Sewing Up the Veil

Scripture: Luke 23.43, 45
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
…And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Reflection: Sewing Up the Veil
By John Tillman

One week ago, as Christ was dying on the cross, the scriptures tell us three times—in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—that the veil of the temple was torn in two. Mark and Matthew add the helpful detail that it tore “From top to bottom” implying heavenly agency in its destruction.

According to the Talmud and other sources, the veil was quite large and heavy—requiring 300 priests to move when it needed to be cleaned. It is not hard to imagine them now, a week later, hundreds of them, working to repair it.

It would be easy for us to smugly shake our heads at those priests. Couldn’t they understand the meaning? Couldn’t they let go of their rituals? Why set back up the barrier that God tore through?

But are we so different?

We don’t have a literal Temple veil, but we each stitch up a veil of our own cultural assumptions, religious rituals, and precious objects. These form our ideas about what it takes to approach God.

When we come to God, we must bring nothing but Christ with us. Any ingredients, or any previous qualifications of our own, will poison and corrupt faith. — Thomas Wilcox

Anything that we think we can’t be a Christian without, is a stitch in the veil.

“You can’t be a Christian without supporting _________.”
“You can’t be a Christian without abstaining from __________”
“You can’t be a Christian without __________.”

We’ve all got something in the blanks.

Whenever I’m tempted to put something in those blanks, I try to turn my mind to the thief on the cross. I think of the criminal who watched Jesus die, got his legs broken to hasten his suffocation, and whose body was—more than likely—dumped, naked, in a mass grave.

Anything we put in those blanks should disqualify that thief on the cross. But there is no one, in all of scripture that has a more direct and unambiguous promise of being resurrected to live with Christ in Heaven than this criminal who did nothing—nothing but believe.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about how the Jews carried a veil over their minds that kept them from the truth of the Gospel. We are subject to the same tendency and only in Christ is this veil removed.

May we resist our tendency to repair the veil Christ removed, while looking with grace and compassion on those who labor, stitching up their veils.
May we unveil our faces and turn to Christ—like the thief—with our hands empty and incapable.
May our unveiled faces shine on others, that they can see, not our great works or piety, but God’s grace to us.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; listen, O Lord, to my supplication.” — Psalm 140.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 24 (Listen – 3:47)
1 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 1:44)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 25 (Listen – 2:56) 1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen – 2:24)
Proverbs 26 (Listen – 2:37) 1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)

A Better Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Proverbs 23.18
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.

As we continue in the season of Easter, contemplating the resurrection and our Lord’s appearances, we share this beautiful poem from Christina Rossetti. Here she intimately acknowledges that there is no part of our lives that does not need to be resurrected with Christ. May we be quickened, may we rise with Christ to manifest his love in the world.  John

Reflection: A Better Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
By Christina Rossetti (1865)

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perishing thing;
Melt and remold it, ‘til it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Christina Rossetti , “A Better Resurrection,” Goblin Market and Other Poems (1865)

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. — Psalm 51.16

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 23 (Listen – 3:39)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)

Learning from Judas

Scripture: John 21.15
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

“Christ, you know I love you.” — The Crowd and Disciples, Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

Reflection: Learning from Judas
By John Tillman

Jesus Christ Superstar, from creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, has always been controversial. However, if we stop trying to sync it up to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and instead make note of its contrasts, its factual and theological errors can be instructive.

The most important fact of the Gospel—The Resurrection—gets left out of Jesus Christ Superstar. But the show gives a very revealing look at our culture’s ideas about Jesus because it is told from the perspective of the disciple of Jesus with whom our culture has the most in common—Judas.

The production shows Jesus’ last week of ministry as the looming failure that Judas must have perceived it to be. The show, of course, is fictional and expands the narrative beyond what the scriptures tell us of Judas. But many of the show’s implications about him can be defended scripturally.

As portrayed in the show, Judas is a disciple who has little use for religion without tangible effects and tangible rewards. Judas is focused on outward appearances, on being politically expedient, on social justice (from his perspective), and on public shows of religious charity.

