Lenten Meditation–In My Flesh

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed
yet in my flesh I will see God.
Job 19: 25-26

Studying the Book of Job reveals a difficult truth about suffering:  we rarely understand why there is pain in our lives,  and may well be angry and anguished about what that means in our relationship with God.   Job curses the day he was born and wishes he were dead.  Yet in his torment, he is able to come to the realization that he has been spared and saved for a purpose that he can barely comprehend, centuries before his hoped-for Redeemer actually sets foot on the earth.

Job, a righteous man who suffers unfairly, a good person to whom bad things are allowed to happen, still knows he will meet God, because he believes, despite everything that has happened, that God has not abandoned him.  He continues to believe God exists, not because he had so many years of blessings and good fortune,  as faith in that circumstance is easy for any person.  He continues to believe even when life is no longer worth living, when death would be a relief, when giving up seems the only reasonable thing to do.

A man this angry has not given up on God but asks most difficult questions, just as we would.  God has certainly not given up on him and He has not given up on us, even when we stand in tatters,  shaking our fist at Him.

Job knew he was in need of a God who could overlook that anger, compensate for the curses and mend the brokenness.  Even after being destroyed, he would be restored to wholeness.   Redeemed at face value, purchase price paid in full, in advance,  no debt owing,  no repayment necessary.

Why?  Why would anyone do this for us?

Because God wants to see us stand before Him whole once again.

Lenten Meditation–Forever and Ever

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them:
for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings:
and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Revelation 17:14

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns. ”
Revelation 19:6

There were great voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:15

We hear various portions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah all year round, usually in a non-religious context, like a commercial or cartoon, using this beautiful work to celebrate something other than the everlasting kingdom of the Lord.  Handel would be shocked at how mundane the word “Hallelujah” has become largely because of the popularity of his work.  It has become the staple of flash mob venues at Christmas, in food courts, train stations and malls, simply because it is so well known.

But it is not at all well understood.  This is far from a paean to Christmas, and is not meant to represent the “heavenly host” praising Jesus’ birth.  It actually is a celebration of the Messiah conquering death itself.  This is a battle cry about the defeat of evil, not at all a lullaby to a new born baby.

And so it should be the rallying cry for the faithful.  It should be sung from the rafters of department stores and gymnasiums and the greatest cathedrals.  It is a marvelous song to sing at full tilt,  each part intersecting and playing with the voices of the other parts.  It cannot be sung without a smile, a shiver down the spine and quickening of the pulse.   Even if the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus was started because King George II needed to stand up to stretch his legs after the lengthy first two sections of the libretto, it is worthy ever after of our standing attention.

So too should we attend to the story of Handel’s creation of his Messiah in a mere 24 days.  He was depressed, destitute and desperate for the work.  When he finished writing “Hallelujah Chorus”, his assistant, who had tried shouting to rouse Handel from the room where he had sequestered himself, walked in to find Handel in tears.  When asked what was the matter, Handel held up the score to “Hallelujah” and said “I thought I saw the face of God.”

When we hear these words, read them and sing them, so do we.

Forever and ever.

Lenten Meditation–Dashed and Broken

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Psalm 2: 1-3, 9

What possible use is a broken vessel?  Cracked, leaking, unsightly, unwanted, tossed aside.
Even so, that is exactly what we are asked to be, and what we are.  Broken in order we be made whole, not by any effort of our own.

The world rages at faith, does everything possible to dash it to pieces, crush it, grind it to dust and cast it away.
Our only hope is to fall on the Rock so as to be broken in Him, not by the angry world.

Only the Potter will make us new.

Lenten Meditation–To The Ends

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.” 
Romans 10:18

Of course we did.

But we are hearing impaired, choosing what to listen for and what to ignore.

The sound has gone out into all the land,
resonating and echoing in each human ear,
ready to settle in each human heart.

But we clap our hands over our ears to play deaf.

The words are plainspoken for all to discern.

But we poke holes, fuss over meaning, walk away from their call.

Did they not hear?

Of course we did.

But we did not listen.

Lenten Meditation–Beautiful Feet

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those
who bring good news,
who proclaim peace
Isaiah 52: 7a

Feet are not the most beautiful part of the human body, but as image bearers, we must remember that even feet–calloused, crooked toed,  deformed nails, blisters, warts and all–reflect God.  They bear the load, travel the miles, climb the mountains, and allow a voice to be heard beyond the backyard.

His footprints on earthly  soil are proof of His having been present.   His dirty feet are proof that He is taking some of that earthly soil back with Him.

Feet were worthy of His cleansing touch.  If so for the lowly homely foot, so much more our hearts.


From Decay, Beauty

photo by Josh Scholten

The trillium only thrives where death has been.
The mulch of hundreds of autumns fluffs the bed where trillium bulbs sleep, content through most of the year.

When the frost is giving way to dew, the trillium leaves peek out, curious, testing the air.
A few stray rays of sun filtering through the overgrowth and canopy encourage the shoots to rise, spread and unfurl.

In the middle, a white bud appears in humility, almost embarrassed to be seen at all.
There is pure declaration of triune perfection.

In a matter of days, the petals spread wide and bold so briefly, curl purplish. Wilt and return aground.
Leaves wither and fall unnoticed, becoming dust once again.

Beauty arises from decay.
Death gives way to pure perfection.

Lenten Meditation–Be Lifted Up

7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD God Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:7,10

We  regularly check the closed doors in our lives, all locked and sealed, to help us feel safe and secure.  Those doors keep us in and others out.

The time has come to open up.  He is knocking, asking to be allowed in.  It is time to break the seal and open wide.

A closed heart no longer beats.