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Productive Pastor Interview: Ministry, Productivity, and Kids

The Productive Pastor Podcast is a ministry of Chad Brooks | revchadbrooks.com

The Productive Pastor Podcast in a ministry of Chad Brooks | revchadbrooks.com

I had an awesome chance to do a live video interview with my good friend and fellow pastor Chad Brooks yesterday for The Productive Pastor Podcast. We talked about productivity in ministry as a parent, and the unique blessings and challenges kids bring to both. This was the first live video interview Productive Pastor has done, and we had a small technical glitch at the beginning. Stick around, though, for a great discussion about what it means to be a parent in ministry, and how we can be both parents and productive.

The video is up on YouTube if you would like to check it out. Or you can view it below. Also, be sure to check out the The Productive Pastor Podcast on the web or iTunes and leave a rating to help keep this valuable ministry resource visible and accessible.

 

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Around the Web: May 23, 2014

around-the-web

I admit that I have been slacking off with regard to my blog these last couple of weeks. Life has gotten very busy, and while I’ve started some posts, I haven’t found the internal fortitude to finish them. That should all clear up soon, so stick with me.

In the meantime, and as further evidence of my slacking, here are the posts from last week’s reading that I never got around to posting. Enjoy!

Church
OnFaith (FaithStreet.com): You May Be Going to Heaven, But You Won’t Be Staying There
CNN Belief Blog: New clues cast doubt on ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’

United Methodist Church
Dr. Tim Tennent: Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy, The Fundamental Divide in the United Methodist Church

Community
USA Today: Beautiful Kentucky

Life
YouTube: Look Up (video)

Fun
TastefullyOffensive: Dogs Annoying Cats With Their Friendship (video)
22Words: IT guy denies knowing what photocopiers are in hilarious (and real) courtroom exchange (video)

Geek
ShortList: Books that Predicted the Future
Gozmodo: This is the best gift any man (or woman) can have

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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Review of The Contemplative Pastor

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993)

I’ve been meaning to read The Contemplative Pastor for quite some time. It has been recommended to me several times over the years by friends and colleagues that I trust. But like all things that come highly recommended, a person has to decide for oneself whether or not to take the plunge and see what all the hype is about.

After receiving yet another recommendation for the book this January, I finally decided to pick up a copy for kindle. Was it equal to the hype? Well, yes and no.

If you are of a certain personality or mindset, the poetic language of Peterson’s work will no doubt draw you into his story and speak to your soul. Though I enjoy poetry and am a creative professional, I have always struggled with poetic language in pros. So in some ways, it made the book a little bit less accessible to me. It wasn’t an easy read.

On the other hand, that may have been Peterson’s point. The language forced me to slow down, to think through what is being said, to – in essence – become contemplative.

When I think of a book that I would classify as “awesome” I typically think of something I can’t put down, a real page turner. Peterson’s book required multiple sittings for me. I had to put it down, so that I could think about what I had just read. Some parts of it frustrated me, while others spoke deeply to my soul.

The Contemplative Pastor is not the kind of book that I can jump up and down, waving my arms enthusiastically about. It is not the sort of book I can recommend to every casual reader that I meet. But it is precisely the sort of book I needed to read as a pastor, and for those who are seeking to live deeper spiritual lives of service – I can’t recommend it highly enough! You don’t have to be a pastor to gain from this work.

In the first part of the book, Peterson attempts to redefine the role of the pastor. This role has changed drastically in the last hundred years. Pastors are now, more than ever, expected to ‘be all things to all people’. They are preachers, counselors, wedding planners, event coordinators, coaches, theologians, building supervisors, chaplains, personnel managers, and friends, just to name a few. Peterson argues that, while none of these things are bad, the pastor is called to a specific set of roles (not jobs, but identities) that must be made primary for the pastor to fulfill his or her responsibilities.

Peterson suggests that the pastor’s role in the community of faith is, first and foremost, to be: 1) unbusy, 2) subversive, and 3) apocalyptic. And he goes on to explain quite convincingly what these mean and why pastors who allow all of the other necessities of the job to interfere with these three are in danger of burnout, frustration, and failure.

In the second part of the book, Peterson turns to the work and life of the pastor between Sundays; what he calls ordinary ministry. It is what I have previously referred to as ministry in the everyday. In this section, he talks about the importance of remembering our call to “cure souls”, becoming attentive in prayer, and learning to discern what is going on in the deeper recesses of people’s souls, looking past what displays on the surface, and recognizing the realities of everyday life that people face.

