Further up, Further in

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2.3-6
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

Reflection: Further up, Further in
By John Tillman

The Temple was a meticulous structure designed with concentric exclusion of larger and larger groups of people. God was separated from the world with objects and human mediaries standing at the borders.

But the Temple also was a path for people moving toward God—being called closer and closer by the God from whom they were separated. There was a clear pathway, of physical doors, and doors of action, through which anyone could choose to move toward God. At least as close as they were allowed. As close as they could stand.

When one could not enter further, one worshiped through the priests, the intermediaries. The priests took sacrifices to the altar, and returned to you the cooked meat to eat as part of worship.

Anyone could enter the outer courtyard, even Gentiles. Moving inward, the next courtyard was racially segregated—Jews only. The next division was based on sex—men only could proceed. The disabled or disfigured were also excluded. The next barriers were genealogical—only Levites could offer the sacrifices and only descendants of Aaron could be priests before God.

The veil which enclosed the Holy of Holies, rent from top to bottom at the moment of Christ’s death was not the only barrier destroyed that day. Every other gate and door was thrown open by Christ, who named himself the gate. The author of Hebrews compares the veil to Christ’s own body, torn apart to give us access to God.

In Christ, there is no priestly barrier—all are priests with him as our high priest. There is no genealogical barrier, for we are made sons and daughters in Christ. In Christ, there is not male or female, but we are one in him. In Christ there is no abled or disabled, for our weaknesses are transformed in his glory. In Christ racial barriers are destroyed and the division of Babel is reversed. In Christ nationalism is meaningless for we serve a King of Kings and have citizenship in a higher kingdom.

The only barrier to cross on our journey to God is the cross. Christ is the opener of all things and beckons us onward to see, to enter, to access.

The grave is open, that we may see He is risen.
The veil is open, that we may follow our High Priest.
Hell is open if we will but make for the exit.
Heaven is open, if we will but enter.

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” — C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Hear this, all you peoples; hearken, all you who dwell in the world, you of high degree and low, rich and poor together…We can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life; For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it. — Psalm 49.1, 10

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 31 (Listen – 2:50)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen – 1:38)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 1 (Listen – 2:21) 1 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:10)
Ecclesiastes 2 (Listen – 4:03) 1 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:05)

The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: 1 Timothy 1.16
I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Reflection: The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
By John of Damascus (676-749 C.E.)

For if there is no resurrection, let us eat and drink: let us pursue a life of pleasure and enjoyment. If there is no resurrection, let us hold the wild beasts of the field happy who have a life free from sorrow. If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves.

For observe how the righteous suffer hunger and injustice and receive no help in the present life, while sinners and the unrighteous abound in riches and every delight.

No, the divine Scripture bears witness that there will be a resurrection of the body. The Lord became Himself the first-fruits of the perfect resurrection that is no longer subject to death. For He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And the holy gospel is a trustworthy witness that He spoke of His own body.

But someone will say, How are the dead raised up? Oh, what disbelief! Oh, what folly!

Behold how the seed is buried in the furrows as in tombs. Who is it that gives them roots and stalk and leaves and ears and the most delicate beards? Is it not the maker of the universe? Is it not at the bidding of him who created all things?

Believe, therefore, that the resurrection of the dead will come to pass at the divine will and sign. For he has power that is able to keep pace with his will.

We shall rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ.

But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages.

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ: your strength has been my consolation; you have not allowed my soul to perish with the wicked; you have given me your grace, the grace of your name. Now it is time for you to fortify what you have achieved in me and so to confound the adversary’s impudence.
— Euplus, prior to his martyrdom in Sicily c. 304 C.E.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. — Psalm 90.12

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 30 (Listen – 3:51)
1 Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:59)

A Call to Worship from Zambia :: Worldwide Prayer

As we prepare for worship this weekend, may our hearts return to this challenging prayer from Zambia. Despite differences in liturgy, in setting, in size, in culture, in language, in privilege, and in wealth, let us be united in worship by our awe and wonder at the beauty of our Creator’s work of creation, at the horrifying toil of our Savior’s work of salvation, and at the empowering call of His Spirit for us to join Him in his work on behalf of our cities. — John

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1.8-10
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Exodus 15:2
He is my god and I will praise Him.

Reflection: A Call to Worship from Zambia :: Worldwide Prayer

Almighty God, our Father,

Through your great love and mercy you have redeemed us and forgiven our sins.

Father, our worship has degenerated into empty ritualism. Every week, millions and millions of your people meet on the Lord’s day to worship you as creator and redeemer. We want this worship to declare your worth and to offer you praise. Some believers worship you formally, liturgically, some free and spontaneously but we all want to worship in “Spirit and in truth.”

Lord, fill us with wonder and with gratitude for your love and for our salvation. Help us to worship you joyfully and to give you the praise you deserve. Enable us to remain faithful to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

The Call the Prayer
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One. — Psalm 99.9

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 8 (Listen – 5:18)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 9 (Listen – 6:32) 1 Timothy 6 (Listen – 3:16)
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30) 2 Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:37)

The Beautiful Feet of Lepers

Scripture: 2 Kings 7.9
Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.

