“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”
—-John of the Cross
The medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.
Lent is about mortality and transformation. We begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads with ashes as the words are spoken over us, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou wilt return.” We begin this season of Lent not only reminded of our death, but also marked for death.
The Lenten journey, with its climax in Holy Week and Good Friday and Easter, is about participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Put somewhat abstractly, this means dying to an old identity—the identity conferred by culture, by tradition, by parents, perhaps—and being born into a new identity—an identity centered in the Spirit of God. It means dying to an old way of being, and being born into a new way of being, a way of being centered once again in God.
Put slightly more concretely, this path of death and resurrection, of radical centering in God, may mean for some of us that we need to die to specific things in our lives—perhaps to a behavior or a pattern of behavior that has become destructive or dysfunctional; perhaps to a relationship that has ended or gone bad; perhaps to an unresolved grief that needs to be let go of; perhaps to a career or job that has either been taken from us or that no longer nourishes us; or perhaps even we need to die to a deadness in our lives.
You can even die to deadness, and this dying is also oftentimes a daily rhythm in our lives—that daily occurrence that happens to some of us as we remind ourselves of the reality of God in our relationship to God; that reminder that can take us out of ourselves, lift us out of our confinement, take away our feeling of being burdened and weighed down.
That’s the first focal point of a life that takes Jesus seriously: that radical centering in the Spirit of God that is at the very center of the Christian life.
—Dr. Marcus Borg
The day of resurrection?
Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over
With hymns of victory.
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Let all things seen and unseen
Their notes in gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen,
Our Joy that hath no end.
——John of Damascus
Filed under Easter, Poetry
Freedom is cherished by every man,and the story I share today is about the endurance of a free spirit. There are many stories that emerged from the American civil rights movement, but this is one that speaks to the power of knowing that your cause is greater than you. When you are making a stand for a cause that drives you heart and soul, suffering is necessary and worthwhile.
Martin Luther King used to tell the story of Sister Pollard, a seventy-year-old African American woman who lived in Montgomery, Alabama during the now famous bus boycott. One day, after walking significant distances daily for several months, Sister Pollard was asked if she wanted a ride. When she answered, “No,” the person responded, “But aren’t you tired?” To which Sister Pollard answered, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”
Resurrection living is moving beyond our fears and trusting that God is fashioning a way out of the difficulties of our lives. It is a celebration of a promise that a new world is unfolding. This leads us to affirm that our souls are rested. We will continue to face all kinds of challenges and struggles along the way; “our feets will be tired,” but our spirits will be strengthened through the presence of the risen Christ. This is the good news we celebrate every Easter. There is no tragedy that God cannot redeem, no dream- even the elusive dream of peace on earth—that the God who raised Jesus from the dead cannot energize and advance.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today! (dothisinremembranceofme.wordpress.com)
It had been a long three days. They had known the feeling of terror in the face of false accusations, the trauma of a mock trial, and the helplessness of standing by while a loved one was convicted of a crime he had not committed. Yet, this was only the backdrop for the deep agony of nameless, hopeless grief that would crash around them like a tidal wave when the one who had been son, brother, teacher, and savior was brutally killed. There is no making sense of such aching sorrow. The first days after such a tragedy found the women who were closest to Jesus in life wanting only to touch and prepare his body one last time in death. He had talked of resurrection. He had said that in three days he would rise. But it was not resurrection that was on the mind of those women. It was death. Imagine the moment of recognition when Jesus stood before them again. Imagine the elation of re-union. Imagine the radiant hope that followed those three days of pain. Imagine the faith that was kindled as a result of that “Easter” experience.
But the Easter story is not only an experience, an event. It is a way of life. The resurrection of Jesus created the hope in Christians that death is never the end — resurrection is. We not only look forward to an eternal future with the Holy One, we have the opportunity to experience Easter moments in the midst of our everyday lives. We know that death and sorrow stand nearby — whether it be physical death, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream — but resurrection also waits to be noticed at the edges of our life. We have all known the wonder of a healing, a new job, a new love, a new dream being born out of the agony of hopelessness. Making Easter a way of life means that we are unwilling to settle for death in any of its forms. We are unwilling to give up hope and belief that new life is always being offered to us by heaven. We are unwilling to be ground down by grief when God’s goodness is extended to us. Making Easter a way of life means that we turn our eyes toward resurrection each and every day, searching for its signs, believing in its truth, living into its glory
English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The baby born in Bethlehem came to die. His miraculous birth and his miraculous death and resurrection were eternally linked. The crucifixion was shattering to his disciples. They were lost without the Master and confused about the validity of their faith and the future of the Kingdom they had just begun to envision. Nothing made sense anymore, and they were consumed by loss. The desperation in the room had taken on a life of its own. So, the disciples sat huddled in darkness and fear.
Suddenly, Jesus was in the room! In that one miraculous moment, with His resurrected presence, everything changed. Prophecies fulfilled. Parables lived. Mysteries cleared. Fear melted away. Hope soared. Peace settled. Courage took hold.
Over the years of my life, I have known the presence of Jesus. I have known, without one shadow of doubt, when He was in the room. He has calmed my fears in anxious moments. He has given me hope in times of my deepest despair. He has provided for me a peace that defies understanding in the midst of great turmoil. He has shown me grace in my most unworthy actions. He has blessed me with healing in devastating brokenness.
So many things happen to us in life. We must handle both joy and sorrow on this journey. Broken family relationships, sickness, death, financial crises thrust us into situations where we, much like those early disciples, seem paralyzed and huddled in darkness and fear. The great thing one must remember and acknowledge is that His presence will be ever with us to heal and comfort and bless us with His grace and peace. His resurrected Presence gives meaning to the journey – Jesus is in the room.
Reflection – When have you known that Jesus was in the room?
- Review – Simply Jesus (renovationstory.wordpress.com)