The Many Pieces of Jesus’ Crucifixion

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By: Coleton Reid

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“Rabbi… where’s the lamb for the Passover? Please tell us what to do so we can get it ready.” Peter said as we walked through town.

“Peter… John… look there in the city for a man carrying a jug of water… follow him to the house he enters… then and find the owner of that house… ask him, ‘where will the rabbi have dinner with his disciples?’ he’ll show you upstairs to a large, furnished room! Prepare our meal there!” I said as they stood there with their mouths open.

                Later in the man’s house…

Once everyone came and sat down around the feast, I got up and took off my robe, and brought a towel and water bucket to John’s feet “John… let me have your dusty feet and I’ll wash them.” I said to John.

“What?!” he said as he gave me his feet.

“N-NO! Why are you going to wash my feet?!” Peter asked as I walked over to him after I finished washing John’s feet.

“Right now you do not understand what I am doing… but later you’ll understand.” I replied.

“Lord! You’ll never wash my feet!” he said as he pulled his feet away.

“Peter, unless I wash your feet, you can’t take part in my life.” I said.

“Ok, then not just my feet, but my head and hands too.” He asked.

“If you’ve had a bath, then you only need to clean your feet… the rest of your body is already clean… and you are clean.”  I said to Peter “But not all of you. Do you see what I have done to you? I… your lord and teacher, have set an example for you by washing your feet… you must do the same for each other… and love one another.” I said to my disciples “but… one of you here eating with me… is going to hand me over… to my enemies!” I said.

“Who could it be?” one of his disciples asked.

“Not me. I’d never…” another one trailed off.

“The one who dips his bread in the bowl will betray me… and it will be so terrible for him… he’d have been better off not to have been born at all.” I said as Judas dipped his bread in the bowl.

“What?! It’s not me rabbi… is it?” he asked nervously.

“Yes… it is you… so… do it quickly and get it over with.” I said as Judas got up and left the house. After a few minutes of silence I got up and said “This bread is my body… given for you… broken for you…  this cup is the new covenant in my blood… poured out for you… but in mere hours… you’ll all turn away from me.” 

“Turn away from you?! Never! Even if all the rest desert you, I never will!! I’ll die for you!” Peter said.

“Peter... tonight… this very night before the rooster crows… you’ll deny you even know me… not once, but three times!” I announced “When I sent you out in two’s, I told you to take any bread, bags, money or extra cloths… and did you lack any?” I asked.

“No… nothing.” One of them replied.

“But this time… if you have a bag, take it and take money too! And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! The ancient text says ‘he was considered a criminal’ that was written about me… and it will come true! It’s all happening right now!” I said.

Then we left to go to the garden of Gethsemane…

“I’m going back to my father, to prepare a place for you! I am the way… the truth… and the life! From now on, pray to my father in my name! I’ll send you the Holy Spirit as a friend and a helper… he’ll guide you in all truth and wisdom! I’m giving you my peace… true peace… not the ‘peace’ the world offers to you! I am a vine and you are the branches… everyone who remains connected to me… and I to them… will produce abundant fruit! But the world hates me… so you have to be prepared for them to hate you too… and to treat you just like they do me! In a while you’ll be sad… but your sadness will turn to joy! You’ll have many troubles in this life… but be encouraged… because I’ve overcome the world!” I preached “wait for me here. I’m going to find a place to pray. Peter… James… John… come just a little farther with me… stay alert… keep watch… and pray for me!” I said as I started walking on my own, only soon after to feel heavy “the weight of my sorrows is crushing the life out of me!” I said as I picked up a stick to help me balance and hobbled to a nearby rock that was almost shaped as a table.  “Abba… father… everything is possible for you… so is it possible I don’t have to suffer like this… but what you want to take place needs to take place… not what I want!”

“Yeshua…” the devil said as he appeared out from the darkness “You’re a nice guy… but now you’re facing execution! Why not just reason with God? Say to him… ‘I realize now that this plan was absurd… these humans are worthless!’” he said as an angel appeared to fight him off as I continued to talk to my father in heaven.

“Peter wake up!” I commanded once I returned to see them all sleeping “couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?!” I asked him “Pray and keep watch… that way you won’t fall into temptation and sin! Your spirit is eager to do God’s work… but your body is weak” I warned, two more times I went away to pray and came back to them asleep. “That’s enough… our time is up… the traitor is here.” I said as I saw men on horses riding towards us.

“Hi… and goodbye Rabbi!” Judas said as he came up and kissed me on the cheek.

“Are you selling out the son of man with a kiss... Judas?” I ask obvious of the answer.

“THERE!... THE GUY HEE KISSED! HE’S THE ONE WE WANT! ARREST HIM!” a palace guard yelled as he and him men burst through the bushes.

