Tuesday, April 28

QOTD: Quote of the Day

"Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student." -- George Iles

Monday, April 27

Quotes of the Day

"To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all." -- Peter McWilliams

"When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest." -- William Hazlitt

"It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree." -- Charles Baudelaire

Thursday, April 23

St. George's Day

George of Diospolis was a Christian soldier who gained fame after several daring rescues of children in distress. He was known as the "Dragonslayer" not so much because of exploits with rare and dangerous reptiles, but because of his willingness to snatch innocent life out of the jaws of death.

He had risen through the ranks of the Roman army and served in the Imperial Guard of Diocletian. However, during the great persecution of 302 he confronted the Emperor regarding the cruel oppression of the church. For his candor and courage, George was immediately imprisoned and was soon afterward martyred in Nicomedia. Later, innumerable legends made much of his exploits--romantically associating him with damsels and dragons--but it was his willingness to risk all for the sake of the sanctity of life that earned him his place in history.

One of the most revered of the early church heroes, he became the patron saint of England, Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Libya, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Spain, Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Pomorie, Qormi, Lod, and Moscow.

England’s Feast Day of St. George was commemorated by the creation of the noble order of St. George, or the Blue Garter on this day in 1344. Although the original implementation of the Order Blue Garter consisted of a grand joust, it was still common well into the nineteenth century for gentleman to wear blue on this day.

Wednesday, April 22

The Council of Constance

The Council of Constance was convened on this day in 1414. For 33 years Christendom had suffered schism. Popes in Rome and popes in Avignon claimed to be the legitimate successors of Peter. As a result, confusion reigned and corruption was unchecked. There seemed to be no hope of resolving the conflicts that created the schism in the first place. An earlier council held at Pisa to end the schism, only worsened the problem. It actually created a third pope.

The Constance conclave got off to an equally rocky start. Jan Hus, the theology professor from Prague who had stirred the fires of revival by calling for substantive reform in the church, voluntarily appeared before the bishops. His purpose was to persuade them to legitimize his burgeoning Bohemian reform movement. Although he arrived under promise of "safe conduct," he was seized and imprisoned by the Bishop of Constance.

Told he must recant, he resolutely refused. After a mock trial he was summarily declared a heretic. That same day, they had him burned at the stake. Since his teachings were based on the work of John Wycliffe, the council also condemned Wycliffe, ordering his bones dug up and burnt. Both the English and Bohemian representatives left in protest.

Still, the council dragged on. After four more years of contentious deliberations, the convened bishops finally dealt with the issue that had brought them together in the first place. Because they were unable to sort through the conflicting claims of the three rival popes, they did the only thing they could--they removed all three and appointed a fourth.

All this proved to be the impetus behind what would become the fledgling Reformation--starting first with the Hussites in Prague and the Lollards in England and finally bursting fully on the scene with the Lutherans in Wittenburg and the Zwinglites in Zurich.

Tuesday, April 14

The Revolt

"A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers--including even his power to revolt. It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower." --C.S. Lewis

Sunday, April 12

The Power of His Resurrection

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11

Saturday, April 11

The Paradox

"If there were no God, there would be no Atheists." --G. K. Chesterton

Tolkien and the Easter Victory

At the end of The Return of the King, following the defeat of all the powers of evil, J.R.R. Tolkien records this remarkable scene:

The shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of the Anduin shown like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell. And before the Sun had fallen far from the noon out of the East there came a great Eagle flying, and he bore tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:

"Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor, 
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
 and the Dark Tower is thrown down."

"Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard, 
for your watch hath not been in vain,
 and the Black Gate is broken,
 and your King hath passed through,
 and he is victorious."

"Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West, 
for your King shall come again,
 and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life."

"And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed, 
and he shall plant it in the high places, 
and the City shall be blessed.
 Sing all ye people!"

And all the people sang in all the ways of the City. The days that followed were golden.


Of course, Tolkien steadfastly refused to admit that his epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, was an allegory of the Gospel. But he did admit that it was "at least akin to the Gospel." Thus, may Gondor's Victory Song be at least akin to our own victory song this Easter.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Sing all ye people, for your King shall come again--and He shall make all things new! All that once was withered shall be renewed! Sing all ye people!

