Mark 9–light eternal

Mark 9:4 (NIV)
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Tired. We can feel tired because we are sick, not sleeping well, malnourished. Or perhaps good things–a new baby, a triathlon.

I wonder if we do well gauging spiritual fatigue? Right now my house is “mostly clean”–I need to sweep, fold and put away clothes, unload dishes. But it is not the disaster it can be. Frequently.

Spiritual fatigue can be like the state of a house–disastrous to light mess. Either way we need to first recognize our need.

Jesus stands alone in majesty and power. Why have a pow-wow with E and M? And why not display this extraordinary moment with thousands?

Elijah was a prophet. He is there not just to talk to Jesus but to be rewarded with a glimpse of his savior.. I frequently rest in portions of Elijah’s story because despite his serious status as a hoss he grew weary and despondent. At which point God told him he was not alone and not outmanned.

And Moses represents the enduring presence of the law. Jesus tells us that he came to fulfill not abolish the law. And there is Moses–the law lives and so does the man who wrote it down.

Moses was a shepherd. He trudged through the desert with a bunch of ungrateful whiners. And this point of transfiguration is when Moses takes his first steps in the promised land.

It isn’t over until it is over. Stand in the splendor of heaven even when the clouds roll in darkness against a turbulent sky.


Why are people so chicken?

My daughter asks after I have waged yet another quixotic public awareness campaign about preventing abuse.

I tell her siblings this story to buttress my own vertiginous disbelief (in the chickens)….

They ran psych experiment wherein a single person was surrounded by a classroom of people “in” on the experiment.

A series of paired cards were shown, each with an objective, empirically correct answer–the longer line, for instance.

In each case the majority voted for the wrong card.

Soon the lone dissenter joined the majority.

Sure it can feel crazy to vote for the powerless, the disenfranchised, crime victims, and children.

But right is right.

And the short end of the stick stays short whether you are a weenie or just perhaps a little bit brave.

After all, the life you save could be your own.

The Witness

It is 3 flipping twenty in the morning and I have written myself out of a paper bag several times recently. But not this time.

This time I give you a picture–our protagonist is at the brink of death when the neighboring Amish descend over the rolling Pennsylvania hillside–their quiet presence ostensibly saving the life of young Harrison Ford.

I am naive to believe in those faux Amish extras. To quote Isaiah:

stop trusting in men

This is the last day of April. Much has happened this month, not much fan fare about the victims of crime and child abuse. Quiet. Too quiet. As I have quipped before–no one wants to be the spokesperson for dysentery relief, too stinky.

I want to say this–I am not sorry I have been a vociferous child advocate. I am only sorry I have failed. My children are not safe. Neither are yours.

When I feel the despair of the freakishly ignored I understand why most victims of child sexual abuse never share their story–it is worse to tell your story and be treated like a freak than keep quiet and attempt to mend alone.

It is as though our children were naturally able to count with their hands but each time they gave us the correct answer we slapped their hands and told them to parrot a wrong answer–like carrot or France.

You might ask yourself how dizzying, confusing, and painful it would be to know that 2 plus 2 is four, not Siberia, but never to be allowed to say.

I don’t have to ask. I know.

3:34 am

The least of these

I am haunted by a good thing.

We brought popsicles to the park. Melty hazards, right? So we are pushing the last of them on our kids when a small boy tugs my skirt and grins up at me–oh! His kingdom for a gooey fudge pop.

I felt terrible we had no more. I also felt terrible that I dripped on his adorable sister. Chocolate sugary baptism!

I rushed to the car and got some hugely inferior snacks. I wish I could have given my small friend a life-time supply of Popsicles. His openness and candor was a glimpse of heaven.

Because the kingdom of God was made for such as he…

I cry for a broken world and rough, broken people. I cry, and pray for the children.

Fairy Tale Beginnings

Imagine you are a reasonably attractive young person in your 20s. You are educated and have an interesting job with growth potential.

Then…you enter into a completely voluntary relationship with two fairy tale creatures. Think frog in well, old lady at door of castle material. There is a spell that has been cast over them, you, intrepid young person, must break the spell!

This requires enduring a lot of verbal abuse, physical abuse (fairy tale creatures are small but fierce and sometimes quite wild).

You hang on, barely, telling yourself each day that the humiliation and loss you feel is worth the investment in these small people, I mean enchanted creatures. Someone has to break enchantments, why not you?

