Friday, March 23, 2012

Biblical Stations of the Cross

First Station: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane 
The Agony in the Garden by Filippo Lauri
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:36-39
Prayer: Lord, grant us your strength and wisdom that we may seek to follow your will in all things.

Lead Me to Calvary
May I be willing, Lord, to bear; Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share, Thou hast borne all for me.
Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony,
Lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.

The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio, ca. 1602
Second Station: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, Is Arrested

Then, while [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely." He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi." And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on [Jesus] and arrested him.  Mark 14: 43-46

Christ Before Caiaphas, Niccolo Frangipane
Third Station: Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin

They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. …Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”  But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.  Mark 14:53-64
Fourth Station: Jesus Is Denied by Peter
Denial of St. Peter by van Honthorst 
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about!" As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." Again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man!" A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away." At that he began to curse and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: "Before the cock crows you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly. Matthew 26: 69-75
Prayer: Lord, we confess our sin when we have denied you in word and deed. Forgive us and draw us nearer to you.

Draw Me Nearer
I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith, And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.
Gerrit van HontFifth Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death by Pilate
Christ before Pilate by Mihály Munkácsy
All the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. … .So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.  Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. … Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor….  When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered:

All: “His blood is on us and on our children!”          Matt. 27: 1-2, 11-14, 24-25

Sixth Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns
Flagellation of Christ by Rubens
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly.  John 19: 1-3

Lead Me to Calvary
King of my life, I crown Thee now; Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow, Lead me to Calvary.
Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony,
Lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.

Seventh Station: Jesus Bears the Cross
Christ Carrying the Cross by Lorenzo Lotto
[Pilate] delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. John 19:16-17

Prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Eighth Station: Jesus Is Helped by Simon the Cyrene
Simon from Cyrene and Christ by Titian

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. Mark 15:21

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ,
 All:  Not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.     

Draw Me Nearer
Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

1922, Salamanca
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children."  Luke 23: 27-29

Prayer: Lord, grant us gentle spirits that we may comfort those who mourn, and weep with those who weep.

Tenth Station: Jesus Is Crucified

Raising the Cross by Charles Le Brun
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.  It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days come down from the cross and save yourself!”  In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.  Mark 15:23-32

Prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Were You There?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Thief

Christ and the Good Thief by Titian
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23: 39-43

Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple

Crucifixion by James Tisssot

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19: 25-27

Prayer: Lord, grant us constancy that we may be willing to stand by those in need.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Crucifixion by Nicholas Tournier

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last. Luke 23: 44-46

Prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Holy Communion by Intinction

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.
His dying crimson, like a robe, Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the world, And all the world is dead to me.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

Fourteenth Station: Jesus’ body is prepared for the Tomb

Descent of the Cross by Rubens
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” … One of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. .. Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. … As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 
Matthew 27:54-60; John 19:31

Were You There?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?  Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
[Go in silence.]

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Pops" Brings a Whole New Meaning to Missional

Last Saturday I met with my class EM 731 Evangelism and Missions in an Urban Setting.  Afterwards we set out to meet up with a graduate of the seminary named Craig. He has recently planted Restoration Church in the Houston-Tomball area. This house church ministers regularly to homeless, and so after Craig explained his ministry to us, we met a couple of people on the street who are homeless. We had picked up some food for them and listened to their stories. My class and I left that experience knowing that they definetly had a story of how they ended up homeless. When you listen to such stories you realize that they are not choosing to beg as some easier option but as a necessity to survive. But this brings us to the guy named "Pops" who brings a whole new meaning to the word 'missional.' Although we did not meet Pops (yet), we heard about him. Pops is a man who intentionally chose to become homeless in order to work among the homeless. His ministry is twofold: 1) to help those who become homeless to adjust to life on the street, and 2) to help those who are homeless make the transition back into society. Hearing about Pops challenged us concerning what it means to enter our context and serve as Jesus served-- in incarnational ministry. While we are often content to think that we are missional in our regular or semi-regular missional activities, Pops brings a whole new meaning to this concept. He does not return every night to his comfortable home but lives among the homeless willingly. Hearning of his work, I am reminded of Paul's words about Jesus: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9) I am not sure if I will ever have the privilege to meet Pops, but I would like to. I think that he would have a lot to teach me ... and my class about missional, incarnational ministry. May God bless Pops!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church by Reggie McNeal

