Monday, March 21, 2011

Lent - In Silence

contributed by Yeon Joo

Two years ago, the producers at Radiolab posted a sermon Robert Krulwich gave at a synagogue ( In it, Robert wrestles with the twisted love story between Abraham and God. God commands his loving disciple Abraham to kill his son. Yes, Isaac is spared. But I have with me the haunting, terrifying image of a boy tied to a rock and his father standing over him with a knife, ready to kill.

This makes me think of Jesus and God. Many years later, God kills his only son. Yes, Jesus offers himself. Yes, ultimately we, his creation, condemned Jesus to the cross. But it is God's will that ultimately decided that Jesus must be killed. Jesus begged his Father in the garden to take away what was around the corner. But God's will was done - that his son suffer and die.

My heretical confession is this - I do not approve any of this.

Matthew 6:26 says "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" This passage is often used to comfort but during lent it has its opposite intent on me.

Look at Jesus, God's only son. God's will for him was to suffer and die. Isn't Jesus much more valuable to God than me? So what terrible plans does he have for me?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


contributed by Rebecca

I recently re-watched the movie Chocolat to see whether it would lend me any new insights heading into this Lenten season. I didn’t feel able to summarize it with an adequate review, but came across 2 juxtaposed movie reviews on Ron Reed’s Soul Food Movies blog that each shed some light, from different angles. I thought I’d share an excerpt from both:

From Why those faithful who fast aren't simply chocolate soldiers Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet

. . . "Chocolat" blunders into a small French village in the spring of 1959 without a clue as to the meaning and power of Lenten sacrifice. It would not have taken exhaustive research to discover that Lent is a period of grieving for the ways humans mess up the world and hurt each other. It is a time that Christians turn inward and ask in the quiet of their hearts, "How have I been part of the problem?" In admitting these faults to God in the presence of a priest they gain profound peace and release, and the power to change their lives.

Since many of these sins are due to lack of self-control -- lashing out at someone in anger, stealing something on an impulse -- Christians do exercises to gain self-control, much as a weightlifter hoists barbells. Delicious things that might be enjoyed at any time are set aside for a few weeks, to make the willpower muscle stronger. Resisting chocolate today can help you resist an angry outburst tomorrow.

This simple concept is totally lost on the makers of "Chocolat." They're not alone; spiritual self-denial in any form is Moon Maid talk to Americans. Why is it so hard for us to understand the concept of spiritual discipline? The practice is present in some form in every world religion, yet we can fathom nothing but bigger, faster, fatter, more. Throughout the ages a universal principle has persisted that the person who seeks to enter the vast presence of God must do so by making himself smaller. Yet in America, dessert comes on a plate big enough for four. And America religion better follow suit, and promise a good time for all, all the time. . . . Yet just about any major religion gives the opposite advice. Self-discipline is a universal, even though the details of, and rationale for, these self-limitations vary widely. . . .

Loren Wilkinson on "CHOCOLAT"

I think it’s time to say a good word or two for Chocolat. . . . All of the bad things which have been said about the film are undoubtedly true (the silliness of the faint French accents in a French town, and the Irish accent in the male hunk, etc.) True also is the complete misunderstanding about what Lent ought to be, the characteristic negative stereotyping of Christians, the vacuous spirituality of the romanticized Mayan alternative, the glorification of self-indulgence, etc.

So what’s good to say about the film? I was pretty upset about the portrayal of the church and of Christianity till very near the end--but by the end found I was able to forgive almost all of the film’s flaws for two reasons, one pretty obvious, the other more subtle.

The obvious reason is that all too often the church DOES act this way towards outsiders who don’t fit in, and all too often DOES have a pretty gnostic view of pleasure, and of the whole material world, which has surfaced all too often throughout the church, both Catholic and Protestant versions. (Consider, for example, the way we have almost completely severed the “communion meal” from any reminder that it was part of not just a meal, but a feast.) It’s pretty obvious that the film is making the point that the chocolate shop is doing what the church and Christians ought to be doing: listening to people’s problems, meeting their needs, going out of their way to help when people are in trouble. Ask yourself: which is most like the church and Christian community in general as you have experienced it: the church as portrayed in the film, or the chocolate shop? In this context, it’s no small point--and an enormous reversal of expectations--when the person who points out that the church ought to behave with embrace rather than exclusion is the Catholic priest, the official voice of the church in the film (not the exceedingly messed up Count). And he does it not by denying the divinity of Christ (he affirms indirectly) but by drawing attention to the fact of Christ’s humanity, and his love.

The more subtle point is that the climax of the film--the Count’s attempt to destroy the chocolate display, and his resulting binge--is presented as a direct result of his prayer before the crucifix. Superficially we might conclude that Jesus is telling him to go break up the chocolate idols. In fact of course the Count’s action leads to the beginning of his transformation--not, I think we can conclude, into a chocolate binging pagan, but into a Christian who knows something of how Christ welcomes the stranger. . . .

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's 'Breastplate Prayer'

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
The invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guide me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I rise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
The invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

contributed by Nelson

Monday, March 14, 2011

Choruses from the Rock - opening stanza

by T.S. Eliot

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

contributed by Lance

Saturday, March 12, 2011


contributed by Chris

This photo was taken on my visit to Jerusalem in the summer of 2004 with my friends and YWAM team. The shot is of a young Muslim boy running and laughing down the street in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. He has a sackcloth bag that he was trying to hide behind, but I captured the playful moment as he ran by. Interesting to note, this section of street is traditionally recognized as part of the Via Dolorosa, or the "Way of Suffering". This photo speaks to me of the joy and beauty that can suddenly manifest in the midst of age old rules and ruin. It reminds me of God's hope for all of Abraham's children. In this season of Lent, it helps my focus and meditation on a passage found in Hebrews 12:1,2.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ash Wednesday Prayer

by Christine Sine

She writes, "I wrote this prayer for Ash Wednesday but plan to use it over the next week to help me focus on the season of Lent. So let us pray..."

God may we remember
All of life is held together with nails
Piercing flesh of the son of man
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember
The power of sin and death are forever ended
Hung upon a cross and crucified
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember
The bread of life broken for us
That we may eat and be filled with abundance of life
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember
God’s blood poured out for us
The deep wounds of love suffered for us
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember ashes on foreheads
And kneel before the one whose love knows no end
With humbled hearts and repentant spirits
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember we are but dust
And walk together into tomorrow’s unknowns
Breaking bars, building bridges, setting captives free
May we remember and give thanks

God may we remember and give thanks
Let us take up our cross and follow
Believing that in Christ all things work together for good
May we remember and give thanks