Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: Sabbath

Dan Allender is one of my favorite writers and speakers. His talk at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit several years ago, The Intersection of Character and Leadership, was very formative for me. I also thought he sounded exactly like John Malkovich, which is cool. Soon after hearing his talk I picked up his classic book Bold Love, devouring it with sheer delight (and holy conviction).

Somehow his book Sabbath wound up on my bookshelf, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to read it until now. This is an excellent work, and in it Dr. Allender paints a compelling vision for the keeping the Sabbath not as a boring and burdensome day of religious practice and secular neglect, but as a day full of joy and goodness. It is a radically new (for me, at least) understanding of the Sabbath.

The question at the top of the back cover stopped me in my tracks: “What would you do for twenty-four hours if the only criteria were to pursue your deepest joy?” I had never thought of the Sabbath that way, and the very act of asking the question filled me with great fear and delight. Really? Could I really do that on the Sabbath? I thought I was supposed to be bored and useless on the seventh day? Can it really be a day full of joy, delight, and *gasp* sensuality?

The dominant image in my mind of the Sabbath is of taking a nap on the couch—which sounds pretty nice, actually. But to have permission to take a walk in the woods, to pursue photography, eat a sumptuous meal, drink wine, smoke a fine cigar, listen to beautiful music, enjoy the wonderful company of friends, and to have sex intimate times with my wife? No, not the Sabbath. Your heart’s not supposed to come alive on the Sabbath. It’s a time of fasting from life and enjoyment, not finding the fullness of eternal life on one sacred day each week.

But, according to Allender at least, I’ve been wrong about the Sabbath all my life. Look at his three basic premises of the Sabbath, and see if they don’t undo your own understanding of the seventh day:

The Sabbath is not merely a good idea; it is one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus did not abrogate, cancel, or annul the idea of the Sabbath. In the Ten Commandments, the fourth (Sabbath) is the bridge that takes us from the first three, which focus on God, to the final five, which concentrate on our relationships with others.

The Sabbath is a day of delight for humankind, animals, and the earth; it is not merely a pious day and it is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four-hour vacation.

The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God.

I strongly encourage you to read this book and contemplate how you can obey the fourth commandment, and in that obedience may you find rest, joy, and great delight.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Confirmation from God

At dia•spora, our ministry for young adults and young families, we do a Q&A session at the end of the service. The people who come to the gathering are really smart and ask great questions, so I'm really looking forward to not being on the panel eventually! Because they ask such good questions, we don't have time to get to them all. But we do try to follow up on our ministry blog with responses to all the unanswered questions. Here's one that I tried to answer.

"Are you against waiting on Gods confirmation to make a decision? I am not against stepping out in faith just because casting lots isn't the way to go anymore. But I absolutely respect people that are able s to sit, wait, and pray for God to make his will known."

I don’t think anybody would be against waiting on God’s confirmation to make a decision. The question is, How does that confirmation come about? In what form does God deliver his answer? Is it an audible voice, or perhaps a voice in your head? Scripture? Through friends? A miraculous sign? A word from the Lord through a pastor? A general sense or feeling?

There are some forms of confirmation that are more reliable than others, and the trick is learning to hear God’s voice through the static and noise of your own selfish desires and the conventional wisdom of our culture. I could tell you plenty of embarrassing stories of what I thought was God’s confirmation but turned out to be something entirely different. (Thankfully, I was never the guy that told a near stranger, “God told me to marry you.” But it happens, and, please, don’t be that guy.)

When you’re seeking God’s confirmation on a major decision in your life, here’s my advice:

1. Pray. Invite God into the decision making process. Ask him to bring clarity and wisdom.
2. Read the Bible and look for principles to guide your decision. But when you go to the Scriptures it’s very important that you be humble. Remember, you’re not Moses or David or Paul. But God’s principles that guided their life are the same principles that ought to guide yours.
3. Talk to people with more life experience than you. Chances are that someone else has been down this road before you, and they’ve got a great perspective to offer you. Who knows, maybe God will speak to you through the wise counsel of your elders.
4. Talk to your friends who know you well, and invite them to be brutally honest with you. Find people who will tell you the truth and tell them about the choice at hand. A good friend is someone who will tell you when you’re being ridiculous and who will encourage you when you’re being smart.
5. Use the wisdom that God has given you from the previous experiences of your life. Look back at the story God has been writing through your life, and let that be an element to consider how he might be continuing the story.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: God moves at his own pace. Be sure that you’re walking with him, not running ahead or lagging behind. And, given our culture, it’s likely that we’re trying to go faster than God is willing to move. So be patient. God’s going to go as fast as God’s going to go, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Remember, you’re not that important, and God dearly loves you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Noah's Ark

Some Chinese evangelicals claim to have found Noah's Ark. We've seen this sort of thing before, but these folks actually seem to have some evidence. Check out the video on ABC's site (and ignore they obvious condescending tone if it offends you) and see for yourself.