In this book Reggie McNeal examines a number of models of missional communities in the UK and USA. If you are looking for a snapshot of missional community strategies, this book offers several. While the missional communities vary in size and form, they are united in incarnational mission, gospel-community, life rythms, and leader multiplication. Some are substructures of a local church, much like cells in a cell-church, while others function independently, or in a network. The author presents these as means to reach those who will not be reached by traditional attractional churches. Most models are in the research and development phase of what he calls "this new life form." Of course, this brings up the question if this is really a "new life form." It seems that he is reacting to the traditional, attractional church of the the 20th century because of its inability to reach the majority of people in today's society. This is to be commended. The church today needs to mobilize and send its people to engage communities with the gospel in word and deed. With that said, he seems to be fuzzy on ecclesiology and various ecclesial models in church history such as Waldensians, Franciscans, German and Scandinavian Pietists, and Methodist societies that organized small missional bands. The largest contribution of the book is the call for reform from the traditional, attractional mindset of the church in America and the UK toward a missional, incarnational praxis. For this, I thank Reggie McNeal for Missional Communities!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Missionality ... Part Two

            When the church addresses the needs of people within its sphere of influence, it establishes a positive presence, gaining credibility among them. Its sacrificial service in the world enhances communication of the gospel, validating its message.

            The church's character is an integral part of its message as it proclaims and exemplifies the good news. The gospel of love, forgiveness, holiness, and peace is seen by others to be credible when it is shared by believers who serve the needy, forgive sinners, stand for justice, and make peace in the world. The message and messenger are interrelated, with the full impact of the gospel being felt by words and deeds, and in many cases more by deeds than words, for our lives are letters "known and read by everybody," (2 Cor 3:2). Credibility wanes when others perceive incongruities between the message of the church and its behavior, between what it proclaims and what it does.

      The church becomes a credible witness as its attitudes, words, and actions are conformed to those of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter said, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us," (1 Pet. 2:12). The evangelistic impact of the church is dependent upon its corporate testimony, proving itself as a credible witness to the world.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Missionality" from My 1995 Fuller DMin Dissertation -- Part One

            Mission originates in the heart and mind of God, flowing out of his divine character and being.  The mission of God, or missio Dei, is to establish his rule and kingdom on earth, as well as in heaven.  It consists of his purposes for the creation of the world and the redemption of humankind, impacting every realm of life including the spiritual, moral, personal, social and physical realms.  Mission centers upon the salvation of the world through the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Therefore, the mission of the church is the continuation of the saving activity of God in the world.[1]  It is a mission of humble service that embodies the total impact of the church as it is sent to carry out God's will and work in the world.[2]  This mission continues the mission of Jesus, heard in his words, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you," (John 20:21).  The church participates in establishing God's rule and kingdom on earth and in heaven.  It was re-created in Christ Jesus for this very purpose.

            The mission of the church includes the mandate for compassionate service and the mandate for disciple-making.  They come together in the mission of God, as integrated ministries of word and deed, components of the witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ.[3]  The church acts in its commission with God to restrain sin in the world and to redeem sinners.  It possesses a responsibility for social action as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world," (Matt. 5:13-14).  It has an evangelistic responsibility to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation," (Mark 16:15).

            The mandate for compassionate service, also known as the cultural mandate, carries authority and responsibility to care for all creation and to maintain order, peace and justice in the world.[4]  It is good works with redeeming value, whether directed toward individuals or to society in general.  It stems from a Christ-like compassion so that the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick are healed, the oppressed are liberated, the ignorant are educated, and the estranged are reconciled.  Despite resistance by a secular world, this mandate fulfills God's standards of grace, righteousness and human dignity.

