Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Not by Bread Alone" A Meditation for Ash Wednesday

After his baptism, Jesus begins his ministry, not with a public call to reformation, but with a retreat into the desert to fast and pray! …Before activism, came contemplation. Matthew tells us that the Spirit who anointed Jesus at his baptism as the heavenly Father confirmed messiah-deliverer, is the same Spirit who now leads Jesus into the desert. But this is more than simply a time of spiritual retreat. This is, in fact, a first showdown between Jesus and the enemy. This is a confrontation between competing kingdoms and their rulers. Here in this barren land will meet two figures who each lay claim to the souls of men and women. By means of this retreat, Jesus now advances the Kingdom of God. We pause right here to underline two vital points given to us in this scene. First, that spiritual preparation for life and ministry is essential. The Gospels record several times when Jesus went away to a lonely place to prayerfully prepare for some significant event about to happen. Prayer and fasting are both ways to focus our attention on God and listen for his direction in our lives. Like Israel being led into the wilderness before entering the Promised Land, so we learn the spiritual principle of retreat as preparation to advancing the Kingdom of God in our lives. Second, this scene with Jesus reminds us that the retreat may include trial. …That contemplation can also involve combat. This scene in Matthew 4 is one of spiritual warfare. Matthew relates that Jesus is led into the desert for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. The real adversary is present and the Spirit is leading Jesus to an encounter with him. The same Spirit Jesus will learn to trust to direct him throughout every step of his life, is the Spirit leading him toward this confrontation. For Jesus, the desert is not only about communion with God, but also engagement with the enemy. The Spirit who leads him to this place of struggle, will also empower him overcome it. And so for us we are reminded that a genuine adversary exists who opposes the Kingdom of God and intends to draw us off and halt that Kingdom’s advance in our lives and world. Two words appear in this story which we should circle. These are temptation and test. A temptation is an enticement to move us in a direction which is contrary to God’s will in our lives. Usually these are not frontal attacks which come with brute force, but instead are subtle subterfuges which work to sidetrack us from the path of righteousness on which God would lead us. A test is meant to prove our faithfulness to God’s will. The Bible is clear that God never tempts anyone to do evil as James 1:13 says, but God does, as Heb. 11:17 reveals, use circumstances to test our character or resolve in the doing of God’s will. In this scene with Jesus we see well how this works. Satan means to get Jesus to go contrary to God’s will for his life, but in the middle of the circumstances being used, God the Father uses the enemy’s evil intention to a good purpose and so strengthens Jesus for his ministry as the messiah. We pause here then to note that our adversary, the accuser of the saints and the enemy of our souls, as intelligent, powerful and subtle as he may be, is never free to act independently of God. Instead, the devil is on a short leash. Satan may try to get Job to curse God and be disobedient to his will, but when Job later turns to God, the Lord strengths him by the very trial through which he has passed. The enemy might seek to use the intentions of Joseph’s brothers to subvert God’s plan for Israel through slavery in Egypt, but God used those same circumstances to preserve his people and move his plan forward to bless the world through them. And of course Satan worked behind the scenes at the crucifixion, thinking to slay the heir and take over the vineyard, only to find that the true Owner used it to bring salvation to all who seek him. A temptation in the hands of the devil becomes a test in the hands of God. In the wilderness scene of Matt. 4 the failure of Adam is reversed by Jesus. Where Adam was tempted and failed in the best of conditions, Jesus succeeds in the worst of them. Death was the result of Adam’s sin, but with Jesus’ suffering and temptation, he is able to make atonement for sin and bring life to all who trust in him. In this scene, the disobedience of Israel is also addressed. In his forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert