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Archive for May, 2011

Shaping our world is never for a Christian a matter of going out arrogantly thinking we can just get on with the job, reorganizing the world according to some model that we have in mind. It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.

Because Jesus bore the cross uniquely for us, we do not have to purchase forgiveness again; it’s been done. But because, as he himself said, following him involves taking up the cross, we should expect, as the New Testament tells us repeatedly, that to build on his foundation will be to find the cross etched into the pattern of our life and work over and over again.

— N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus

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What would you do if someone murdered your child? Could you forgive? Could you become a friend of the murderer?

I don’t pretend to know what I would do. But, as told to NPR’s StoryCorps, Mary Johnson did just that with Oshea Israel, who murdered Johnson’s son in 1993. Listen to the story; it is worth a few minutes of your time. From the transcript:

As Johnson recalls, their first face-to-face conversation took place at Stillwater Prison, when Israel agreed to her repeated requests to see him.

“I wanted to know if you were in the same mindset of what I remembered from court, where I wanted to go over and hurt you,” Johnson tells Israel. “But you were not that 16-year-old. You were a grown man. I shared with you about my son.”

“And he became human to me,” Israel says.

At the end of their meeting at the prison, Johnson was overcome by emotion.

“The initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can,” Israel says, “just hug you like I would my own mother.”

Johnson says, “After you left the room, I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son.’

“And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.”

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After all the buzz surrounding this past weekend’s non-Rapture, I remembered a story that a youth group leader shared with me back in my high school days. All I can remember is a rough paraphrase, but the message has stayed with me to this day:

A group of believers approached a famous theologian one day and asked him: “What would you do if you knew that Jesus was returning tomorrow?” He replied, “I would tend to my garden, just as I do every day.”

We don’t know the day or hour for a reason — tending to our gardens is more than enough of a challenge. Now, back to those weeds …

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Is there anything more pure, more full of wonder and hope for the future, than the prayer of a child? We find it difficult to imagine what that might be. For a child’s heart, when it forms a prayer of thanks or praise or petition, has none of the self-consciousness and ambivalence of adulthood; it is a laser beam of light and love — focused, clear, and burning with urgency.

— Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe, Circle of Grace

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South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke in Tacoma recently, and one person who introduced him offered this story:

One of the speakers, Free the Children Founder Craig Keilburger, said he became more and more cynical the more he read the newspaper as a college student.

“I didn’t want to start every morning looking at that violence, that poverty … that negativity,” he said.

But when he got a chance to speak to Tutu and told him about all of the negativity in the newspapers, Tutu had called him a “silly college boy,” Keilburger said.

Tutu said Keilburger should not look at the newspaper as a collection of negativity, but as “God’s to-do list, delivered to the front door every morning.”

If everyone started seeing the newspaper as “God’s to-do list” and started working on all of the problems the headlines presented, the world could become a better place, Keilburger said.

A good way to think of the news, but that to-do list sure is long.

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This once-proud magazine may be this desperate to keep readers, but I’m not that desperate to keep reading it. Makes me more sad than angry.

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It takes spiritual discipline to forgive others; it takes a different, though related, spiritual discipline to forgive myself, to echo within my own heart the glad and generous offer of forgiveness which God holds out to me and which, if I’m fortunate, my neighbor holds out to me as well.

Here, too, my sense of self-worth comes not from examining myself and discovering that I’m not so bad after all but from gazing at God’s love and discovering that nothing can stand between it and me. …

This astonished and grateful acceptance of the free grace and love of God is what some traditions have meant when they echoed Paul’s language about “justification by faith.”

— N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God

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