    [1]Roger E. Hedlund, The Mission of the Church in the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 73.
    [2]John R.W. Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), 24.
    [3]C. Norman Kraus, ed., Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980), 23.
    [4]Lausanne Covenant, International Congress of World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974, para. 5.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rethinking Christian Witness -- Part Two

New Orleans - sharing the good news
after a day of gutting this family's
How else have I been challenged in my thinking about evangelism—sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? Fourth, I have found it helpful and necessary, as others have, to question periodically the received tradition. This can bring necessary change and renewed perspective and conviction.  When I visited with George Hunsberger at a local restaurant this past year, he mentioned that for many, evangelism in the second half of the 20th century was based on the sales model. I have to admit as a former Campus Crusade for Christ staff member with a business degree that I recognized and embraced the similarities. The emphasis was often on “closing the sale” by leading a person to pray to receive Jesus. What George mentioned is that there are other paradigms for sharing the gospel such as the journalist model . A journalist is a storyteller, but in order to do this he or she must ask questions, listen to others’ stories, and then write or tell the story.  The goal of the journalist is not “to sell” or “close the deal” but to ask, learn, comment, and then, tell. I appreciate the humility of this model. It communicates that we are here to learn about others, to understand their stories, and as we have opportunity, to share the story of Jesus with them and how it intersects with their stories.  This introduces a fifth challenge that has reshaped my thinking.  In our postmodern context, we must operate with humility, not arrogance that we” know it all.” While we embrace the truth of the gospel, we cannot approach others as though we have all the answers. And we don’t!  While a seminar in apologetics can help us answer questions that we or others may have, it runs the danger of us coming across as experts with all the right answers. The problem may not be in what we say but how we say it. Again, it is necessary to maintain an attitude and posture of humility. As 1 Peter 3:15 says: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”We need to acknowledge the limits of what we do and can know.  We need to empower others in conversation by asking questions that they have and then joining them to find answers.  A sixth area of Christian witness that I have been challenged to re-examine is the gospel itself.  What is the gospel? This question makes some nervous, especially since we are “evangel-icals”, those who believe the “evangel”—the gospel.  On this point my former professor at TEDS Scot McNight in his book The King Jesus Gospel says that we have not been proclaiming the gospel but rather a reduced-to-a-minimum, personalized soteriology (doctrine of salvation). I agree.  In contrast, the gospel as told in the Gospels, as well as in Acts and the Epistles, is the story of Israel fulfilled in the story of Jesus.  While this story clearly has application to individuals, it is a story about God’s work in creation, humankind’s fall, God’s work of redemption in Israel, the coming of Jesus the Messiah, his life, death, burial and resurrection. I think we need to be faithful at telling this story and simply invite people to believe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book review of Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah

Although I grew up singing "Jesus loves the little children, red and yellow, black and white" I can't say that my context gave me much opportunity to practice this same love for the "other." Or perhaps the problem was that I didn't see the opportunities. If you suffer such "color blindness," this book by Soong-Chan Rah can help correct your vision. Framed within a kingdom-driven-, holistic gospel-, missional perspective, the author explores culture in its good and fallen aspects with a call to engage it responsibly. He provides a chapter on understanding our current North American cultural landscape in light of political, social, and ecclesial histories, answering how we got to where we are. His chapter on the spectrum of expressions within a culture is quite helpful as he examines differences such as: individual vs. group, guilt vs. shame, equality vs. hierarchy, direct vs. indirect, and task vs. relationship. Whether you aspire to plant a multi-ethnic church, or minister cross-culturally within a North American context or abroad, this book challenges you to examine aspects of power, dominant-culture privilege, and systems with new lenses. The books gives practical means too for hospitality and storytelling (under-the-radar evangelism) that easly translate from culture to culture. In contrast to McGavran's application of the homogeneous unit principle, Soong-Chan Rah advocates that despite numerous obstacles in society and human nature, God calls local churches to be a diverse community that truly represents the kingdom of God. I am glad to have required this book for my course Evangelism and Missions in an Urban Setting.