Peterson goes on to speak frankly about the reality of spiritual growth, the importance of “small talk” (i.e., living together in authentic relationships daily), and the new way in which modern people are “unwell”. He also takes this opportunity to reflect on his sabbatical year, which prompted this book, talking about the deep trust that was built up between him and his congregation during that time, and the fruits that have arisen from it.

In the third part of the book, Peterson gives the reader a collection of his own poems for consideration. He says that poets and pastors have a lot in common, because of our careful use of words. He suggests that pastors become allies with poets, and in this final section, he demonstrates his kinship with poets through his own contemplative verse.

Altogether, The Contemplative Pastor is a good read that I highly recommend for pastors, church leaders, or anyone who seeks to live a deeply spiritual life of service. It may frustrate or confuse you at times, but it will most definitely stretch you, nourish your soul, and give you incredible food for thought.

Pick up a copy today and get to reading…

 

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John Wesley on the Nature of Repentance

wesleyan-wednesdays

Repentance isn’t a word that is often used outside of the church. It carries little to no meaning for those who aren’t familiar with the ‘insider’ language of sermons and worship songs.

Come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I sang a worship song that spoke of repenting, nor do I remember recently hearing a sermon calling people to repentance.

I will be the first to admit that this word is, in some ways, a very ugly one. It carries with it some significant baggage. I have heard this word used to shame, ridicule, and even frighten people into adherence to certain moral behaviors.  Used in this way, repentance primarily means to admit that one is wrong. ‘Admit it, you’re a sinner!’

More often, I have heard it used interchangeably with “saying sorry”, as though to repent means simply to say we are sorry and to God ask ask forgiveness.

In seminary, a new twist to the word ‘repentance’ was offered up to us. To repent, so I was told, means to make a 180 degree turn; to face the opposite way; to change direction from moving away from God to moving toward him.

I’ll admit, I sort of like the last one, and I think it carries some significant weight. But I’ll also admit that I have lived much of my life under the first two definitions of admitting that I am a sinner and saying sorry for it. I think this is where most people fall when they hear the dreaded word repent.

This word has definitely fallen out of use. This is, at least in part, because of all the baggage mentioned above. But there is more to it than this.

Repentance has fallen out of common use both inside and outside the church, because it is linked so closely with sinfulness. And let’s face it, non-Christians do not like to be called sinners, and Christians do not like to be reminded of their sins.

I think the bigger problem, though, is in our common definitions of repentance as admission, saying sorry, and turning around. These definitions all miss a critical component, and one which I think speaks to our context in the 21st century as much as it did to John Wesley’s context in the 18th century.

In his sermon The Way to the Kingdom, Wesley identifies the steps toward becoming a citizen in God’s kingdom. He begins where the Biblical writers do, with repentance:

And first, repent, that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith, even conviction, or self-knowledge.1

We, in the West, live in societies which value self-knowledge above all other things. This is evident in our emphasis upon self-expression, newer self-guided education systems, our advice to young people to find themselves, and our national past-time of protecting and promoting the self-identification of individuals against the common masses.

John Wesley writes that repentance is true self-knowledge, in that it shows us, even before we have come to faith, just how corrupt and sinful we are.

Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou are very far gone from original righteousness…Know that thou are corrupted in every power, in every faculty of the soul, that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course.2

For Wesley, this is the essence of self-knowledge – it recognizes the depth of the disease called original sin, and understands how far the disease has spread into the life of the individual, expressing itself as both inward and outward sin.

Repentance brings the kind of self-awareness that goes farther than identifying moral failures. It shines a spotlight on the soul-corruption that manifests as moral failures, broken relationships, pride, shame, self-hatred, and, somewhat ironically, self-centeredness.

Repentance is an ugly word, because its very meaning is to recognize one’s own inability to do what is good and pleasing to God, or to turn aside his wrath, which we have duly earned.

But there is Good News on the other side of repentance. Even as we come to a true self-knowledge and see our own sin, God steps in to show us his mercy and love.

‘The gospel’ (that is, good tidings, good news for the guilty, helpless sinners) in the largest sense of the word means the whole revelation made to men by Jesus Christ; and sometimes the whole account of what our Lord did and suffered while he tabernacled among men. The substance of all is, ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners;’3 or, ‘God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that we might not perish, but have everlasting life;’4 or, ‘He was bruised for our transgressions, he was wounded for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.’5  6

Once we recognize the depth of our need – when we really know ourselves (repent)- only then can we turn to God in faith, through Jesus Christ, and be healed.