If this is Noah's Ark, what would that mean for your faith? Would you have a greater sense of trust in Scripture?

For me, I don't know that it would do much more than to bring a massive smile to my face. To be alive when a major element of biblical history is found is a very cool thing, and if this is Noah's Ark, then we are living in a special time. But as for my faith and my view of Scripture? I don't know that those would change much. Hard evidence never seems to do for faith what we always hope it will do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Stephen Hawking recently made a documentary in which he declares that aliens probably exist and it would be better for us if we didn't make contact with them. He says that there are 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars, creating the potential for an absurdly large amount of planets, some of which could be hospitable to life, even intelligent life. The odds, he says, are for it.

Growing up I was always afraid that, if aliens existed, that must mean that God couldn't. I'm not sure why those dots were connected in my mind, but I thought that the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe was a slam dunk case against the existence of God. It would certainly mean that humans aren't special, and if we're not special, then don't all of Jesus' claims fall apart? It's a slippery slope, you see.

I may be speaking from a position of ignorance (I'm not a scientist), but I thought the probability of evolution (from single-cell organisms to intelligent beings) was as close to mathematically impossible as you can get. Operating from that assumption, it occurred to me that the existence of intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, rather than being the final nail in the coffin of theism, would actually be the greatest proof that there is a Creator. Surely something mathematically impossible couldn't happen twice (or more) without outside intervention.

Of course this is all light-hearted speculation, but what if aliens showed up and, after learning to communicate with each other, we discovered that they have a tradition very much like our Jesus-tradition? What if their stories mirror our own? What if they told us of a God who Created everything and then, when it all went wrong, became one of the creatures in order to set everything right? Isn't that at least just as likely as them coming to blow us up and take all the resources of our planet?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cyrus Drumming

It's been a while since I've posted a video of my son drumming. Last night at dia•spora our good friend Garth captured this video on his iPhone. (I wish I had an iPhone.) While most of the young adults were eating pizza and chatting in the lobby, Cyrus decided to play the (very expensive) church drum set.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: The Blue Parakeet

The Blue Parakeet was one of those books that, as soon as I heard the title and what it was about it, I immediately wanted to read it. After all, what do blue parakeets have to do with reading the Bible? It piqued my curiosity.

Scot McKnight’s book does not disappointment, and will be a recommended resource, right alongside How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and Grasping God’s Word, every time I teach exegesis and hermeneutics. He has caused me to reconsider how I read the Bible, and how I should teach others to read it. I’ll comment on just two elements of the book, and leave the rest for you to discover on your own.

One of Dr. McKnight’s best insights is to see the whole Bible as a narrative—a Story. While I have believed this for a while myself, I don’t think I had connected the dots the same way that he had. I had always understood the Bible to be a collection of different genres of literature that, together, form the story of God’s process to redeem and restore creation. In the Blue Parakeet, Dr. McKnight shows that the Bible is, in fact, a single narrative (from a genre/literary type perspective) that contains other genres of literature as sub-genres. That is to say, the Bible is a story that uses poetry, proverbs, prophecies, laws, and apocalypses to move the plot forward. This is a subtle but important difference in the way we see the Bible as a unified whole.

The second comment I’d like to make is the way Dr. McKnight pulls back the curtain on the way that we (evangelicals or whomever) select which passages of Scripture to obey and those to which we say, “That was then, this is now.” He calls this process “discernment”. Though many of us claim to obey Scripture (or attempt to) fully, in reality we all make discernments about how and what to obey. After all, how many of us make certain to wear clothing woven of only one material?

His point is not to call us all disobedient idolaters, but rather to demonstrate that, intentionally or unintentionally, we all translate the Bible “in our day in our way.” We all say about something in the Bible, “that was then but this is now,” so let’s be honest about it and think more critically about how and with what we do this. It’s not a bad thing, he says, because even the characters of the Bible did this (e.g., Paul and Torah).

