years ago who had  “met Jesus”  in some church or another. She had been instructed that her baptism as in infant was invalid. What was ironic is that a large amount of biblical theology and interpretation had to happen, if unwittingly, between her experience and the rejection of her baptism. I expressed my happiness at her new-found enthusiasm for Jesus and suggested that there might be another way to think about what happened to her and her reaction to that experience. She was kind enough to hear me out.

I suggested that we were looking at a question that ran in two directions. Does an experience we call religious necessarily lead us to think primarily about ourselves or about God? Does Christian religious experience take us outside of ourselves or send us into ourselves? It was significant that as an aspect of her recent inner experience she was told to reject the external experience of her baptism. She was supplied with an external biblical theology – an interpretive filter –  that removed God from any connection with the external. She was sent to find God within. 

I went on to suggest that the Lutheran lens through which we view the bible sees the other side of the question. We believe the experience of God leads not into an interior experience of the self but to a comprehension of God who comes to us in the external word of promise. The Lutheran response to the God who comes to us in His grace is not to write an autobiography but to point back, beyond and outside ourselves to God. It is not my perceived experience of God that is decisive. What is decisive is God’s word of promise to me and for me.

This has something to do with St. Paul’s invitation to “pray without ceasing”, which I take to be an invitation to live every moment in the awareness of God’s presence. But where do I reliably enter that prayerful experience, that dialog with God?  Do I look to myself, my decision, my feelings, my inner experience? Do I have to come up with the right prayers, the right words? Lutheran Christians believe it is in the external Word of promise given in baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the preached words of the Gospel, that this prayerful dialog with God takes place.

Your baptism as an infant, I said to her, was never meant to underline your experience of God but to point to God being for you. It began a God-initiated life and dialog. Your recent feeling that something was perhaps lacking in your experience as a Christian was simply an expression of the human side of that dialog with God. For in our experience of living we more often than not keenly feel the depth of our need, perhaps even God’s absence. The faithful response at such times, however, is not to look inward but to move away from self-consciousness toward your baptism. For baptism is a gracious reminder that you are God’s adopted child. Baptism is a reminder that your life moves in and with Christ Jesus in a never-ending dialog of ceaseless prayer where the wavering and wandering words of your quite unreliable experience are always answered by the utterly reliable Word of God’s grace.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”









Mark 16:15


“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”


A 19th century scholar of church history made an important observation regarding churches that can be helpful today. He pointed out that over the centuries the church has come to us in essentially two forms: the ‘Church type’ and the ‘Sect type’.

The ‘Church type’ has stressed institutional conformity, well defined orders of ministry, the stability and continuity of tradition. Change, if it must come at all, should come slowly. Eastern orthodox communities are probably the best example of this ‘Church type’ but other Christians, including some Lutherans, have also adopted this form.

The ‘Sect type’ are churches that seek to reform the ‘Church type’ communities by restoring what they perceive to be the true biblical form of the church. They tend to speak with a prophetic voice and place a strong emphasis on conversion, holiness of living and the authority of the Bible.This sectarian emphasis is a prominent feature of American Christianity and has taken many forms. Some Lutherans also share this ‘Sect type’ emphasis.

The fact that both types can be found in the writings of Martin Luther is significant. For Luther was a conserving but not a strictly conservative reformer. At times his writings emphasize continuity with the historic church, insisting that if some traditions serve the faith of the people they should be retained. At other times the reformer freely slaughtered sacred cows that he believed were non-essentials.

This means that Luther had a criteria for the employment of church forms that was prior to them and superior to them: the message of the Gospel. He believed that the message of the church comes before the form of the church. Which is a way of saying that the form the church takes is in the service of the Gospel. 

In an age when people are skeptical of all forms of inherited authority, a stubborn insistence on ‘Church type’ forms may actually be a hindrance to the message. At the same time, the ‘Sect type’, as it seeks to recover a pure church that never was, tends to isolate and alienate, often distorting the Christian message with an undue emphasis on demand and law and appearing to have no connection with the wider Christian community.

Rooted in the principle of what one has called ‘evangelical freedom’, Lutheran congregations are not obligated to any particular form. Our chief obligation is to the message of the Cross, the good news that God justifies the ungodly. Because Lutherans also have (or should have) a clear-headed doctrine of sin, there is probably good reason for us to err on the side tradition without becoming traditionalists. Order, even if imperfect, inefficient and somewhat unjust, is better than chaos. A very old saying is helpful in thinking about this: “Tradition is the living faith of dead people. Traditionalism is the dead faith of living people.”

Traditional church forms can provide stability in chaotic times, a framework for congregational mission and nurture, and a witness to our continuity with the historic church. At the same time, evangelical freedom summons the congregation to place whatever forms it adopts at the service of the mission of the Gospel. Congregations are not private chaplaincies, country clubs for the like-minded. Congregations are mission outposts, always seeking to provide forms and forums through which the message of God’s love for a lost and sinful world may gain the widest possible hearing. 


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”









John 8:12





“Whoever follows me will not walk in darknessbut will have the light of life.”