Reflection: The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
by John Tillman

One of the joys of regularly studying and reading scripture (Especially when following a reading plan of the whole Bible) is finding the treasures hidden in the forgotten places, the stories in-between the Stories, and the nameless characters that never had a flannelgraph made of them. Down in one of these forgotten, skimmed over cracks are four outcast lepers.

Most stories of lepers in the Bible end with them being healed but these weren’t. In fact Jesus singled out this era of scripture as a time when not a single leper was healed except for a Syrian raider. He was a foreign fighter, a kidnapper and enslaver of children, and in many ways a man we would consider a terrorist. Yet, two chapters ago Elisha healed that man, sending him home without extracting either financial gain or even promised reform. But these lepers at the gate of Elisha’s own city went ignored.

The four are outcasts between the besieged and the besiegers. Those in the city are struggling with the economic fall-out of a siege that is severe enough to cause the desperate to resort to cannibalism. In this climate, the outcasts decide that death by the surrounding army can’t be worse than starving to death, so they walk out to surrender and discover instead that the battle is won and the spoils are strewn about waiting to be picked up.

At first they gorge and hoard the secret victory they have found. But before long they realize what they are doing is wrong. The resources they discovered, the wealth they stumbled upon, and the good news of the victory they did not have to fight for must be shared.

We are these outcast lepers—forced to the margins of a culture hostile to faith. We are these unarmed conquerors—walking boldly into the abandoned camp of the enemy. We are these unemployable lottery winners—suddenly gifted riches we could never earn. We are these gorging celebrants—filling emptiness that no other meal could quench. We are these messengers with beautiful, leprous feet—staggering awkwardly to share good news with the city that cast us out.

We may be diseased and unclean but we share the undeserved victory we have discovered. This is the gospel—that terrorists can be healed and saved and the rejects of society can bring the news of salvation and the testimony of victory unimaginable to their city.

The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. — Psalm 43.3

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 7 (Listen – 3:55)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:05)

Weaponized Shame

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3.7
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval. — Jon Ronson

Reflection: Weaponized Shame
The Park Forum

The full removal of evil in our world is one of the breathless longings of Christianity. We hopefully await a time where death, cancer, genocide, abuse, and countless other atrocities are vanquished. And though we count on this, it can be difficult to picture life without the petty evils that accost us daily.

We don’t even think of things like stress and life’s regular anxieties and discouragements as stemming from evil—perhaps because we try to individualize evil and these are systemic forces that plague us all. Though we have sinned, we are also all victims of a broken world.

Shame and bullying, which in the past were among the ongoing pains of our world, have taken on a force of their own through the internet. Far too many people—some who have done legitimate wrong others who were simply imprudent or taken out of context—have had their lives destroyed by a maelstrom of anonymous digital hate. In extreme cases people have lost jobs, struggled with depression and PTSD, and had to leave their home after their addresses were posted online and linked to death threats.

We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you.

Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. — Umair Haque

Though this disproportionately affects children and students, the modern digital age has made it something nearly all of us can suffer from as victims—or participate in as perpetrators.

A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we get to the human lives behind it, and the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click, we make a choice. — Monica Lewinsky

In her TED talk, “The Price of Shame,” Monika Lewinsky opens up about the profound toll public shaming can take on a person, “In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything, and I almost lost my life… The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable.”

Lewinsky’s talk focuses outside the guilt of her actions on the weight of public shaming—our active roll in disintegrating another human being through quips and clicks. “It was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.”

In a Medium post this month Umair Haque, who writes on economics and technology for the Harvard Business Review, chronicles the way technology has weaponized our ability to harm one another:

The social web became a nasty, brutish place… What really happens on Twitter these days? People have self-sorted into cliques, little in-groups, tribes. The purpose of tribes is to defend their beliefs, their ways, their customs, their culture — their ways of seeing the world… and if you dare not to bow down before it…or worse still to challenge it…well, then the faithful will do what they must to defend their gods. They will declare a crusade against you.

We are at the beginning of a large cultural conversation about shame, guilt, bullying, and behavior in the public square. Christians have the opportunity live as salt and light in a bland, rotting, and dark digital world. What we click, how we respond — if we we respond at all — shares a testimony to the world.

Nietzsche warned, “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” Though the gospel takes it one step further: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In this‚ in what we post, and click, and share — we join Christ in bringing heaven to earth now.

The Refrain
Those who sowed in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:05)
1 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:10)

Related Articles
Why Twitter’s Dying. Umair Haque on Medium.
How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. Jon Ronson for The New Yorker.
Monica Lewinsky and the Shame Game. Alexandra Schwartz for The New Yorker.
The Bully Business. Cevin Soling for The Atlantic.
Parents: Focus on the Family has a helpful web resource on bullying among kids.