“LORD! WE’LL FIGHT FOR YOU!” Peter yelled as he and the rest of my disciples took out their swords and ran in front of me.

“YIAAAHHH!” Peter yelled as he swung his sword taking off the ear of an oncoming Guard.

“AAAAHHHH!! HE TOOK OFF MY EAR!” He yelled in excruciating pain .

“PETER!! STOP THIS!” I commanded as they all stopped.

“Whaaaa?” the guard said as I picked up his ear and placed it back on his head and healed it.

“Put away your swords don’t misuse my words! Everyone who trusts in the sword will die by the sword!” I said as they put away their swords “Don’t you know that if I asked, my father would send down an army of angels? But then how could the words of the ancient text be accomplished?” I asked “and am I some sort of dangerous criminal that you have to come out for me armed?! Fine here I am… take me away! But let me disciples go!” I asked as they took me by the arms and took me away, leaving me disciples alone.

“Silence! You’re under arrest!” the guard said as they took me away.

                Later in the house of Caiaphas…

“I have spoken openly in public and in the temple… nothing was said in secret… so why question me? Ask those who have listened to my teaching!” I said to the high priest.

SLAP! The guard slapped me across the face with so much force it made my whole body turn away.

“How dare you speak to Annas the high priest like that?!” he said as he slapped me.

It’s no use talking to him, take him to the Caiaphas!” another priest said.

“You said you could destroy and rebuild the temple in three days… didn’t you?” he asked me as I stayed silent “Aren’t you going to answer me?! I command you to speak! Are you messiah? Son of the living God?!” he asked me.

“I am… and you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of the almighty, arriving on the clouds of heaven!” I said.

“Hey, why are you here?” a lady on guard asked Peter as he was trying to sneak in “You were with the prisoner, weren’t you?” she asked.

“No! I don’t know him!” Peter said as I came into earshot of the conversation.

“C’mon! your accent gives you away!” She said.

“No! no! I swear I don’t know anything about him!” Peter said as a Rooster began to crow nearby. Peter swirled around to suddenly realize I had heard the whole thing as the scene from dinner played back in his head.

“NO! I DID IT!” he cried “I DID IT!” Peter said as he fell to his knees and cried, not believing what he’d just done.

.   .   .

The roman governor had the only legal authority to have a criminal executed, so the Jewish leaders brought their case before him seeking to execute me.

“What charges do you have against this man?” he asked, once we came through the doors and stopped in front of him.

“Well, sir… if he weren’t a criminal we wouldn’t be handing him over to you.” The Jewish leader said.

“So should I just take your word for it?” he asked.

“We don’t have the right to put anyone to death!” they pleaded.

“Listen, I don’t have time for your petty quarrels… go deal with this yourselves.” He said.

“And he’s a rebel! He’s refusing to pay his taxes to Ceaser… and… he even says he’s messiah… and king!” they said to get his attention.

“A king… well, well, well… the king of the Jews… is this true prisoner?” he asked me.

“My kingdom isn’t in this world.” I replied “I came into this world to be a witness to the truth!”

“This man hardly seems like a big threat to me!” he said waving us away.

“No! He must be put to death! He’s stirred up the people since he left Galilee!” they begged.

“…Galilee? Oh that’s Herod’s district… let Herod judge him!” he said as he waved us off.

.   .   .

“What’s wrong? Show me a miracle!” the king demanded, he had been excited to have me come because he had heard about everything I’d done. “Fine… no answers… no fun!” he said as he waved us out back to the roman governor.

“KILL YESHUA!! KILL HIM!” The crowd chanted, I was standing at the top of the steps of the Pontius Pilate so I could be charged by the crowd.

“LISTEN! I’VE FOUND NO REASON TO HAVE THIS MAN PUT TO DEATH! I’LL HAVE HIM WHIPPED AND LET GO!” the roman governor yelled at the crowd.

“KILL HIM! DON’T GIVE JUST WHIP HIM! KILL HIM!” The crowd roared.

“SO THE CUSTOM IS TO SET ONE PRISONER FREE AT YOUR ‘PASSOVER’… WHO SHOULD IT BE? THIS MAN OR-“ the roman tried to finish but was cut off from the crowd.

“BARAABBAS! RELEASE BARABBAS!” the crowd cheered. Barabbas was a well-known Jewish rebel imprisoned for murders committed in a violent revolt.

“HERE IS THE MAN! KING OF THE JEWS!” He said as he brought me out to stand in front of the crowd.

“CRUCIFY HIM! NAIL HIM TO A CROSS!” the crowd roared.

“NAIL HIM YOURSELVES!” he snapped “I’VE FOUND NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS MAN!”