On one of the Sundays of Advent a few years ago a young visitor left our worship service with these parting words, “I don’t care much for churches that have rituals.”  A couple of weeks later I saw him again – at our Christmas Eve candlelight service. Hmmmmm.

In some Christian circles it’s almost an article of faith to be opposed to traditional forms of worship, to be anti-ritual. Which is odd when you think about it. If you attend some version of Christian worship on a more or less regular basis, and unless the bunch you are a part of throws a curve ball at you every week, you are returning to a ritual, a predictable format. This is so obvious it’s almost embarrassing to point it out except for the fact that this anti-ritual mentality is widespread and gives evidence to a profound misalignment and misunderstanding of the ritual character of worship, not to mention life itself.

One of the arguments set against traditional worship ritual is that it isn’t relevant. One might ask, relevant to what or whom? I suspect that what the objector is really trying to say is that it isn’t popular.  But relevancy refers to something that is true in all times and in all places. Popularity has nothing to do with relevancy, in this respect. This subtle bit of confusion all by itself contributes to no end of really bad thinking and practice where worship is concerned. A great deal can be said about all of this but I want to focus on the often-heard remark that worship must be comfortable, easy, with no tension.

It does not take much imagination to see that this is not how life works. Life is full of tensions. The traditional worship of the church does not shy away from this.The traditional candlelight service held by many churches at Christmas and other times of the year provide a good example. Holiday sentimentality may account for their popularity but what makes them relevant? The relevancy of the candlelight service is located precisely in the tensions that are heightened by the darkness and the illumination of the flames. The service mirrors the time of year when the days are shorter, darkness sets in sooner and daylight is diminished. At the height of this growing darkness we light our homes, trees and communities.

But there is deeper water here, theologically and liturgically.The entire image, symbolism if you will, is of the light pushing back against the dark and overcoming it. This is a mid-winter service of protest against the powers of darkness and the coldness of death. The light represents hope in the midst of fear, seeing in the face of spiritual blindness, being together in the warmth of community whose only source of light and life and hope is Jesus Christ the Light of the world.

When these are the themes of the Christmas Eve candlelight service and its rituals, something relevant to the faith is actually being said and done. The ritual setting becomes Christian worship, not a holiday backdrop. It becomes part of the Law\Gospel proclamation rooted in the most basic paradigm of the faith – in the midst of death we live.

As our candles were lit at the close of the Christmas Eve ritual, and light filled the sanctuary, I spotted the young visitor. His voice, along with the rest of us carried the familiar song;


Silent night, holy night,

Son of God, love’s pure light;

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, lord at Thy birth,

Jesus lord at thy birth.


A few moments later he came by me at the door and took my hand with a silent smile. There were tears in his eyes.



“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











1 Peter 3:18

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God,”


The great offense of the Christian faith is this: there is no other God than the crucified man Jesus. The meaning of the word God for the Christian faith means one thing and one thing only, the person of Jesus. For human beings Jesus is the final word of self-revelation, self-definition and self-affirmation of God. If God is the subject, the Crucified Jesus is the lone predicate.

The current wild objections to this run all the way back to the jeering bystanders who stood and watched Him die. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” He didn’t, of course, and this was proof enough for them that all God talk where Jesus was concerned was bunk. It never occurred to them that the deepest, clearest revelation of God for humans was right there in the ripped flesh, blood and death. It also hasn’t occurred to many in the churches.

Much of the onward and upward religion of today has ruled out this stark definition in favor of what people have always clamored for: an onward and upward, positive, uplifting, fulfilling and glory-filled God. Churches everywhere are throwing ladders against the walls of heaven, scrambling to free themselves from the bondage, suffering and confusion of the world, storm the halls of glory and grab a piece of divinity. But all this does is diminish God’s very self-revelation, the place where He wants to be known, and render the cross of Jesus useless. 

The proclamation of the Crucified Jesus for us in Word and sacrament  must be the singular point of contact for us. This because there is no pre-existing point of contact in us, no spark of divinity which God  fans like a sad ember into a roaring flame of faith. We must be met where we actually are, in the utter deadness of sin with no possibility in ourselves, I repeat, no possibility in ourselves at all to regain life and freedom from the powers of sin and death. God must become sin and death for us in order that He may be life for us.

This means that the Christian life has nothing whatsoever to do with the glory and praise religion of God seeking. In this life there will be no heaven ahead of time. Jesus did not die between two gilded candles on an altar, or in the midst of a hyper-ventilating praise band. He died between two criminals like you and me. That is still where he wants to be found, in the company of real sinners distinguished only by the knowledge of their great need.

For the Gospel of the crucified God grounds the Christian in the real world of hurts and hopes with our eyes wide open to things as they are. The Gospel of the Crucified God releases us from delusional spiritual pursuits that we may be what we were intended to be; creatures who are content to be engaged in the practical affairs of daily living in that radical cross-carrying faith that is content to entrust the things of  God, to God, expecting nothing, as we await with Advent longing the future that God has promised.

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











John 10:28

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”


For many Christians this is the season of Advent. Like all seasons of the church year, Advent amplifies themes that accompany the Christian life year-round.

