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)

Seeing the Lord

Scripture: Colossians 4.2-3
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Reflection: Seeing the Lord
By John Tillman

Seeing the Lord—finally seeing him truly for who he is—is a huge part of the resurrection story. Perhaps seeing him truly as Lord is why so many did not, at first recognize him. He is not just a gardener. He is not merely a traveling scriptural scholar. He is so much more than a sea-side campfire chef.

May we see the Lord fully in this season of Easter. May we celebrate his mercy and take on the challenge of telling others what and who we have seen.

I Saw the Lord
By Matt Tullos

In the year of disappointment, loneliness, fear
in the year of confusion, desperation and chaos
I saw the Lord.

My eyes had been blinded by amusement, toys,
by savings and wealth
dreams and aspirations in the midst of the
sandcastles of my own self-importance.

My eyes were blinded by the temporal, until an
eternal God shook the doorposts of my soul.
He came to me. And I saw myself for who I
was outside of Him, naked, dying, cold,
starving, and helpless. He didn’t come in the sanctuary.

He didn’t come in the crowds.
He didn’t come in the ceremonies,
in the shifting dance of the day-to-day.
He came into my deepest closet of
hopelessness.

He didn’t come with four laws.
He didn’t come with three points and a poem.
He visited me at midnight when I least
expected to hear His voice. He came to me
at a time when my hopes were dashed, when
my future appeared bankrupt.

He came to me when every solid foundation
seemed to collapse. He came to me in the
wilderness of my own destitution.
He came to me in the poverty of my own
understanding.

He came to me when I laid down my toolbox
My first aid kit and my cookbook. He came to me!
Hallelujah! With a quick fix? No.

He came to me… with a list of seminars and
books to read?
No.

He came to me and there was nothing,
absolutely nothing, I could offer in my own
strength.

The masks, alibis, and diplomas faded under
the light of His passionate gaze.
He didn’t need me. He didn’t need my talents.
He didn’t need my knowledge, my money,
or my influence.

On the contrary, He came to me because for the
first time in my life, I knew that I was
utterly helpless. I didn’t have the answers.

For the first time in my life I knew that no
word, no thought, no event would change
me. Only God. Christ alone could change
my heart.

He came to me. He wrapped His arms around
me and said,

“My beloved, I’ve been waiting for you.”

(From And Now You Know the Rest of His Glory 1999)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — based on Psalm 67.1

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen – 3:12)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

Waking up to Easter

Scripture: Colossians 3.1, 17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above,…And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reflection: Waking up to Easter
By John Tillman

In Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright questions how we approach and celebrate Easter.

I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

… Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.

“Waking up” to Easter may be a disruptor to our ordinary lives. If we are honest, we’d rather get on with the world now. We want to go back to eating whatever we surrendered to Lent. Go back to doing. Go back to achieving.

We want to go back to winning at life and move past all of this gloomy suffering and servanthood. We want to go back to Emmaus with Cleopas and his companion and back to business-as-usual fishing with Peter.

But the truth is that Easter is a season, not a day. Christ’s appearances, spread over 40 days after his resurrection were leading and preparing the disciples for Pentecost and the birth of the church.

As we move through the season of Easter, may we continue to “throw our hats in the air.”

May we find ourselves interrupted on the road to Emmaus by Christ, our unexpected guest. May we break bread with him and find our mind opened to the scriptures.

May our business-as-usual days of fishing be interrupted by unexpected advice as Christ’s voice calls from the distant shore. May we shed our business-as-usual attitude, abandoning our work to swim to shore.

Let us see what the risen Christ will say to us today.

Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 20 (Listen – 3:19)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

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