Repentance doesn’t have to be the dirty, taboo church word that nobody wants to hear. In its fullest definition, it brings hope to the hopeless and freedom for those enslaved to guilt and shame. Only when we repent, seeing clearly the depth of our sin and helplessness, can we truly turn to God in faith, knowing that he has already reached into our darkness through Jesus and the cross.

But we should also understand this to mean that, while repentance may precede faith, it should not end with it. As Christians, steadily growing in God’s grace, we would do well to begin living into a pattern of repentant living.

Repentant living doesn’t mean living in fear of God, constantly admitting guilt, or saying sorry with every other breath. NO! You have been freed from those through faith in Jesus!

Repentant living means truly knowing yourself; recognizing your wounded brokenness, your proclivities toward sin, and even the inward and outward sins you still commit, and continually offering those up to God our Saviour, who is the only one who can rescue us from all these, and has already done so, if we only believe.

 

 

  1. John Welsey, Works (BE), 1:225. Emphasis mine. []
  2. John Wesley, Works (BE), 1:225 []
  3. Cf. 1 Tim. 1:15 []
  4. Cf. John 3:16 []
  5. Cf. Isa. 53:5 []
  6. Wesley, Works (BE), 1:229 []
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Around the Web: May 2, 2014

around-the-web

Church
Set Apart in Christ: What difference does belief in the Trinity make?

Pastoring & Leadership
Dan Reiland: A Leader’s Identity

United Methodist Church
David F. Watson: The Social Justice Issue the UMC Doesn’t Want to Deal With

Community
AffectiveLiving: What Students Really Need to Hear

Life
LifeHacker: The Best (and Quickest) Ways to Thaw Frozen Food

Fun
HackingChristianity: Order of Worship for #StarWars Sunday, May the Fourth Be With You

Geek
Vocativ: Saliva as Fuel? It’s Not Just Science Fiction
YouTube: Duck Tales Theme Song as a SlowJam (video)

 

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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The Core Doctrines of Methodism

wesleyan-wednesdays

John Wesley is often referred to as a Folk Theologian, because he never took the time to systematize his thought. This is not to say that he was incapable of such a feat – we remember that he was a distinguished graduate of Oxford – but that he never saw occasion to make this a priority.

I prefer to think that Wesley’s concern was rightly directed elsewhere, because his primary concern was for the people under his care. This led to theological discourses ‘as needed’ to address the concerns of the Methodists.

His preferred mode of conveying theology was through sermons and the Hymns, though he was also known to write letters and treatises to address specific theological critiques or controversies.

One might assume that this ‘occasional’ approach to theological discourse would produce an inconsistent (maybe even incoherent) theology, but with Wesley we find (mostly) the opposite. As a Pastoral Theologian, Wesley had in mind the needs of his people, but not just their temporary needs; even moreso, he had in mind their eternal needs. And this meant discussing regularly the grand narrative of God’s activity throughout history and humanity’s participation in God’s reality.

But he was also conscious of the tendency to focus too much attention on one thing or another, to the extent that others are neglected. And so, Wesley boiled down the theology of the church to three core doctrines, by which he believed the Methodists of his day would be know.

I have again and again, with all the plainness I could, declared what our constant doctrines are, whereby we are ‘distinguished’—only from heathens, or nominal Christians, not from any that worship God in spirit and in truth. Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third is religion itself.1

In Wesley’s mind, all other doctrines were related to these three. Focus on these and all other issues of faith – belief and action alike – would fall into place.

I wonder sometimes, as the United Methodist church engages in heated debate, whether we have forgotten these core doctrines as the key to our identity as a faithful expression of Jesus’ church?

When we focus only upon repentance and its related doctrines, we are left on the wrong side of the cross, not living fully into the resurrection promises of God and our new reality as his adopted sons and daughters.

When we focus only on faith, without an understanding of sin and transformation or a theology of God’s Kingdom, the question quickly becomes, in what is our faith placed and what imperatives does a true faith place on our lives?

When we focus only on holiness, we run the risk of forgetting from where we have come as sinful people, how we have been set free through Jesus Christ, and that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and able to love as God loves.