All in all, The Blue Parakeet was an eye-opening book on how we approach the Scriptures. I commend it to you as an excellent resource for anyone who wants to read the Bible better.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Introverted Spirituality: Doing and Being

As I continue to reflect on Adam McHugh's book Introverts in the Church, I find myself thinking about the ways in which introverts express their spirituality. All of us tend to live out our faith along a spectrum of doing and being. At one end of the spectrum are those who follow Jesus primarily in an action-oriented, activity-focused manner. They are the doers. At the other end of the spectrum are those who follow Jesus primarily in a contemplative, insight-focused way. They are the be-ers.

I call this a spectrum because most of us (if not all) are somewhere between the two extremes, and we move along the spectrum according to the seasons and rhythms of life. Sometimes we need to be doers, and other times we need to be be-ers. In general, extroverts tend to be doers, and introverts tend to be be-ers. (I have no empirical data to back up this claim. I'm making it simply on my own observations of people.)

As an introvert, I am much more comfortable on the being side of the spectrum. It's slower, quieter, and allows time for the internal processing that goes on inside me. There are seasons of life, however, that call me out of a state of being and to the faster-paced, more active lifestyle of doing. But I have to be aware that this is what's going on because I don't naturally move into that mode--and when I don't recognize it, I get overwhelmed, flustered, and just want to drop everything and leave it all behind. Knowing the transitions of seasons helps me to stay centered and persevere through the times of increased activity.

Extroverts, I imagine, would get bored and restless as the rhythms of life transition into a time of being. The stillness, slowness, and quiet of the being times would probably feel like anything but rest. God, no doubt, has orchestrated life to have these seasons and rhythms for very important reasons, and we would do well to understand what those are.

God may bring along a season of doing for introverts in order to pull them out of the limitations of their private world. If I had my own way, I would spend most of my time by myself reading or hiking through the mountains snapping photos. But as reviving as that is for me, to do it all the time severely limits how effective I will be for God's kingdom. I need to be called out of my life of contemplation and study in order to engage the world I have been called to live in and minister to.

For extroverts, God may bring a season of being so that they can slow down and reflect on God and themselves. The rhythm of being is an opportunity to more deeply contemplate what God is doing, why he is doing it, and how he wants you to learn and grow. This is a time of self-discovery, as well as the chance to quiet the noise of life and tune your ears to the voice of God.

Life is complicated, and it seems like it's changing all the time. A new season. A new rhythm. Greater expectations. Less responsibility. The ebb and tide of urgency. Consider where God has you on the spectrum of doing and being. If it's an unnatural place for you, ask God to open your eyes and prepare your heart to do or be the best you can during this season.

Nerd Stuff: Metanarrative

This is an article I posted on the Equipping Journal webpage of my church's site. I repost it here because I am a nerd, and if you are reading this, then you are probably a nerd, too.


Maybe you’ve heard the word “metanarrative” before. It’s a five dollar word that educated types like to throw around to make other people regret they didn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on a post-graduate degree. (And yes, I’m one of those guys. Sorry.) Metanarrative just means Big Story. It’s the Story behind and above the story. You might say the metanarrative of the Lord of the Rings is the triumph of Good over Evil in spite of human frailty and temptation to power. It’s not just about hobbits and elves and rings—it’s about you and me and the struggle between Good and Evil we find ourselves in every day.

The Bible has a metanarrative. There is a Story behind all the stories of the Bible—behind all the books and poems and laws and prophecies there lies a Big Story that holds them all together. The Big Story of the Bible is just like any other story. It has plot, characters, settings, moods—even occasional pyrotechnics! In order to see the metanarrative of the Bible you have to pull back so that you can see, as it were, the whole Scripture lying open in a scroll before you. When you see the whole Bible you find that the plot is this: Creation; Rebellion; Redemption Pursued; Redemption Accomplished; ReCreation.


“In the beginning, God.” That’s how the story starts. The first actor on the stage and the first one to speak is God. It all starts with him. He creates everything and calls it good. And then he creates humans and calls them very good. In the beginning, it’s all good.


Well, that didn’t last long. By the time you get to the third chapter of the Bible humans are screwing things up by rebelling against God. It’s not all good anymore. In fact, it’s very, very bad. Now that humans have sinned (which is basically rebelling against God), they have invited death into creation as a consequence. And it’s not long before brothers start killing each other. Things spiral quickly into chaos until God regrets creating humans in the first place, so he sends a catastrophic flood to start over with the only good family left on earth. But, of course, that doesn’t really solve anything, and it isn’t long before humanity is back on the same path it was pursuing before the flood.

