Monday, April 23

St. George's Day

The Patron Saint of England, Lybia, Lebanon, and Greece, George was a Syrian Christian soldier who quickly rose through the ranks of the Roman the army into the Imperial Guard by virtue of his valor and vision.  However, he had the temerity to confront the Emperor Dioclesian concerning his harsh, unjust, and bloodthirsty decrees.  For his candor and courage, George was immediately imprisoned and was soon after beheaded.  

The legend of George is centered around his slaying of the dragon that had demanded the children of the town of Sylene in Libya.  George wounded the dragon and led him back into the town where he proclaimed that he would kill the dragon if the people of the city would hear and heed the Gospel, convert to Christianity, and be baptized.  Starting with the king, some 15,000 citizens were thereafter baptized.

Friday, April 20

Aggravated Gossip

"Gossip, even when committed in the name of justice, is still gossip--only now, it is gossip aggravated by self-righteousness." Maurice Baring

Thursday, April 19

Cleveland at 216

First settled on this day in 1796, Cleveland remained a sleepy little village at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on the shores of Lake Erie for nearly two decades.  But the nearby exploits of naval commander Oliver Perry during the War of 1812 highlighted its strategic position.  The completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832 and the arrival of the railroad in 1851 cemented its importance—accessible to both the coal and oil fields of Pennsylvania and the iron ore mines of Minnesota.  

Following the War between the States, it became a center of political and economic power—giving the nation five presidents during the next fifty years including Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding as well as several of the greatest industrial monopolists including Marcus A. Hannah and John D. Rockefeller.

The city boasted many notable firsts—the nation’s first African American newspaper, The Aliened-American was published here in 1853; the Arcade, built in 1890 and located in the heart of downtown, was the first indoor shopping mall in the nation; the Negro Welfare Association, the forerunner of the Urban League, was established here in 1917; NACA, the forerunner of NASA, was established here in 1940; the first black mayor of a major American city was elected here in 1967.

By the end of the twentieth century, Cleveland had very nearly died.  Once the fifth largest city in the nation, today it does not even rank in the top twenty.  Though once a hub for transportation, a model of industrialization, and a progressive leader in social and cultural reform, by the second half of the twentieth century, it had begun a precipitous decline.  In some ways it became emblematic of what became known as America’s "Rust Belt."  It’s once busy factories had become decrepit, its vibrant communities had become depressed, its wonderful location had become spoiled by polluted air and water, and its massive modern infrastructure had become obsolescent.  It became an embarrassing blight.  The proud metropolis was derisively referred to by critics as the "Mistake on the Lake."  Population declined by nearly half.

Nevertheless, its rich heritage—it has had been estimated that there are some eighty different ethnic groups in the city speaking more than sixty different languages, representing nearly every race, tongue, and tribe on the planet—and progressive leadership have brought some serious steps toward renewal to the city.  By the time of its bicentennial, the city was once again hoping to reassert its strategic significance.  

Saturday, April 14

A Radical Take on the 90-10 Rule

J.C. Penney opened his first Golden Rule Store, in Kemmerer, Wyoming on this day in 1902.  His life credo was, “You can’t outgive God.”  He proved it by building a multi-million dollar commercial empire while always giving away ninety-percent of his personal income to Christian evangelistic and charitable work.

Friday, April 13

The Devil's Radio

“Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a Gossip.” Richard Steele

“Gossip is the Devil's radio.” George Harrison

Gossip is what you say about the objects of flattery when they aren't present.” P.J. O’Rourke

Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don't.” Earl Wilson

“So live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.” Will Rogers

Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip.” Erma Bombeck

Gossipy Hobgoblins

‎"Unspoken expectations and unfounded assumptions are the most destructive hobgoblins of any enterprise." Richard Loveland

Handel's Messiah

The first public performance of Handel's Messiah was held in Dublin, Ireland on this day in 1742. George Frideric Handel was a Baroque composer from Magdeburg who had lived in England for thirty years. The previous summer he was invited to Dublin by the Duke of Devonshire, the Lord Lieutenant of Dublin, and the governors of three charitable hospitals to conduct one of his works for the purpose of charity. Handel decided to compose a new work, and in twenty-five days of intense labor, he completed the score to Messiah. The concert was greatly anticipated and even better received, and the three hospitals were able to split about $1800 in revenue.

Saturday, April 7

A Mountebank's Resurrection

“When I was a little child, bishops expressed doubts about the Resurrection, and were called courageous. When I was a girl, G. K. Chesterton professed belief in the Resurrection, and was called whimsical. When I was at college, thoughtful people expressed belief in the Resurrection ‘in a spiritual sense,’ and were called advanced. Today, anyone who expresses faith in the Risen Christ is liable to be abused in no uncertain terms as a mountebank, a reactionary, a tool of the Inquisition, a spiritual snob, an intellectual bully, an escapist, an obstructionist, a psychopathic introvert, an insensitive extrovert, and an enemy of society.  The more things change the more they stay the same.” Dorothy Sayers

Friday, April 6

Good Friday at Parish

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 iniquity, so that His hands and feet and side might be pierced for our transgressions.

Though Pilate had acquitted Him three times, 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 interceded 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 that very city, piercing through the hardened hearts of those 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.”

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 Your 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.  “Jesus, refuge of the weary, object of the Spirit’s love, Fountain in life’s desert dreary, Savior from the world above.”

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.

He did not leave us here, forsaken, alone, and sore pressed.  He gave right freely Spirit, Word, and covenant rest.  In brother, sister, son, and mother, He calls us to be the church and bear up one another.  “Man of Sorrows! What a name! For the Son of God, who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
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.  You, the Father’s only son, You, His own anointed one. Yet now, You’re forsaken?  Twas me, twas me that placed You there, twas me that should’ve pierced the air.  Twas me that should’ve borne that grief—yet twas You forsaken instead of me: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”

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 goodness and truth, who offered living water that we might never again thirst; He who makes streams spring from our inmost being, 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 says, I thirst.”

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, a coda, something that might round out the work of Christ—but, 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, the glad tidings proclaimed by prophets and sages: all the requirements are now satisfied, the promise is fulfilled, substitution is made, justification is done, imputation is applied, redemption is accomplished: 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.”

Seven times the dying savior spoke.  Once 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:  “Man of Sorrows! What a name; 
For the Son of God, who came; 
Ruined sinners to reclaim;
 Hallelujah! What a Savior!  Bearing shame and scoffing rude; In my place condemned He stood; 
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Savior!  When He comes, our glorious King; All His ransomed home to bring; Then anew His song we’ll sing; Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Sunday, April 1

Chesterton's "The Donkey"

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will,
Starve, scourge, deride me I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.