Central to Advent is the theme of ‘hope’. But the Christian hope does not run off into a myriad of directions merely reflecting our plans, dreams and projects. The Christian hope is centered in Jesus Christ. Which is to say that whatever hopes we may entertain in our finite lives, they must give way, make room for the realization of a hope that is of an entirely different kind.

I believe it was the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Helmut Thielecke who observed that God has not entered the world in Christ only to shut the door of eternity behind him. To confess the gift of hope in Christ is to confess a hope that is not and cannot be grounded in ourselves. The very fact of the Incarnation of God in Jesus, the fact that eternity has entered history, is a sign of this. The fulfillment of the future is not simply the culmination of humanity’s projected dreams of peace and justice. The fulfillment of God’s kingdom will be just that, God’s bringing about something utterly new and not the coming together of strands by which humanity weaves the dreams of a utopia.

Although the fulfillment of the future is taken out of our hands, the promise of a new heaven and new earth sets up both goals and boundaries for our lives now. 

Since we know the broad parameters of the kingdom are sketched in the terms of faith, hope and love, the temporal goal of the Christian and the Church as a whole must be to fight against the powers in this life that would turn hope into despair, turn faith or trust inward on the self or on history, and pervert love into an endless number of misplaced loyalties which in the end is idolatry.

The boundaries of the promised kingdom also keep us from wandering off into Marxian, utopian dreams which would leave all prior generations in death with no share in its’ blessings. Instead the Christian hope reflects our belief in the resurrection of the dead, the sign that all people will be in proximity to the fulfillment of God’s promises, according to His will.

To hope in Jesus Christ is to believe that the weights of time and temporal life have lost their power to crush us into meaninglessness. This is precisely the hope that Jesus Himself held in His Father as he wept in the garden and hung on the bloody Cross. There is a new humanity coming. But as Christians we do not believe we will be lead by one another along paths of our own making to a self-made future. We are held in faith by the One who struggled in this life, as we must, and who entered into death, as we will, which will bring all our plans to nothing.

Therefore, in the final analysis, our hope extends into the vast, empty topography of death. For our final hope is that even as we lay bound in death’s cold grip we will hear our name, as the sheep knows the voice of the Shepherd. Then, like ancient Lazarus we will see with our eyes the One who has promised,  “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”


 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding  keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”











Galatians 5:1



“For freedom Christ has set us free…”

The Christian life is not on one of obligation but of permission. And herein lies a great dilemma. For freedom actually exposes us. And this is something we fear. We actually prefer prefabricated solutions to living. Not because these make us free but precisely because prefabricated solutions protect us from freedom, real freedom.

When that little bundle of unrealized wonderfulness called “Marky” Anderson came home from the hospital, my parents soon realized that I was also a bundle of something not quite so wonderful – stubborn willfulness, intent on having it my way. The game was on!  I had to be placed under strict limits and obligations established by my parents because I simply lacked the foundation to engage obligations and freedom responsibly. I was completely free and yet my use of freedom was utterly self-directed. My use of freedom revealed my bondage.This is why, along with all its’ joys, parenthood also placed on my folks the roles of accuser, arresting officer, prosecutor, judge and jailer. They were dealing with a creature who was incapable of managing freedom. It is only as I grew, and learned to live under the obligations of family life that I was released into the wider world and ever-expanding obligations.

The continuing refinement of obligation which begins with parenting and extends into the wider society through law, therefore, is not a process to provide freedom. It is a process which attempts to check the abuse of  a flawed freedom. The endless proliferation of laws in this country, for example, is a symptom of this abuse. It tells us, or should, that we are not free, not in the true sense. The same can be said for every people on earth. In this respect every state is – and must be – a “Nanny state”.

So, when St. Paul tells us that “Christ has set us free”, what sort of freedom is he speaking of? It surely cannot mean temporal freedom to do as we will, to simply have the ability to choose among options. Neither does it mean disengagement from life, having leisure time, independent wealth or being on vacation.

The freedom of the Christian is two things at once, actually. On the one hand Christian freedom is the gift of complete and total identification with Jesus Christ. All the benefits of Christ are given to the Christian. Nothing is held back. This is why Jesus could say, “When the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”  We cannot and will not free ourselves. You and I must be made to be free, declared to be free as an expression of God’s grace. And this is precisely what happened to you in your baptism. The fact that so many object to infant baptism, for example, simply reveals the reaction of one who intends to stay bound to self-willing in the face of the terrifying freedom inherent in God’s grace. It’s just too much.

At the same time Christian freedom is total engagement in life. And it must be. For there can be no hiding behind prefabricated solutions for the freedom of faith. And this is what we recoil from. This is what we fear. The freedom God grants is so complete that we are thrust onto the stage of life as “lambs of among wolves”, seemingly unprepared for so great a freedom in a world so bound in its’ pretensions.  

The gift of God’s grace which comes from outside of us, therefore, is essential for our freedom and protection.  For God’s grace removes us from our bondage to rationality, emotion, reason and will in order that we may use all of these in the service of love, without expectations or guilt, which is the glorious freedom\bondage of the Christian life.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”