“OUR LAW SAYS HE DESURVES DEATH! HE HAS CLAIMED TO BE THE SON OF GOD!” The Jewish leader yelled.

“ARE YOU A GOD-MAN?!” he asked me as he turned to face me “ANSWER ME! DON’T YOU REALIZE I HAVE POWER OVER YOUR LIFE OR DEATH!?” he asked me.

“The only power is what has been given to you from above… no more, no less.” I said               .

“FINE! DO WHAT YOU WANT! BUT I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!! HIS BLOODS ON YOUR HANDS!” he pleaded.

“YES! HIS BLOODS ON US… AND OUR CHILDREN!” the crowd cheered as they took me away to my cell the soldiers stripped me down and put a dressed me in a scarlet robe on me, the spat and mocked me as one of them twisted together a crown of thorns and placed in painfully on my head. They held me down as one of them began to whip the flesh off my body. It felt like forever before they put on my torn up clothes and lead me away to be crucified. As they lead me to the mountain were I was to be crucified, a man named Simon from Cyrene was ordered out from the crowd by Roman soldiers to help me carry the cross. We reached Golgotha (the place of the scull) there, they offered me wine to drink mixed with gale, but after tasting it I refused anymore, they took off my clothes to be sold, and above my head there was a sign saying “this is Jesus, king of the Jews”

“AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!” I screamed in excruciating pain as they hammered two nails through my arms just before my hands, one through my legs and onto the cross.

“READY? AND HEAVE!!” A Roman guard yelled as they lifted my cross into a hole to hold me in place.

THUD! My cross hit the bottom of the hole stabilizing it in place. Beside me were two rebels also being crucified, one on my left and the other on my right.

“FATHER…. FORGIVE THEM… FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!” I yelled to my father.

“You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross if you truly are the son of God!” men cried out as they passed me by.

“He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said ‘I am the son of God’” chief priests and elders mocked.

“Hey if you’re the messiah, why don’t you save us?!” the rebel on my right cried out.

“Be quiet! We deserve to die, but his man has done nothing wrong!” the man on my left pleaded “Lord please… remember me when you enter your kingdom…” he asked.

“I tell you today… you’ll join me in paradise…” I said excepting him into heaven “Dear woman… here is… your son… John… this is… your mother…” I said selecting John to care for my mother Miryan.

“My home is hers r-rabbi!” John replied.

“MY GOD MY GOD!! WHY HAVE YOU ABANDONED ME?!” I asked as the curtain in the holiest of all rooms in the temple was torn in two… from top to bottom! “Father… into your hands… I commit my spirit.” I said to the lord as I gave my final breath as my father in heaven turned his face away as the sky’s grew ever darker, as the battle in the grave began…


When you think of Easter, you think of God sending his one and only son so die for our sins, and then three days later rising from a tomb right? I used to think of that too, until I saw the movie the Case for Christ. It’s about this atheist news reporter that tries to prove that the crucifixion is fake and how God’s not real, but in the end he ends up proving that God is very real, and that Jesus did actually die for our sins. There’s one scene in that movie that really stuck out to me though, the reporter goes and interviews a medical doctor about if someone could stage such a thing. The doctor explains that before even the carrying of the cross Jesus was put into critical condition, due to the Romans flogging him. He went on to explain that a flogging is when the Romans would use whips with metal balls at the end that would tear the flesh from the bone leaving the surrounding muscle exposed, causing him to fall so many times when he was carrying the cross. He also explains that when he was on the cross he was in such a position that he would have to pull himself up if he wanted to breathe; certainly, putting him in extreme pain.

I’m getting off topic, when you think of Easter you think one of two things, you think of the Easter bunny, and you think of Jesus on the cross. When I think of Easter I think of a thousand puzzle pieces finally coming together to form a beautiful masterpiece, that is, Jesus paying the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I remember when I was a kid growing up in a Christian home and hearing the Easter story many times. But I distinctly remember when I was four or five, on Easter, I heard the story and I threw a tantrum because I didn’t want to believe this perfect being, had died for me.

It’s funny how every time we hear the Easter story, there’s always something different that sticks with us, whether it’s something small or very big, something always sticks with us. My family goes out to the Whitby Salvation Army Church every Easter to see my dad’s sister in laws family. This year when we went out there, the pastor was preaching about Pilate’s wife, and how we only hear about her in one verse when she tells Pilate “not to get involved with this righteous man” and tells him she has had nightmares about this. But the pastor explained the significance of this, he explained how back then, the wife had no right to interrupt him while he was in the middle of a trial, but she was in such a distress that she sent the letter to him, interrupting Jesus’s trial. And the craziest part is, she could’ve said anything, she could’ve said “don’t get involved with that Jesus fella, he’s bad news.” But she actually said the word “Righteous” which in some translations means “Innocent” she called Jesus innocent. Now we don’t know whether she believed that he was the son of God or not, but we do know that she called Jesus innocent, even in the mist of all these rumors. She was in so much distress over Jesus, that she interrupted Pilate –Something a wife wasn’t really allowed to do- and called Jesus innocent.