Friday, April 10

The Seven Last Words

1. Forgiveness: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:26-35

He was the king of glory, the Morning Star, the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation—by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He was before all things, and in Him all things held together. In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

And yet, He was born for this moment. It was for this humiliation, it was for this shameful injustice, it was for this torture that He came into the world. He was made incarnate so that his holy brow might be crowned with thorns. He was made in the likeness of a servant so that He might be mocked by the very ones He had come to seek and save. He left His throne in glory so that his back might bear the stripes for our iniquities, so that His hands and feet and side might be pierced for our transgressions.

Though Pilate had acquitted Him three times—in vs. 4, 14, and 22—He was cruelly, unjustly, ignominiously punished, even to death on the cross. He who had obeyed perfectly, He who bore no sin, He who had only loved, only healed, only reconciled was wounded on our behalf. Though He was very God of very God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, He was crucified for us and for our salvation.

On the cross He cried out seven times—with words of redemption, covenant, substitution, suffering, triumph, and resolution. But His first cry was a prayer of forgiveness: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Ever selfless, ever concerned for others, in His greatest agony, in His greatest humiliation, He intercedes for His torturers, His murderers. He had taught His disciples, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which spitefully use and persecute you.”

It was of course a prayer the Father heard—and answered. Just fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, a great forgiveness, a great salvation swept across this very city, piercing through the hardened hearts of these very sinners.

O sacred head, sore wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. O kingly head surrounded with thorns thine only crown. How pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn, how does that visage languish which once was bright as morn. Thy grief and bitter passion were all for sinners gain. Mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.

2. Redemption: "This day you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:35-43

The second cry of Jesus from the cross was one of redemption. A common criminal on one side, a common criminal on the other. The God of wonders beyond our galaxy between them. Both heard Christ’s earlier cry of forgiveness—one railed in derision, the other repented.

Is it ever too late to say “I am under condemnation justly?” Is it ever too late to cry out to Jesus, “Remember me?” Is it ever too late to possess a holy fear of God, a heart to do right, and an apprehension of the Kingdom? The experience of the thief on the cross tells us that no matter what we may have done, no matter how long we may have delayed, while we yet have breath there is hope. And the words of Jesus in response to him only confirm such a hope of redemption.

Lord, when thy kingdom comes, remember me. Thus spake the dying lips to dying ears. O faith, which in that darkest hour could see, the promised glory of the far off years.

3. Covenant: "Behold, your son; behold, your mother." John 19:23-27

The third cry of Jesus from the cross was one of covenant. The huddle of grieving disciples at the horrific scene became His concern, the object of His affection. Forgetting His own agony, He reminds them of their solace.

Earlier when He had prayed for them He did not ask that they be taken out of this world—rather that they be kept from the evil one, that they be sanctified in truth, and that they be one.

He had taught them of the beauty, comfort, and substance of covenant community. He had taught them to bear one another’s burdens. He had taught them what it meant to commune with one another, to have fellowship with one another, to be friends and not just have friends, to know the bonds of love. Now even as Simeon’s prophecy is fulfilled—that Mary’s soul would be pierced, troubled, and acquainted with grief—He beckons the disciples to partake of the blessings of the covenant; He beckons them to love one another in such a fashion that all men might know that they are His disciples indeed.

Thou didst not leave us here, forsaken, alone, and sore pressed. Thou givest right freely Spirit, Word, and covenant rest. In brother, sister, son, and mother, thou callest us to be the church and bearest one another.

4. Substitution: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani." Matthew 27:45-54

The fourth cry of Jesus from the cross was one of substitution. Sin cannot simply be excused. God cannot simply wave off rebellion, perversity, and effrontery. Transgressions must be atoned for. Iniquities must be paid for. The wrath of God must be appeased. Propitiation must be made.

So, He who knew no sin, was made sin for us. He who had known perfect fellowship with the Father clothed Himself in the filth of our concupiscence and lasciviousness—and thus became anathema, separated from God that we might not be, forsaken that we might never be. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all—just as Isaiah had prophesied. As Paul later would write, He became a curse for us.

He prayed for forgiveness for His tormentors—a forgiveness they did not deserve. He beckoned the thief at his side to enter into a reward the thief could never have earned. He offered His mother and His disciples the hope of a solace they could never have hoped for before. He called upon them—He calls upon us—to believe the unbelievable, to receive the inconceivable. And all because He has suffered for us, paid our debt, suffered for our crimes, was our substitute.

Hark that cry that peals aloud, upward through the whelming cloud. Thou the Father’s only son, Thou His own anointed one, Thou dost ask Him, can it be? Why hast thou forsaken me? Twas me, twas me that placed thee there, twas me that shouldst have pierced the air. Twas me that shouldst have borne that grief—yet t’was thou forsaken instead of me.