What if we were to return to a holistic theology, which begins with these core doctrines, then branches out? What would our ‘holy conferencing’ look like then?

 

  1. 1. Wesley, Works (BE), 9:226-27. []
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Around the Web: April 25, 2014

around-the-web

Church
The Atlantic (HT to Seedbed): The Pope in the Attic, Benedict in the Time of Francis

Pastoring & Leadership
Scott Postma: 10 Pastors I’m Concerned About
Thom Rainer: Ten Trends on the Employment of Pastors
CNN: Pope Francis washes the feet of disabled people as part of Easter celebrations (video)
Carey Nieuwhof: 7 Ways Communicators Kill Their Messages (And How to Avoid The Traps)

United Methodist Church
UMR: Wesleyan Wisdom, It’s time to make a change in appointment making

Community
TalkingPointsMemo: Princeton Study, U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Life
WooHome: 23 Genius Food Hacks Will Change Your Cooking Ways

Fun
22Words: Magician shocks talent show judges with numerous birds out of nowhere…and more (video)

Geek
EliteDaily: Photographer Uses ‘Star Wars’ Figurines to Depict a Day in the Life of a Storm Trooper
- Yes, I realize they are Clone Troopers. I didn’t make the title =)

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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John Wesley on the Natural (Fallen) State of Humanity

wesleyan-wednesdays

I am currently writing on Wesley’s doctrine of humanity. His theology is firmly grounded in a traditional understanding of original sin, and his words concerning the natural state of humanity (apart from Christ) ring as true today as they did in the 18th century.

Sermon #44, ‘Original Sin’

The Scripture avers that ‘by one man’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners’; that ‘in Adam all died’, spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then ‘begot a son in his own likeness’; nor was it possible he should beget him in any other, for ‘who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ That consequently we, as well as other men, ‘were by nature’ ‘dead in trespasses and sins, ‘without hope, without God in the world’, and therefore ‘children of wrath’; that every man may say ‘I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me;’ that ‘there is no difference, in that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,’ of that glorious image of God wherein man was originally created.

Going on to show that natural religion cannot bring us to a true knowledge of God, Wesley paints a portrait of fallen humanity.

  1. And having no knowledge, we can have no love of God.
  2. We have by nature not only no love, but no fear of God.
  3. Thus are all men ‘atheists in the world’.

With the result that “We ‘have set up our idols in our heart’; and to these we bow down, and worship them. We worship ourselves when we pay that honour to ourselves which is due to God only.”

Wesley’s aim in presenting the state of natural humanity is simple and clear. In order to know which cure is needed, one must first understand the disease.  And what is the cure?

Ye were born in sin; therefore ‘ye must be born again’, ‘born of God’. By nature ye are wholly corrupted; by grace ye shall be wholly renewed. ‘In Adam ye all died;’ in the second Adam, ‘in Christ, ye all are made alive.’ You ‘that were dead in sins hath he quickened’.

And here you will notice that Wesley is speaking, not to heathens or the lost, but to those who profess the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the church. And his exhortation to them still stands today:

He hath already given you a principle of life, even ‘faith in him who loved you, and gave himself for you‘! Now ‘go on’ ‘from faith to faith’, until your whole sickness be healed, and all that ‘mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’!

 

 

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Ministry in the Everyday

royal-priesthood

Those of you who know me also know that I tend to wander into some really unusual conversations, often with strangers, but just as often with people I see on a regular basis, but who might not be part of my friendship circle.

I don’t know if I have one of those faces that says ‘tell me all your deepest secrets’, or if I just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, when people need to unload. Either way, I’ve heard my fair share of confessionals over the years and, as a result, have had numerous opportunities to decide how I will respond to people who are wrestling with everyday hurts, fears, joys, struggles, illnesses, regrets, and triumphs.

Though I am ashamed of it, I will admit there was a time when I would hear someone share their deep needs with me, and all I could think about was how I was going to end the dreary conversation. I would promise to pray about a situation, and then promptly forget to do so. I would wonder why that person was involving me in their problems, and whether or not they had anyone else to talk to.

I have always been empathetic. I feel the pain of others. For the longest time I thought this was a liability, and it was one of the reasons I dreaded these types of conversations. I may not have been invested in the lives of those others, but I would certainly hold on to their pain, for a little while at least. It wasn’t until a few years ago that something changed in the way I viewed these interruptions in my day.

