The God of the Crucifixion

The Crucifixion is arguably one of two or three monumental historical moments for the Christian church. In addition to the incarnation and resurrection, no other event has as much latent mystery or power surrounding it. It was through this action of cosmic redemption that Christ made permanent satisfaction for sin and Divine righteousness available for broken humanity. Upon further reflection, however, it seems that this pivotal, historical event not only accomplishes something for human salvation, but also unveils to us the eternal heart of a loving, humble, giving God.

When we look at the cross, we see pain, suffering, and death; the Son of God brutally murdered for dubious reasons at best. But when we look for a vision of the Godhead within these horribly unjust circumstances, we find a giant, Divine-sized love bursting forth! The simplest story of the gospel wrapped up in John 3 tells us that it was for love’s sake that the Father sent us his Son. This Divine love was so motivating that God gave something (someone) to us. Did you catch that? God gave. I think this is the most striking feature of the Crucifixion event. The eternal, self-sustaining, perfect God gave himself to his creation. He didn’t send a representative or liaison. He wanted to be directly involved in the work of redemption and so he offered himself. Unfortunately, giving himself to us also required that he be vulnerable. Vulnerable to rejection and shame. Vulnerable to suffering and pain. But that didn’t stop God. Why? Because God is a humble God. This doesn’t mean that God is weak. Weakness is not the opposite of humility. God is humble in that he is willing to accomplish cosmic redemption in an inconspicuous sort of way – a simple birth, a misunderstood ministry, and an insignificant death. What a cover for such a magnificent mission!

I would encourage you to take some time this week to praise God for his character. We truly serve an amazing God! Also, why not ask God to show you how you can emulate his character traits of love, humility, and sacrifice to those around you? You might be surprised at how much life is found in these actions.

– Dave Strobolakos

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 2

Readings:  Psalm 15 and Matthew 5:1-12

Reflection Questions:

  1. Some of what we hear in the Beatitudes (Mt.5:1-12) is a description of the kinds people who God invites into relationship with him in his kingdom.  No one is exempt from his blessing. Can you identify with any of these human conditions of body, soul and social self? If so, how have you or do you experience God’s blessing in poverty of spirit, grief over losses in life, trouble and trouble making situations, challenges of faith, rejection from others?
  2. What ways do you need God’s intervention, comfort or support in your life today? Spend some time in prayer asking God’s Spirit to shelter with love, sustain in weakness or bolster faith in your present condition.
  3. As you talk with God about what’s going on in your life, how might you see your present condition as an open door for God to come, work, transform or bless you with his goodness?

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, January 26

Readings: Psalm 27:1, 4-9 and Matthew 4:12-23

Reflection Questions:

  1. Sit quietly turning your attention toward God; his warmth and assuring presence with you now and always.As you read and reflect on Psalm 27 notice the important questions the psalmist asks himself in v.1. In the safety of God’s presence, ask yourself: What do I fear? Fear can be inhibiting and lead to a spiritual paralysis that prevents healthy, forward movement in faith. Explore any shadowy sides of your life; any fearful illusions harbored in your heart. Bring them into the light of God’s presence as you talk to him openly about them.
  2. Jesus’ good news is the arrival of the Kingdom of heaven: it’s here, now. What perceptions or misconceptions do you have about the God’s kingdom? How might the prophetic description of the kingdom of God (Matt.4:15-16) and the demonstration of its power (v.23) shape your understanding of God’s kingdom?
  3. As he did with his first followers, Jesus still meets people where they live and work. Jesus invites us both to enter into the dynamic of God’s kingdom life and to partner with him in his kingdom mission. What invitations might God be giving to you to enter more deeply into his kingdom life or partner with him in his kingdom work? What are the things you’ll need to let go of or turn from in order to follow Jesus today?

– Elizabeth Khorey

Present

Present

I sometimes wonder how it is that Jesus is present to me. I don’t mean present in the sense that he is in my mind or that I am in some way attempting to emulate him in my everyday I life. I mean really, really present, as in with me.

The reason that I wonder about this is that I’m often not present to Jesus. It may be that he is really, truly, with me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m with him, at least not consciously. My energy is frequently drawn to activities that are related to success and failure—grasping for the former, desperately avoiding the latter—and in those efforts I lay my life in my own hands. If Jesus is there, I don’t really notice.

But we are told in scripture that Jesus is indeed with us. He is referred to as Emmanuel—God is with us (Matt. 1:23). He tells his followers that he will always be with them (Matt. 28:20). When some early missionaries attempted to go into a particular region, they claimed that the “spirit of Jesus” redirected them (Acts 16:7).

In this world, we are not alone. But sometimes we act like it.

What qualifiers does Jesus have when it comes being with us? Is his presence with us something that requires certain actions on our part? Certainly the cultivation of attentiveness to his presence is a good and valuable practice. But what happens when we fail at that, get distracted by things that seem overwhelmingly important to us, resulting in a lack of awareness of Jesus? Does he find someone else to be with until we get it together?

I am comforted when I think of young Saul (soon to be the apostle Paul), on the road to Damascus, breathing threats against the emerging Christians that are threatening the religious status quo (Acts 9). Jesus becomes present to him in a dramatic way, surprising Saul out of his violent, arrogant mission. Saul was not attempting to be present to Jesus, but Jesus was with him nevertheless.

How astounding! Here is Saul, blind to what God is doing all around him, chasing down Christians like they were vermin to be destroyed, and Jesus shows up. Jesus is present to him. In all of Saul’s self-centered, judgmental misdirection, Jesus is there.

Yes, I take comfort in that. And maybe you do, too.

I can find a thousand different ways to forget about Jesus. I get wrapped up in this or that, focusing my attention on those things that I think have high value, and then Jesus fades from my consciousness. But when I stop, detach myself even briefly from my tasks, I find that Jesus has been with me the whole time. Even in my inattentiveness, he has been there. Even when I am broken and sinful, he is there.

I have heard people speak of God as being eternally angry at us because of our rebelliousness against him. We sometimes get fearful that God will abandon us and leave us to our own distorted devices. But when Jesus tells his friends, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9), he shows us the face of God that is truly God with us. Here is Jesus, present to his followers who usually don’t get it and end up running for cover when the going gets rough. And, yet, he comes to them again and again, restoring them in friendship.

It is a good thing for us to learn the rhythms of life that keep us attentive to Jesus. The practices of our faith are a lifelong journey that require our ongoing intentions. But we drift sometimes—we really do—and Jesus, in grace and faithfulness, reflecting the incomprehensible love of God the Father, continues to be with us.

And in that, we can take comfort.

– Mike McNichols