Redemption Pursued

Then along comes this old fella named Abraham, and God decides that he’s going to undo everything that humanity has done through this guy and his descendants. Long story short, Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, whom God establishes through their great, triumphant exodus from slavery in Egypt. (By the way, the Exodus is the most important event in the Old Testament, so you would do well to study up on it.) God’s intention is to redeem the whole world from sin and death and evil through Israel. But you probably already know how this story ends—not good! Israel winds up becoming just as sinful as everyone else, so there’s no way that they can fulfill their role as the hope of the world. God’s going to have to do something else—something drastic.

Redemption Accomplished

Jesus. Because the people God chose to be the vehicle of redemption for mankind failed to live up to their end of the bargain, he decided to do it himself. So God sent his son Jesus to become a human. (I know you’ve heard that a million times, but think about it. Think about it again. God. Became. Human.) Jesus came and did what Israel had failed to do—keep their agreement with God. And the thing is, when God became human, we killed him. Jesus was crucified like a brigand or criminal. But then he rose again! He came back from death, and his resurrection is the victory over sin and death that we had been waiting for all this time! The redemption that God had promised would come way back when we first rebelled finally happened in Jesus’ death and resurrection.


But that’s not the end of the story, because now Jesus is busy making all things new—that means me and you. God is at work ReCreating the cosmos, and he’s starting with us humans, the people who sent everything into this downward spiral in the first place. Someday, when he decides the time is right, Jesus is going to come back and judge everyone, and that judgment will be the ultimate act of ReCreation, because when he has judged he will ReCreate everything—not just you and me but the heavens and the earth as well. (If you think our world is beautiful now, just wait until Jesus gets to work and Yosemite Valley is the least beautiful place on earth.) Then he will come down here and live with us for all eternity.

That’s the metanarrative of the Bible. The Big Story. All the little stories are just retellings of the Big Story (Scot McKnight calls them wiki-stories), and the Big Story is what holds them all together. And now it’s our turn. It’s our turn to find ourselves in the story (hint: we’re in the ReCreation part) and tell wiki-stories of the Big Story, and to live out the implications of the Big Story so that the world can know that there really is a Storyteller behind and above it all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spiritualizing Extroversion

I've been reflecting on Adam McHugh's book, Introverts in the Church, and the ways that we (Introverts & Extroverts alike) spiritualize and idealize our personalities. We make our own personality traits, and the spiritual gifts often associated with them, the norm or preferred method of expressing our faith.

For example, I've often found myself in church contexts that spiritualize extroversion. What I mean is that the gifts and skills normally associated with extroverts are held up as the paradigm of spiritual maturity. These gifts and skills are evangelism, mobilization, and networking. Along with the gift of preaching, these three gifts/skills are the primary lens through which evangelicals view spiritual maturity and the qualities they look for in "good" leaders.

If you can walk up to a total stranger and strike up a spiritual conversation with them, then you have engaged in evangelism and are spiritually mature. If you can mobilize a large number of people to a certain task, then you are a leader. If you have a large circle of friends and know how to network well, then you have a large sphere of influence and a good candidate for church leadership.

This paradigm needs to be challenged because it is far too narrow. Extroverts, like introverts, are limited, and their personalities and gifts are not the only (or even the best) qualifications for spiritual leadership. Confrontational evangelism can often do more harm than good. Sometimes people don't need to be mobilized, they just need to be heard. Being able to network is a good quality to have, but it can sometimes leave people feeling more like commodities than humans.

My point is not that extroverts are bad. Far from it! (I married one, after all.) Nor is my point that evangelism, mobilization, and networking are unnecessary. They are very important, and I'm convinced that I find myself in these contexts because I need to learn to do these things better. But they are not crucial for church leadership nor indicative of spiritual maturity. We have spiritualized extroversion and made the personality traits and natural gifts/skills of extroverts the paradigm for Christian leadership. There's nothing about 1 Timothy 3 that points to extroverts over introverts as ideal candidates for church leadership. We need to move beyond personality and gifting and see character as the true qualification for spiritual maturity.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Introverts in the Church

As an introvert, I've often felt pressure to change my personality type in order to belong to and grow in the evangelical church. As Adam McHugh points out in his book, Introverts in the Church, evangelicalism, like America itself, is an extroverted culture. From the social hour to the sermon, chatter is constant. In worship we move at a frenetic pace, but seldom give silence and reflection any time at all. We want our leaders and pastors to be gregarious, extroverted personalities that are most comfortable working the crowd, mingling and socializing with the masses. Our buzzwords are "relationship" and "conversation". We measure spirituality by the number of people we can influence and the amount of events in which we are involved. There is no place for the shy, quiet, reflective types. An overwhelming majority of us even believe Jesus was an extrovert! It's no wonder, then, that McHugh concludes, "in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a nonalcoholic cocktail party."