When Jesus was taken away in the garden, he went to four other trials before he went to Pilate’s who found him innocent, sent him to Herod who also found him innocent, and sent him back to Pilate who wanted nothing to do with this after his wife sent him a letter. So he stood him in front of a crowed and offered either Jesus Christ be released or Jesus Barabbas – a well-known criminal- be released. Obviously the crowd released Jesus Barabbas, but what the bible doesn’t really say is that Pilate was on a tight leash due to his aggressiveness. So when he offered Jesus Christ to the crowd, it was also a political move so then he wasn’t on the hook for a riot. It’s kind of funny how when God wants something done, it gets done (like having an innocent man get crucified)! Just a few more of the many pieces that were put into place to make such a beautiful masterpiece.

It’s both amazing and sad to think about the difference in the crowd from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. Not even seven days before they were yelling “Crucify him!” they were yelling “Hosanna!” and “Praise God!” while throwing down palm branches as he rode into the city. It’s crazy to think that such a loving crowd, would later be spitting on the bleeding face of Jesus as he stumbled down a narrow road. A once loved man would end up stumbling down the narrow, cobblestone road, beaten nearly to death, betrayed, alone, and on his way to be nailed to a tree, by his hands and feet.

Whenever I hear the story, I always ask myself, if I was there, would I have the courage to stand up and call him my savior, or would I turn my back like everyone else. I’d like to say I would be different, but I fear deep down I would turn my back.

I started this by asking you, what you thought about when you thought about Easter? And I did my best to try and give a little bit more backstage story to it to help show the small miracles that came from the story. Now I want to ask you this, when you hear the Easter story, do you think of a thousand different puzzle pieces coming together, or do you see a man on a cross carrying all our sins?

The Tears of Alexander

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The night air was warm, and its moisture caused my t-shirt to stick against the skin on my back and arms. It was going to be another rough night and I knew that my options were limited. I could either try to fall asleep on my rusty bunk and hope the breeze from the electrical fan made its way through the mosquito net adequately enough to combat the humidity; or I could go for a walk in the night air.

I chose the latter.

The fresh mud stuck to the bottom of my rubber flip flops, which sprayed the mire onto my calves as I walked on the uneven road that weaved its way through the camp. It was around the second of the three months of my stay in the Haitian refugee camp, and I’d gotten used to wandering out by myself. It was lonely being the only person in my concrete house at the entrance of a camp which seemed to be more accustomed to outsiders than I was of it. In fact, I was the only outsider living there.

I tried to make out the silhouettes of the people warming themselves around the various barrel fires outside their homes adorned with sheet metal rooves, but failed to recognize the more familiar faces. No matter - the road would eventually lead me to someone with whom I would stop and chat, but for now I took refuge in the sound of the tropical breeze softly pushing the palm leaves just enough to reveal the magnificent canvass of stars beyond them – a canvass made more vibrant in the context of a community living without street lights or traffic.  

How many nights had I spent staring at the constellations on my flat concrete roof, up the rickety ladder, through the cobwebs and amongst the steel rebar which pointed ever upwards to the heavens?

Time held no place here. She was neither welcomed nor invited. 

As I stumbled my way further along the potholed path, I stopped when I saw two of my friends, Joe and Orlando, standing in front of the concrete steps and humble vegetable garden of Orlando’s home – or rather, his family’s home. It was situated at the bend in the road, before it twisted and weaved its way up the mountainside, which is where most of the refugees lived. Orlando and Joe waved to me with their usual smiles and I happily joined them.

Politely switching from Creole to Spanish so that I could understand what they were saying, the two young Haitians were in the midst of discussion. From what I could make out, they were talking about their spiritual connection to the stars and what that meant for them. While I didn’t catch every word, I understood that their stars represented their lives – both the lived and the yet to be lived. It was the latter that Orlando and Joe were now focused on, as they began interpreting all that lay ahead for them. This came in the form of something other than what they had, whether power or wealth, or simply an opportunity to leave the camp in search of a more prosperous path. It was clear this was a powerful symbol. It wasn’t simply a game of imagination and dreams for them, but rather a belief that their future, a future of material advancement, was somehow related to one of these celestial bodies.

Orlando, with his usual effervescence, lifted his arm and strained his fingers, as if his manifest destiny were to pull himself out of that refugee camp and into a life of opportunity that lay in the stars themselves.