Yolo; I know. That is part of the heartbreak. To “waste” your youth on the ungrateful and the enslaved can feel like desert living.

When they get older, larger, and more criminal, it can feel like…well let’s just say not a fairy tale.

The other people in the enchanted woods look a little queasy when you spill your tale–what? No magic reveal? No broken spells? What the heck?!

You can see it in their faces–please stay away from us, we live in this forest and are invested in keeping up magic appearances.

But you know the secret–dark, sad, but unavoidable secret. There is only one happily ever after and there is only one handsome prince.

He was the unlikeliest of Redeemer Princes–unremarkable, a tradesman. Itinerate, shekel-less. He died a miserable death and seemed to indicate there would be rough and uncertain times for his kingdom.

His spell-breaking talisman seemed a little too brief–follow me.

Like we would want to do that. Like that would be pretty. Like hell itself would be a picnic.

But of course, hell was just a place on a narrow road for him. It was not his destination. So keep up, girl, the story isn’t over…

Isaiah 58

No bleach.

Mark 9:1-4 (NIV)
And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” [2] After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. [3] His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. [4] And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

So…he predicts the visible glory of the kingdom of God right after laying out the plan for his death (ch. 8) and then 6 days later he takes his intimate companions to a mountain and–voila! He is changed.

I am struck by the description–his clothes were impossibly white. His physical presence was different–not the usual Jesus.

Most of us are either avoiding him or used to “the usual Jesus.”

Probably shouldn’t get too comfortable with either. I love Jesus, but I don’t make the intellectual mistake of assuming he is (to quote CS),

a tame lion.

He is not. He is holy. He is God. He is a little scary. How not a lot?

Only love.

The Kenneth Bae Predicament

Have you heard of Kenneth Bae?

Probably not. Justin Bieber takes up more oxygen in the news world than Mr. Bae. From what I can gather, Bae was a tourist in the hermit kingdom until he was arrested and accused of crimes against the state. His guilt is not in question because torture is the go-to investigative tool of N. Korea and because just setting foot there is cause for the death penalty.

That is right–in North Korea breathing is a capital offense. Everyone is guilty.

I am praying for Kenneth Bae and I am deeply concerned about him. I am afraid no celebrity endorsement from Rodman or Clinton will save him.

But there is something else as well. I am willing to push the metaphysical idea of hell when such a ready example rises to the surface.

Life in North Korea is hell. How can we turn away?

The Man who would be King

The Chinese character for king is three horizontal lines connected by a single vertical line. It has a story–

the man who would be king must be able to span heaven, earth, and the underworld.

Each horizontal line represents a location–heaven, earth, hell. The single vertical line is the King.

But there is more–the Chinese character for 10, a number of completion looks like a cross.. There is a perfect cross in the middle of the character for king.

Jesus is this king.

He takes on disfigurement on the Cross to save us, but his power is not in question–

the gates of hell shall not prevail against him.

He has vanquished death and restored our hope. What are we waiting for?

Transfiguration: our first glimpse of Home.

Part 1.5 of 2.

The character of the king

Pastor Chuck Jacob preached a sermon recently on a particularly amazing portion of Isaiah 52 and 53. Much of Isaiah sees the future to the face of Jesus. And thanks to Handel, much of what Isaiah saw is put to soaring music as well as words of hope.

But. There is one small catch. Maybe two. First, Isaiah is thought to have been martyred for his prophecy, and second….

Jesus gives us hope by becoming our disfigurement. That is what Pastor Jacob describes–God made flesh and then made Calamity for us.

I often think about The Princess Bride Not only does Westley endure the unendurable in the quest for love, he then gives one of the most apt descriptions of disfigurement ever–

Wrong! Your ears you will keep and I will tell you why…so that…”Dear God, what is that thing?” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what “to the pain” means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

Tough stuff for a romantic fable, but an efficient echo of redemptive agony–Jesus became disfigured and unrecognizable as the real embodiment of the sin, filth, violence, and casual cruelty of Man. We, if we dare to look, see him as a monster as he dies for us. We fail to recognize the monstrous signature of our own clawing sins.

He goes to hell disfigured. But what would be a dreadful, eternal quietus for us is the force of redemptive power–him for us, God poured out for me.

Part 1 of 2