The book is filled with Adam's personal experiences as a college minister and hospital chaplain. So much of what he wrote about college ministry, particularly in regards to evangelism, resonated with me. Campus ministry, with its ubiquitous emphasis on evangelism (that is, walking up to people you don't know and talking to them about the deepest, most personal things in the world), can be a nightmare for introverts. I experienced this both as a student and as a staffer, and I can affirm that the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) message to introverts is: the path to spiritual growth, for you, lies in changing your personality. Extroversion, on campus and throughout evangelicalism today, is spiritualized.

Of course, extroverted spirituality is not the only viable spirituality. Introverts bring a spirituality that is much needed in this fast-paced, shallow, tweet-induced 140 character world we live in. Introverts prefer slowness and depth. We need to process internally rather than speaking our thoughts as they come to us. We are reflective and contemplative. We tend to listen well. The church, and for that matter the world, need both extroverted and introverted spirituality in order to thrive.

For any of you introverts who have been burned by an extroverted culture or church, please consider picking up this book. You will find in it the words of someone who understands. You will find a friend. And, I trust, you will begin to find some healing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I occasionally do some design work. I'm not saying it's good, I'm just saying I do it. But I found this video to be very inspiring.

Graphic Design: The Forgotten Web Standard - Slides in 3 Minutes from Carsonified on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nerd Stuff: Book Sale

This past Saturday morning I went to my very first book sale! While in seminary at Gordon-Conwell, my friends would often invite me to the Christian Book Distributors (CBD) book sale, but I was too lazy to ever go. But this past weekend I had no excuse except to sleep in, and since my kids wake me up at 3:00am and 6:00am every day, I'm now physically unable to sleep into the 7's.

This particular book sale was the bi-annual Augsburg Fortress Press sale where you can get hardcovers for $2 and softcovers for $1. That's right, you can purchase the N.T. Wright New Testament trilogy for a grand total of $3. I think I paid somewhere north of $100 for these books in seminary.

Needless to say, the book sale was epic. I bought 45 books for 50 dollars. Let me blog that again for emphasis, this time in all caps. I BOUGHT 45 BOOKS FOR 50 DOLLARS!! The treasures included:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Ethics ($2)
Walter Brueggemann | Theology of the Old Testament ($1)
E.P. Sanders | Paul & Palestinian Judaism ($1)
Robert Stewart | The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan & N.T. Wright in Debate ($1)
Richard Horsley | Jesus in Context ($1)
Brevard Childs | Old Testament Theology in Canonical Context ($1)

Yes, I realize that this makes me a huge nerd. But I'm okay with that. You can have my lunch money, just please don't take my books.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A True Parable

In my back yard there is a mighty birch tree, nearly 100 feet high and 20 feet around at the bottom. The top half is white as the snow, and it gleams like a bleached limestone obelisk against the cloudless blue sky. It's leaves are beautiful (though they haven't budded yet) and hung on to their lofty branches late into the autumn months. It is one of my favorite trees in all the world.

It stands not 20 feet from my house, and so it poses a danger to my family should it ever fall. But it's roots are strong, shooting straight into the ground like the steel and concrete anchors of a suspension bridge. It has survived, unscathed, the hurricane that struck Ohio two years ago, so I don't worry about it toppling from the wind.

But there is a grave danger, posed not by the massive height of the tree, but from a humongous weed that has sprouted up not two yards from the giant birch. To nearly everyone, this huge weed appears to be a perfectly healthy tree. But it is not a tree. It is something else entirely. And it threatens the life of the tree and my family. You see, this disgusting, disease of a plant has shot its roots directly toward the beautiful birch, threatening to kill it from beneath the surface.