5. Suffering: "I thirst." John 19:28

Every aspect of His incarnation, life, ministry, and substitutionary death was prophesied beforehand. Hundreds of messianic prophesies were fulfilled at his birth, through His healings and miracles, and by his rejection at the hand of the Sanhedran. But the prophesies of His death were perhaps the most explicit.

The great messianic hymn, Psalm 22 confirmed long before, His suffering, His torture, and His humiliation: that His garments would be divided by gamblers, that His holy Name would be mocked by evildoers, that they would gloat over His sorrowful mien, that His hands and feet would be pierced. And that He would be poured out like water, that His strength would be dried up, that His tongue would stick to His jaws, that he would be as dust.

He who was the fount of all goodness and truth. He who offered us living water that we might never again thirst. He who make streams flow forth from our inmost being. He who quenches every dry and dusty place. He now thirsts that we may ever be slaked.

His are the thousand sparkling rills, that from a thousand fountains burst, and fill with music all the hills, and yet He saith, I thirst.

6. Triumph: "It is finished." John 19:30

He came for this. He lived to die. And now, after His long agony, the work was done. Finished. Completed. Nothing more to be done. Nothing was lacking.

Through all the ages men and nations have attempted some kind of an encore, some sort of an addendum, something that might round out the work of Christ—His declaration is clear: there is nothing to add, no further steps need be taken. This is the Gospel: the Good News the angels announced so long before: It is finished!

O perfect life of love! All, all is finished now. All that He left His throne above to do for us below. No work is left undone of all the Father willed; His toils and sorrows one by one, the Scriptures have fulfilled. In perfect love He dies; for me He dies, for me! O all-atoning sacrifice. I cling by faith to thee.

7. Resolution: "Into Your hands I commend my spirit." Luke 23:44-49

Seven times the dying savior spoke. One He had made a universal declaration that He had completed the task He had set out to do. Three times He addressed men: to the thief He promised Paradise; to His disciples He proffered covenant; to this tormenters he professed His agony. Three times He prayed to His Father: once in intercession for His murderers, once in a mournful plaint of separation, and now commending the resolution of it all.

For more than twelve hours Had been in the hands of men. But now He was again in the Father’s hands. The victory was won. Soon even death would lose its sting.

Sing my tongue how glorious battle, glorious victory became: and above the cross, His trophy, tell the triumph and the fame; tell how He the earth’s redeemer, by His death for man o’ercame.

Thursday, April 9

Maundy Thursday

The term “Maundy” is a shortened version of the Latin term “Mandatum” or mandate--a word universally associated in the early church with Christ’s command that His disciples should love one another (John 13:34). Very early on in the first and second centuries there were special services on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem during which the Christians would sing Psalms and chant litanies of repentance, hear the teaching of the Word, reconcile with one another, covenant to serve the body, and then receive communion. May we hear and heed the call to this great "Mandatum" today.

Monday, April 6

"Christus Victor" by Tristan Gylberd

Resurrection hope hastens hence
on bud, breeze, and blossom
grieving rynds banished in lilac scents.

Hark, the Easter Hymn rings haste
from its loveliest biding-place.

A lavish breach of winter's curt hard sword
an ardent repudiation of death's dark pall
the out-veining sun of the Christus Lord.

At the refectory of your loving-care
the transfiguration clarion sounds a call
that didicae could ne're convey nor spare.

Thus, Gospel comes ensconced in Word and Deed
and the evidence is your shimmering touch:
Christus Victor, shown in a life's sown seed.

Hark, the Easter hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

Saturday, April 4

Economical Numbers

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." --Richard Feynman

Friday, April 3

Holding Forth Christ

"The office of sacraments differs not from the Word: to hold forth Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace." --John Calvin

Made for Work

"Man was made for work. The Fall unmade him. Now, in Christ made anew, man can once again work. But he must be ever mindful of the salvific connection: the call to work must not, cannot, go out unaccompanied by the call to salvation." --Langdon Lowe

Thursday, April 2

In a Different Light

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels." --Bob Thaves

Self-Adversity

"The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the cause of virtually all our adversities." --Sophocles

Wednesday, April 1

The Future of the Deficit

April Fools Day

Since at least the seventeenth century this day has been celebrated with practical jokes and spurious news. Mark Twain commented in his Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, “This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.”