Judas would be a great prosperity Gospel theologian. Judas would be quick to endorse or stand behind a corrupt political candidate if promised concessions from the government. Judas would attack the character of those who disagreed with him.

The great value of viewing Jesus Christ Superstar as a Christian is not to condemn Judas, but to see how like him we are.

How we long for Jesus to only say and do the things we are comfortable with him saying and doing!
How we long for Jesus to take down our enemies and lift us up!
How we long for recognition for all the difficult work we do “in his name!”

His practicality, his self-righteousness, and his faith in political maneuvering make Judas a disciple as fit for our modern age as his ancient one.

What we are called to is so much greater than the political deals we are willing to make and the causes we want to campaign for.

The Judas of Jesus Christ Superstar gives us a chance to see, and perhaps repent of, whatever it is that we would be willing to trade Christ for.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 22 (Listen – 2:59)
1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

Christian Pagans and Disasters

Scripture: 1 Kings 22:23
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: Christian Pagans and Disasters
by John Tillman

Attributing disasters to angry gods is the theology of pagans. It is often a theological attack with a two-pronged, double dip of blame. Blaming the angry god is mere pretext to the true source of blame—the person or people who angered that god. The true source of blame in this view is human action and the true purpose of this kind of prophecy is to attack people with whom one disagrees. This theology has more in common with the theology of the 1990 movie Joe Versus the Volcano than it does the God of the Bible.

Unfortunately there are no shortage of Christians and Christian leaders who willingly share this theological ground with pagans. They can be found on news programs after a disaster, describing a distant, impersonal, yet somehow still moralistic god, who is vengefully punishing moral sins.

The idea that a country may be punished by God for its sins is not unbiblical. The God of scripture does use natural disasters and disastrous attacks by armies (or even wild animals) as judgment on the sin of individuals, leaders, and nations. However, on occasions in which God did so, he announced it ahead of time—with extraordinary specificity. Many times an opportunity for repentance was given by the prophet. Even odious leaders such as Ahab were given opportunities to repent and avoid judgment.

It would be wise for any current day prophets wishing to make some prophecy of God’s judgment to also keep in mind the penalty for false prophecies and instead simply cover their mouths.

The God of the Old Testament is the the same God-in-the-flesh we know in the person of Jesus Christ, and the same Holy Spirit at work within us and through us. Justice is wrought by God’s love for us. His wrath is borne by His own self-sacrifice for us. The disaster that should strike us, He caused to strike Christ in our place.

As Paul says, we are not to treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all — holding on to what is good and rejecting evil. And it would help if we remembered that true prophecy comes before disaster, not after.

Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69:7

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51)
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)

Praise and Adoration from Great Britain :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4.6-8
…in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister…For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

As this humble prayer lifts praise and adoration to God it recognizes that nationalism and faith in current governments, leaders, or other agencies of power is slavery. It is mercy and love for one another that we must fan into flame, not pride of nation or party. Pride’s only gift is in separating us from others, which is the opposite of our calling as ambassadors of the Gospel. — John

Reflection: Praise and Adoration from Great Britain :: Worldwide Prayer

Dear Father,

We praise you that we may draw near to you through the merits of Jesus, your Son, our Savior. We glorify you that your Holy Spirit continually moves in our world today. We bless you that your Spirit focuses faith on Jesus and draws us into fellowship with you and with one another.

Thank you Father for your transcendent love. Thank you that here and now we enter into fresh relationship with you through your mercy and grace. Free us from the shackles of nationality and insularity.

As we give you glory for all that you are doing through Christians around the world today, hear our prayers for one another and for those whom we represent. Fire us with your love.

Inspire our praise, our prayer, and our preaching with the gift of your Spirit and make us better ambassadors for Jesus.

We ask this in the Name of the Savior.

The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.  — Psalm 95:1

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:19)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen – 2:24)

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