About 11 years ago, I began to consciously seek after God more fully. I had been a Christian for most of my life by that point, but I was still living, in a very real sense, as an ‘almost Christian’. God was important to me, but more out of a sense of duty than joy, my relationship with him more fear than love.

The whole story is too long for this post, so suffice it to say that, as I began to inquire into his desires for my life, God began to change my heart. Slowly, sometimes painfully, God showed me glimpses of who I was, and, against that, who he had created me to be.

As I began to face the hard truth about myself, God did something amazing. He began to break my heart for his people, and suddenly those interruptions from people unloading on me and that despised empathy that forced me to identify with their pain became opportunities to share the love of God and a mere glimpse of the empathy God has for those who are living apart from his grace.

 

The Priesthood of All Believers

The Bible has a lot to say about what our relationships with others should look like. I think most people would agree that it is better to live at peace with neighbors, to help one another when the need arises, and to work together to achieve common goals. Those things are all well and good, but they are not the Biblical notion of what relationships should look like.

Jesus modeled for us a new way, the way of holy-love. This love doesn’t just seek to help others or to live at peace; it seeks to sacrifice for others and become peace-making.

This love commands us to lay down our lives for others, just as Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

This type of love sees the fear, the pain, and the regret that so many carry and offers up to the one suffering the grace and mercy and peace of Christ.

This type of love sees the joys and the triumphs of the everyday, and rejoices with the one rejoicing, because this is a glimpse of the hope that can be found only through the cross.

This type of love does not close itself off to pain, but welcomes it, because it is in the painful moments of life that we are most often given the opportunity to become mediators of God’s mercy. It is in these times that we have the best opportunity to become the royal priesthood of God.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says this:

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the whole order of things has been remade. The kingdom of God has begun to break into this world, and when we believe in Jesus (read: believe who he is and do what he says), we become active participants in the work of God.

But what does this work look like? It takes many forms, for sure, but the most consistent way that God has shown me that I can be a part of his Kingdom work is when I minister to others in the everyday.

When I stumble into the awkward conversations that I inevitably do, when people I barely know begin to confess their pain to me, when I see that a friend or family member is hurting, these are the moments when I can best ‘declare the praises of him to who called me out of darkness into his wonderful light.’

When we come to realize that ‘once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy,’ and when we recognize that we have become God’s ‘special possession’, all of these happenstance, everyday moments become instead, for us, divine appointments. These circumstances become a tremendous opportunity to minister in the everyday.

And so now, when people share with me, I pray for them immediately. I pray for them, knowing that they have a Heavenly Father who cares about their needs, who loves them so much that he sacrificed his own Son, so that they might have eternal life with him.

When possible, I walk with them in their darkness. This sometimes means getting my hands dirty, because God calls us to do more than pray, he also calls us to action.

When I see the ‘odd man out’, I approach with arms open, extending the grace that I have received, knowing full well that I might receive scorn or condemnation in return, but also knowing that anywhere I go, Jesus has already been and carried my load.

And though I sometimes fail, I try to remember that I am part of a royal priesthood, a special possession of God, having been invited by my Father into his household, to assist him with his Kingdom work.

Do you know that he has invited you too? I encourage you today to live into the grace that you have received and pass it on to others in the name of our Great High Priest, the suffering servant, Jesus Christ.


Original image: mjagiellicz at deviantart

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Abandonment Issues: Did God the Father Really Forsake Jesus on the Cross?

abandoment-issues

Today is the Friday before Easter. Known as Good Friday across the world, it is the day on which Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a cross by Roman centurions and died an agonizing death for the sake of the world.

For Christians, it is a time of great mourning, because this day reminds us that our evil inclinations expressed as sin are so deep, so expansive, that God sent his only Son to carry the burden of those sins for us.

It is also a time of great hope and rejoicing, because Jesus’ death and resurrection have purchased for us true freedom from guilt, shame, and captivity.

As I reflect on the events of that first Easter, I am continually brought back to Jesus’ final moments on the cross. The four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death share different aspects of what happened, as they also share different emphases to various audiences.

Mark’s Gospel gives us the following account of Jesus’ death:

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

I have heard many sermons and lectures about this passage over the years, and am still brought to tears with gratefulness to my Lord and Savior, Jesus, that he endured this shame for me.

Jesus’ Cry of Dereliction

In the last few years, I have also become very frustrated by interpretations of this passage that focus on Jesus’ words in verse 34: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” These words are famously known as the cry of dereliction, and they are the most profoundly important words that Jesus spoke on the cross.