“This one, Ho-el, this one is my star.”

I felt Joe’s calloused palm tug at my t-shirt as he touched my shoulder in order that I might move my attention from Orlando to him. Joe was a motoconcho – a motorcycle taximan – who made his money ferrying people in and out of the camp, through the bumpy roads enveloped in overgrown sugarcane for 40 or 50 pesos (just over $1) a ride. He too wanted more. He beamingly asked, “you want to see my star, Ho-el? Look, this one here,” he pointed at one of the millions of stars above us, “this one is mine”.

When in Rome, I thought to myself, and too claimed a distant plasma hanging in darkness.

Joe and Orlando struggled to maintain their composure, attempting to stave off laughter, before Orlando finally took pity on me as I laughed, confused and clearly ignorant of the context.

“No, Ho-el, that’s not your star.”

“It isn’t?,” I asked – still confused.

“No. You are a rich man. A white man. Your star will be bright. Like…” He searched the blackened sky carefully, stroking his chin, “like this one!” He pointed out what I thought might have been a close planet, and admittedly it looked very bright indeed. 

In truth, I wasn’t rich - not by Western standards anyway. I was dead broke. I had just finished university with a student loan and had yet to step foot into the working world. I didn’t have a cent to my name, but despite this fact, I was wealthier in that moment than they would ever be. To Orlando and Joe, as well as the other Haitians in that refugee camp, I represented the life they desperately wanted: a life of untold riches and opportunity. In their minds, I had made it; while in mine,

I didn’t even know what it was.

Truth was, I didn’t leave my comfortable life and sign up to live solo in a developing nation because I was confident in who I was. Au contraire, I left a life of comfort and material goods behind because I wanted to shake up the monotony of life in order that I might feel something, anything, that might orient me to a purpose.

I desperately wanted to trek across the linguistic, cultural and socio-economic wastelands that lay between us, and to somehow convince them that I wasn’t a fixed star to envy, but rather a traveler who’d lost his way. If they could have somehow put me through a spiritual x-ray, they would have seen past my skin and on to the state of my heart, which was neither familiar with fulfillment nor enveloped in confidence, but rather filled with an insatiable lust for belonging, direction and genuine significance.

And the hole which sat empty in the depths of my soul would never be filled by my own workings, even if I were to be rewarded with every last of Earth’s valuable treasures.

There’s this tale of a man in the Bible who is powerful. Rich. Influential. If the Haitians were looking for his star in the night sky, they may have selected the moon at its fullest.

We don’t know much about him, but the first thing we learn is how he enters the story: he runs. He’s racing after someone – a carpenter of humble origins who is at the center of a new rabbinical movement in AD 1st century. The object of the man’s attention is neither a Pharisee of popular influence, nor a Sadduccee of social class and power. It’s neither an Essene of strict and respected piety, nor a Zealot of any political value. Instead, the man of great power is running to catch up with a blue collared worker who holds nothing of traditional value, and yet the only thing the man has yet to acquire:

A life worth living.

At this point in the story, the carpenter rabbi – Yeshua – is setting out on a journey, leaving behind what we can only assume is the rich man’s homeland. The rich man must have heard about the crowds that had gathered to hear Yeshua’s preaching and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with the man that had been ruffling the feathers of those who held the traditional understanding of worth and purpose in their talons.

The man catches up with Yeshua. He let’s his knees fall to the ground in front of the rabbi. The man of wealth and success now kneels before Yeshua of humble origins, allowing his own tunic to be ripped and sullied by the Jordanian dirt and rocks. He begins his dialogue in this way:

 “Good teacher! What must I do, to live forever?”

The wandering rebel ignores his question, choosing instead a series of his own,

“Why are you asking me? You know the old code. You can read for yourself in the texts how to live a good and moral life.”

The successful man stands to his feet and faces Yeshua, “but sir, I’ve followed the old code all my life. I’ve never broken any of the laws – I do what is right and just.”

The Bible says, then Yeshua looked at him and felt a deep love for him. Perhaps he even felt sorry for him. Here was this rich, young ruler who wanted desperately to follow the right way – the good way. He had built his kingdom, not by cheating or manipulating his way to the top, but by his own merit. He was successful, and he was respected – indeed we find out later how he had won over the admiration of the 12 Apostles of Yeshua.

But Yeshua doesn’t see a rich, young ruler who rightly follows the old code – he sees a conflicted soul, torn between the identity he has attached to his own wealth and power, and the desire to have the life that Yeshua offers – one of freedom and transformation. Yeshua senses the conflict within him and puts the reality into words: “if you want to enter my kingdom, you’ll need to give up yours”.

