Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Losing Words

A odd truth reveals itself every year about this time, it seems that the task for writing something meaningful about Easter grows larger and larger. It is not the bare facts of the Cross\Resurrection events or the baseline meaning of them that is hard. It's not a lessening of the appreciation for and the joy which continue to grow at the thought of Jesus' resurrection.  But as I grow older and become more aware of my own sin and the enormity of the sacrifice Jesus took to save me from myself  and the world from itself, then the meaning behind the facts of Easter leave me more and more speechless. I can say the same for the Incarnation, for that matter. Consider that God- Holy, Creator, and Ruler of the Universe loves His creation to the point of sacrifice; withholds judgment to the point of absurdity in hope of eliciting a loving response, and opens His greatest treasure (knowing Him deeply) to former rebels who can by faith, become lovers of Him and His Kingdom- Remarkable! How do mere words from a finite creature begin to capture one scintilla of the love and grace of God?!?

They can't. And the truth is I seem to be losing words even while the appreciation grows deeper. In writing about Easter one tries to explain the unimaginable, come to grips with the unfathomable, understand the infinite and communicate it all with words and sentences that are all too ordinary. The longer I am a Christian and the longer I contemplate what Christ has done the bigger Easter grows. It doesn't become something that grows smaller and more understandable with time and study and living. Jesus' awe, beauty, wonder and sacrificial love only multiply. Words fail me.

Another problem encountered in seeking out the Unsearchable is the frame of reference. We have never lived in a world that hasn't known resurrection power. We have ignored it, misused it, and abused it but we have never lived in a world that hasn't had someone, somewhere proclaiming that Jesus lived, died for mankind's sin, and rose from the grace defeating death. You and I can't imagine a world without hope. We have all faced or known situations and circumstance that gave no hope for that slice of time. Maybe it was hunger in Somalia,  fires in west Texas, tornadoes in the south, war in the middle east, bears on Wall Street, shootings on the border, war, job loss,  cancer or a thousand other evils in this broken world that took away hope for that moment in time.  But even in the most horrific circumstances that focus our fear on the hands of the clock in front of us, we have always, since the resurrection, had nailed scarred hands pointing us toward eternity . John Lennon wrote, "... imagine there no's easy if you try..." No, John, I'm sorry, but for the Christian that fluffy sentiment has become impossible. Everything we are, have and hope for is framed with eternity. A well know lady with very agnostic views was once heard by a magazine editor to have uttered these two phrases while their airliner encountered engine trouble: "Oh, God, please, no!"and later when the plane landed safely, "thank-God!" When the editor asked her about those utterances later she said it meant nothing, they were just expressions. Some expressions. The cross and the resurrection are also just expressions: the expressions of a loving God who reaches from heaven into the temporal by means of the incarnation to give a glimpse of and a taste of His eternity. That glimpse and that taste give us a hunger for Him and His life. That is hope. The cross\resurrection give us the promise that hope will be realized. Imaginations fail me.

Words fail me. Imagination fails me. The resurrections declares that Christ doesn't fail me. The hope and the promise live because He does. Maybe a fitting epitaph for folks trying to capture Easter in words and utterly failing could be this:

                       Lost my words in His wounds,
                      Lost my wounds in His Word.

To the day we find our voices in the King's song,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


According to the eminent scholars, 3 Dog Night, one is the loneliest number. So what's the loneliest letter? I submit for your consideration the letter "i."

Although I must admit that at first glance "i" seems to be doing just fine these days. It has had a huge surge in the electronics sector with the advent of iphone, itouch, and ipads. You can hardly call yourself connected without an "i" something and those of us who don't have an "i" something are always feeling inferior to those who do. That in itself puts focus back on "i." And truthfully, "i" has always done well in the entertainment industry. With the exponential growth of sports stars, reality shows stars, and individuals who are famous for no talent at all, they are just famous, "i" has never been bigger. So how in the world can I claim that "i" is the loneliest letter when it is flying all over the universe with the speed of jets, film, emails, sound, and light. Well, that is my point: it flies but never seems to land, put down roots, and grow into a good solid "we."

I remember a few years ago walking on the University of Texas' campus with one of the directors of a Christian ministry with a headquarters across the street from the old student union. I loved the vibe of the campus. He showed me the bowling lanes, the bookstore (it was a short cut from his office to go through that building), and the commons area outside the Tower. Young people of every shape, color, size and personality were sitting and flitting and talking everywhere. We walked along and he asked me to notice what all these different people had in common. "They hate Aggies?" I pondered. Beside that he engaged. I looked again and I think I saw what he was talking about. In five minutes we must have encountered what seemed like a couple of thousand kids. I looked at hundreds of them for several seconds each. No one ever made eye contact with me unless they were inviting me to something or advertising something for their organization. A huge percentage of them were on cell phones, listening to mp3 players or engaged with a laptop. Jimmy told me, ''these kids are the most connected generation in the history of the world, and the most lonely." I looked again and my heart just broke. They can google, tweet, im, text, and facebook with thousands across the planet but they have yet , in so many cases, to learn what it means to have true connection with God and one another.

We are wired, spiritually, not electronically to connect with God and one another. It seems we try to connect with any and everyone else first and end up isolated and alone way too much of the time in our culture. With all the screens we view daily isn't is ironic that we have actually "screened" off one another? The screens are just modern ways we use to keep some distance between us. We fear spiritually intimacy and substitute electronic connectedness. It turns out that our biggest fear, that of knowing and being truly known, is also our greatest need. And the word of God is replete with His admonition to "fear not" and His assurance that He already knows us and loves us completely anyway.

What do we do in a well-connected yet disconnected, lonely, isolated world filled with busy people all around us? We offer the power that the church has had for years: communion. No, not just the wine and bread every week or month (although that might be a good place to start), but the union we have with Christ. This union we have with Him by faith; this union we have in His word and in prayer; this is lived out in the co-union, the com-union we have with one another. So we worship together and invite those around us to join us. We pray together and ask those lost, hurting and lonely around us if we might pray for them. We serve together in a dozen different ways but always with an eye to those around us who are needing a place to serve but haven't found satisfaction in merely serving "i." We do what Jesus told us to do: love one another even as I have love you.

Then watch what He does. A barrier will come down. A friendship will be made. A phone will be turned off and eye contact made. A conversation about real issues will take place over a cup of coffee. Even a tweet might ask a real question about what you know about Jesus. A lost person will come to faith in Christ. A church will be renewed in loving fellowship. And eyes that could not come off a screen will behold the glory of God in the faces of the people of God and "i" as the loneliest letter will lose its place.

Turn your "i's" upon Jesus,