Though the weed is a mere shadow of the birch, it is life-threatening. It must be cut out, uprooted, before it turns the good tree into an instrument of death and destruction. The weed is itself a perversion of a plant, and it is trying to turn the birch into a perversion--an object not of beauty, grace, and majesty, but of chaos, danger, and death.

The weed has grown up in the shadow of the birch, unhindered and unchecked. It is often counted among the trees in the yard, though it is only an impostor. The weed must be killed. It must be fully removed. Its roots must be cut and untangled from the roots of the birch. It's branches must be hacked off and cut into tiny pieces. It's stump must be pulled from the ground. This is hard, tedious work, though the rewards in the end are worthwhile. When the weed is gone, the birch is free to grow to new heights, unthreatened by the strangling and perverting roots of the shadow tree.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday: The Confessing Thief

This darkness is, indeed, strong, for it has sucked into its vortex of betrayal and violence this innocent man lifted up on the cross between these two thieves. They were spreaders of the darkness. They were willing participants with the darkness. But Jesus? No. He was pure light.

What is he doing on a cross? Crosses are for those who create and spread darkness. How can he be here, nailed between two thieves, two criminals? How can the darkness snuff out the light? Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?

Maybe that’s why the mocking criminal was so cynical. If you are the King of the Jews, if you are God’s Messiah, then prove it by saving yourself. Pull the nails out of your hands and feet. Get down from that cross. Call on the angels of God to rescue you. And oh by the way, save me too. It’s all too easy to become cynical in the midst of such overwhelming darkness.

What do you expect, says the thief who makes the good confession. What do you expect when you choose to spread the darkness by breaking God’s commands? Did you think there would be no consequences? Did you think that his light would shine unhindered by all that darkness you’re throwing around? What did you think would happen when you sinned? How can you blame God for this darkness? He has not forgotten us. We have forgotten him.

Don’t you fear God? This man Jesus has done nothing wrong, and yet he’s in the same position as you and I. We deserve this cross because we have thrown darkness over the light. But he is the light! What’s happening to us is the work of justice. What’s happening to him is either a tremendous mistake or the most horrible evil that has ever been committed on the face of the earth.

We complain about the darkness that overwhelms us, but, even if in some small way, we all contribute to that darkness. We all sin. We all do wrong to each other. But Jesus? He never sinned. He never did any one any wrong. And yet the darkness consumed him. He was pure light, but still the darkness covered him as he died there, suffocating on a roman cross.

We push all of the blame onto God, as though he were some cosmic, supernatural janitor we hired to clean up all of our metaphysical messes. We complain that he has forgotten his duty of wiping our noses and cleaning up all the filth we have spread throughout the house. This darkness is his fault, we say bitterly, and what has he done about it? What, indeed?

Has God forgotten? Has he turned his back? Has he abandoned us? Does he not remember? Where have you gone, God? Where are you, God, when even your most innocent of servants succumbs to the power of the darkness and is tortured to death on a cross? Could you not even save your Chosen One? Where have you gone, O God?

I am here. Next to you, on this cross, this ancient gallows. Do you think that I have forgotten you? How can I forget you when I am being crucified right next to you? I suffer with you. I suffer for you. You bear the burden placed upon you by justice. I bear the burden placed upon me by mercy.

I have come, not to succumb to the darkness, but to subdue it, and break it, once and for all. Oh you may not understand now, but it’s only Friday. It’s only Friday, and Sunday is just a day away.

So we say, yes, be angry, but know that there is a place for your anger, and that place is here, at the cross. If you want to shout at God because of all this darkness, go ahead. But know that the one to whom you raise your voice is the one who is raised up on the cross and killed. You are not shouting into the air. You are shouting at a man, bloodied and beaten, mocked and betrayed, pierced and tortured, nailed to the Roman instrument of capital punishment. Know that your God knows, intimately, this darkness that plagues us all.

No, God has not forgotten. We commemorate tonight his very act of remembering the messes of darkness we have got ourselves into. He has remembered us.

And so the confessing thief turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Remember me. Remember me, Jesus. When you finally become king, Jesus, remember me. What an interesting thing to say to a man on a cross.

Our cry is the same as that of the poor, dying criminal. Remember me, Jesus! When darkness has surrounded me, O Jesus, remember me! Don’t forget about me. Don’t look past me. I’m still here. I’m still hanging on. When you come into your kingdom, remember me.

God has not forgotten you. We remember the cross tonight, that horrible place of death where God remembered you. He has not forgotten. He has not turned away. Jesus remembers you.