The story ends in disappointing fashion. The man goes away saddened by Yeshua’s words. He’s disheartened. He’s reached the apex of the social, religious and economic hierarchy and scanning from the summit he spots an even higher peak. He believed Yeshua to be his spiritual Sherpa – able to guide him on to the next peak. Instead, he’s haunted by the words of nomadic rabbi, which tell him not how to climb higher but that,

He may have been climbing the wrong mountain all along.

Yeshua concludes his exchange by saying “how hard is it for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Yikes.

How often have I been there myself?

I have chased hopes of career, hopes of financial gains, hopes of possessions, hopes of opportunities, hopes of positive recognition…and perhaps the greatest disappointment is when I see those hopes come to fruition, because I see them for what they are : not stars in the distant sky, but shadows and dust upon which no foundation can ever be built.

The illusion is revealed.

As English playwright William Congreve puts it,

Having only that one hope, the accomplishment of it, of consequence, must put an end to all my hopes; and what a wretch is he who must survive his hopes! Nothing remains when that day comes, but to sit down and weep like Alexander, when he wanted other worlds to conquer.

Our heart is designed from the time it takes its first beat, to crave significance and seek fulfillment – we need not fight against this design, but rather to recognize the reason for its existence. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to feed the hungry, house the orphans, comfort the widows, aid the poor and expel the darkness. We are called to live a Gospel life – one of continual transformation at the feet of the cross – where we humble ourselves and surrender that which is in between us and the daily immersion into Kingdom of God. We are called to shake the dust off our hearts, now fallen asleep, and to open our eyes to reality that we may have wandered far from home.

We as a people do not hope in ourselves and thank goodness we do not. To hope in our own stars would be to enter into a process which inevitably leads to disappointment and want. Instead we hope in Jesus - the one who gives not as the world gives, but so that we may have life and have it to its fullest (Gospel of John). He is our hope, our salvation, our purpose and he invites us to enter into the renewal of all things, to bring our gifts and our shortcomings alike, so that the Gospel can awaken those who are dead and dying inside and bring about new life.

But we act as the gatekeeper of our heart and we are daily faced with the decision of what foreign desire we’ll allow in. Is it a desire to build our own kingdom? Or to enter into His?

May we as a people, look not to the stars for what they hold over our lives, but to the One who breathed both our lives and the stars into existence. It is by first adopting this perspective that we will come to understand that we are his offspring, his children, and in him we live and move and have our being.

When the Light Breaks

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"Man must first cry out that he sees no hope; In this disturbance, salvation begins. When man believes himself to be utterly lost, the light breaks." 
- Martin Luther, 16th century

The thunder cracked, and the skies opened, which caused a great shock to the man’s soul – as if it were as fragile as an egg, with the yolk of security, courage and independence dripping onto the fresh soil – now covered in a new way of being.

It was both the death and the birth of a man, then acting in concert, as if a symphony of divine music were playing the opposing chords of the heart, forever changed.

It was July 2nd in the year 1505 and Martin Luder, a German law student of University of Erfurt was traveling home from a recent visit with his parents. He had been wavering about his future for some time, but this was a guarded secret from his father, a wealthy copper smelter and an influential man in his own right – having no time for anything but his endless pursuit of Fortune –

Regardless of where she may lead him.

He had plans for Martin to become a lawyer, so that he could help the family business in its re-occurring legal tensions with rival enterprises.

But on that night, the night of July 2nd, Martin’s life trajectory shifted like a tectonic plate rising vertically out of the deep waters of expectancy and regularity, neither foreseen nor sought after.

It came in the form of a tempest, a gale, a storm. 

And it seemed to pick up out of nowhere as this medieval law student struggled to keep his wits about him on a cobblestone road in central Germany.

Martin would later say that the terrifying lightning strikes, and crippling air pressure which pinned him to the ground, were the work of a God himself, intercepting him on the road home. Whether a natural or supernatural experience, one thing was certain:

Martin’s life would never be the same. 

In fear and trembling, he cried out to the maestro of this terrifying orchestra, pleading with God to save his life. In return, Martin bartered, he would leave law school and becoming a monk – somewhat unthinkable in the context of the Luder family, who were neither religious, nor interested in anything that the monastic life represented.

Martin had little understanding of God, beyond the idea that his gamble seemed to have paid off – as he was able to escape the storm, alive and unharmed. But now what? He was faced with a life of serving a God he knew virtually nothing about. In fact, the only understanding of God that Martin would have come to inherit from the clergy of his day would have looked quite different from the God that is worshipped in Canadian churches in the 21st century. Gott (God in German) in the eyes of this litigator-turned-monk was something of a maleficent character, taking little interest in His creations beyond judging them for their wretched nature. Gott was often angry, whose wrath could only be appeased by endless confessions to representatives of the papal hierarchy, sequences of preordained prayers and the purchasing of indulgences.