I have heard many interpretations of these words, and many lean towards something like the following. That in Jesus’ greatest moment of shame and anguish, as he took the sins of the whole world upon himself as the sacrificial lamb, that he became so covered over with evil that God the Father could no longer look at his own Son and turned away from him.

If you doubt this interpretation’s prevalence, just listen to one of this generation’s most prominent praise songs about the passion, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, by Stuart Townsend (listen to it here):

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

This song will be sung in churches across America on Sunday. It is a beautiful song that seeks to capture the amazing love of God for humanity, even in the midst of our sin. It does an amazing job of this, but the theology is just plain wrong, and represents the prevailing view of the cry of dereliction as a cry of Jesus’ abandonment on the cross.

What Did Jesus Mean?

It is no surprise to those who read the Bible that Jesus’ words were a direct quote from the Old Testament, Psalm 22 to be precise. Jesus was counting on his followers to understand the reference and, by memory, recall the rest of the passage. I have included the entire Psalm at the end of this post for your reflection.

What does surprise me is how so many interpreters of Scripture know this, and yet seem to miss the point of Jesus quoting this Psalm.

The Psalm begins with a cry of anguish asking God why he is so far away, why he hasn’t heard the cries of the Psalmist, and why he hasn’t been delivered like Israel was when they put their trust in God.

It goes on to describe the very situation in which Jesus found himself. Being mocked by his persecutors, broken, near death, the Psalmist was mired in hopelessness. Why was God when he needed him the most?

Was God there? Did he really abandon the Psalmist, and what’s more, did he really abandon Jesus’ on the cross?

Many interpreters would have you believe this is so. What is to be gained from this? Most would say that it shows God’s holiness. Because God is holy – completely opposite of evil – that he cannot look upon sin. It is written in our catechisms. It is sung in our songs. It is recited by our children.

But our God is not afraid of evil. He is not concerned that it will affect him. In fact, our God is a God who acts in the midst of great evil and death to bring about holiness and life. If this were not so, how could he become incarnate as a man, live among evil men, and die upon a cross for them?

If God cannot look upon evil, then what hope is there for us while we are mired in our sins?

But, though our songs and sermons would say otherwise, we know from the Bible that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” demonstrating that God does not turn away from evil. Instead, he overcomes it!

The Rest of the Story

But what about the Psalm Jesus quoted? It sure sounds like he is indeed saying that God has abandoned him. Why all the discomfort with that interpretation?

I get frustrated with this because it shows that people have stopped reading before the end. They have missed the rest of the story.

After agonizing over the present situation in the first half of the poem, and crying out for God’s deliverance, the Psalmist abruptly changes course in his narrative. What began as a cry of dereliction becomes instead a declaration of faith in the mercy and might of the Living God.

Beginning with verse 22, the Psalm becomes a cry of victory and a promise that God’s mercy has prevailed.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

Look at verse 24. With this shift, we see that the Psalmist’s cry of verse 1 has been answered decisively. God has not turned his back on the afflicted Holy One. He has listened to his cry for help and has vindicated him!

When Jesus spoke verse one of Psalm 22 from the cross, it was with with the full knowledge that God had heard his cry, the cry of an innocent, and had already acted decisively on his behalf.

With one stroke, the enemies of God had been defeated on the cross; sin and death hold no more dominion over the earth. And as the Psalmist declared all the earth will remember this might act and will turn to the Lord in worship for his great act of love!

Jesus’ cry of dereliction is not one of abandonment, but one of praise! It is the victory shout of God.

Where to from Here?

If God turns his face away from evil, then I am to be pitied, for I am an evil man, deserving of God’s judgment and wrath.

But when I read the Psalm to which Jesus directed us on the cross, I am filled with courage and hope and thanksgiving, because it shows me what I already know to be true from Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.

God is a God who is holy and loving. His holiness does not cause him to look away from me in my greatest hour of need, nor does his love mean that he overlooks my sin and says “don’t worry about it”.

No, God is both holy and loving – the one does not exist without the other. In his holiness he cannot overlook evil, and in his love he cannot turn his back on his creation.

And so, in his mightiest act of holy-love, God has stepped into our sinful world, taken the burden upon himself, and come out on top as the Victor over sin and death, through Jesus Christ.

Praise God for his loving kindness!

This is a Good Friday, indeed!

Psalm 22
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

3Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

9Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

19But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!