As a result, Martin felt stuck in a system of servitude to this Gott; and yet like he was simultaneously careening off the cliff of control and into the abyss of depression and anxiety about life and the afterlife. The worst of both worlds. One contemporary of Martin noted that while it was not unusual to see someone in angst about their religious position, given the religious atmosphere of the day, it was striking to see how the monk was able to confess for hours on end, trembling at the thought of omitting to mention even the smallest of transgressions to his vicar. 

In short, Gott was terrifying.

Like many both within and outside of the Church at the time, he had simply adopted the status quo of what it meant to be a member of the Church body. Transformation, deliverance, restoration and even the Gospel itself would have meant virtually nothing to someone filtering their understanding of the role of Church through their Medieval lens. Its as if the original ethos – the overarching narrative, including the guiding beliefs and purpose – had simply been forgotten or pushed aside to make room for a collective of men who built the Medieval Church in its stead.

The Christian ethos was dead long before Martin was ever born.

As such, Martin’s very real struggles with anxiety and depression over this life and the next, were the results of a framework of corruption and perversion of the Church, which could offer nothing of value to the deeper questions of where did we come from, where are we going, and what is our story as the Body of Christ. The idea of purpose, direction and context within the complexities of life seemed like looking into a dimly lit room and searching for discernment, instead finding disorientation, disconnection and trepidation.

Simply put, Martin did not understand his place in the Gospel, since (even as monk) he did not know of the Gospel.

His dilemma at first was that he had never read the Scriptures – something of a guarded text, housed within the ivory towers of the powerful who would bend and manipulate portions of Scripture to justify their personal agendas. But upon attending the University of Wittenberg to obtain a degree in Biblical Studies, Martin began to discover that Gott was not God, and the Church of the 16th century was quite unlike the Body of Christ found within the Word of God – moving, emancipating, renewing. It was here that Martin Luder changed his family name to Luther to identify with the Greek eleutheros, or as we would now say:

Freed.

Imagine the sheer ecstasy of knowing that you were not the object of Gott’s wrath, a wretched creature of unlovable nature – but rather a beloved, a betrothed, an adopted child of a King. No longer fettered by shame, nor chained by darkness. No longer bound by fear, nor shackled by sin. Freed.

Like Sha'ul who changed his name to Paulus 1500 years prior and went on to launch the early Church into its purposed glory, this transformation of character within Martin demanded a new identity.

Martin no longer served a man-made den of thieves, eager to line their religious cloaks with the pauper’s coins. Instead, he served a man-making God, who desired to nothing other than the pauper’s heart. No longer did Martin see a Gott who desired to judge the world in their sin, but rather a God to save them from it.

And that would be his point of no return.

Once Martin understood his ethos – that he was a part of something much greater than himself and that this something was the moving, breathing power of the unstoppable Gospel – he knew two things: 

One: He was in.

Two: He needed to tell everyone about it, whatever the cost.

And it nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion, as the keepers of the perverse tradition of Gott would stop at nothing to maintain the reigns on the uneducated and poor.  Injecting the life-giving nature of the Gospel into the spiritual death and decay of the populous meant the certain death of Gott – and by extension, the death of the 16th Century Church. As such, one does not need to search very far in either his imagination nor in the annals of history to comprehend just how desperately the Church wanted to silence and destroy the monk who threatened to end them.

And here, Martin made his stand. He’s been called the most influential figure of both the Medieval and Enlightenment eras, because he is largely responsible for collapsing the former to make way for the latter. That of course was never his intent, but I think it speaks to the power of the Gospel to burst the wineskins of old and corrupt ways, to make way for the new, life-giving potations of freedom and justice.

And yet, he was a man who was crass and offensive, prideful and bitter, and went through a period when he struggled with his own religious prejudices. He was, in short, merely man – and man can err. But he was a man who, through the enlightenment of Scripture, found and re-launched the Gospel Movement in his era and recognized that his life meant nothing outside of that context. 

But that context, what we call the Gospel, begins with the Gospel Originator – Jesus Christ. The first time the words of Jesus hit the ears of the people in his day, a crowd packed into a Jewish synagogue in AD 1st Century, they concluded what so many of us now tend to forget:

The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law…  Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” (Gospel of Mark)

The people of his day picked up on something striking: the words that have left the mouth of whomever this is, are not like words we have

Ever.

Heard.

Before.

This isn’t another religious sect. Or another philosophy. It’s a not a means to control nor an attempt to establish a theocratic rule. Its partially what makes me cringe when I hear Jesus lumped in with the major religions.

These are new words.

This is freedom. And freedom from.

But when we consider that lens – that we are not simply church-goers or small-group attenders, but bringers of these new words of freedom – of eleutheros – do we hear our own voices in that? Do those words sound like the words that leave our mouths? Or do we sound like the same resounding gongs and clanging symbols of the world around us, apathetic, cynical, desperate to fit in and yet spiritually disconnected?

We have a choice before us. We can adopt that which we have allegedly entered into – a people chosen for a purpose – or we can keep the status quo, hope for a hedonistic outcome to our lives and pray that no one engages us. It sounds simple. But how many of us choose the former over the latter?

Friends, if we don’t where we’ve come from, where we’re going and what in God’s name we’re doing here, then as author John Eldredge puts it, we’re disoriented times zero, unaware of our surroundings and unable to allow for transformation to take place in ourselves or to invite anyone else into that process.

And yet we find ourselves in the interesting position of inheriting the freedom that was fought for and paid for by the blood of martyrs and the sacrifices of the saints that came before us, only to turn and accept with open arms the very things that fettered the Medieval Church: ignorance and apathy.

We’re becoming a Church that is perniciously willing to allow perversions of the Gospel to enter the Church, happily adopting ideas, philosophies and habits which are at best a distraction and at worst, heresy. Worse still, the decisions made are often done not in the name of conviction, but rather in appeasing the applecart – keeping the spotlight of negative opinion away from us and on to someone else. The problem isn’t so much that we have malintent, but rather that we don’t even realize what is happening. Like a rescue diver who has hit the water at great speed and found himself disoriented in the pulls and tugs of the ocean current, we can no longer see which way is up, and therefore cannot tell right from wrong, good from bad, freed from enslaved, Gospel from something other entirely. 

And consequently, we stray from the Movement.

The Gospel offends. It is raw. It is untamed. It is the rescuing power of Jesus Christ, the one chosen to free us from the ugliest versions of ourselves – our addictions, our pains, our anxieties, our sins. The Gospel comes to claim, and claim boldly, the lives of those once discarded and deemed worthless, to bring those lives into the fold of the Body of Christ and to make them sons and daughters of the King. Witnesses of the message that saves. Slaves to forgiveness and love. Bringers of peace and proclaimers of truth. Defenders of the orphans and widows.

Sounds great. But the truth is, we will never be characters in a narrative in which we’ve not entered. And we will never enter a story for which the author is unknown. Our ethos is who we are as a people, as a chosen Body to bring the fire to those kept in the cold. It’s an understanding, a mindset, a wardrobe to another world.

But that process starts the way it has always done: from the manger of humility. It starts in a place where we as the Church can admit to ourselves that we have become mistrustful and disinterested, and placed the things of this world above the Gospel. When we can admit that we’ve lost our way. That we are without hope of saving ourselves.

If we can get to that place, a place of openness and humility, we will wake to the reality that something good is rising just over the horizon, the darkness is lifting, and the Gospel has come.

Here, and only here, the light breaks.

Live Unsettled

I often seek comfort. Whether putting on a warm coat on a cold day, upgrading the home furniture for something cozier, or simply removing myself from a stressful situation, my natural tendency is to find stability and grounding in a world that sometimes seems to spin too quickly. Sometimes I can find the world to be an unsettling place. Often, in fact. In my job, I am employed to step into chaos and redeem it – to bring it into a state of stability and calm – to rectify the situation. Many jobs, when you boil them down, are just that: mending broken situations. Settling the unsettled.

After all, that is what the Big Man upstairs wants for us all. Isn’t it? To feel comforted? Calmed? Settled?

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The Gospel Movement

The Gospel Movement

“You will read what’s on the paper”, he says to the young woman in front of him – in front of all the people sitting, watching. The young woman, in her twenties, smiles politely and responds in a voice that seems to trail off into the immense heights of the ancient cathedral, “I know. But I was just going to read this first.” She uses her index finger to indicate the crinkled, hand-written eulogy on the pulpit in front of her – a piece dedicated to her grandmother, a woman now passed after fighting years of Parkinson’s disease. The priest, dressed in a ceremonial gown of pure and undefiled white, moves in closer to the young woman, now sharing the same air that she breathes. His look intensifies as he slowly pronounces each word of his unwavering position, “you will read what is on the page”. The priest points to the binder of laminated biblical passages previously selected in a handful of meetings between clergy and family prior to the funeral. As she stares back at him, there is a short-lived but courageous moment of pure defiance in her eyes before she turns, defeated and humiliated, to read the verses. She now knows that the moments she spent pouring out her heart into the lines in front of her have all been for naught.  She takes a deep breath and takes a brief look at the audience of fellow mourners, before quickly returning her eyes to the words touching the priests rigid index finger.  

But the words do not come out...

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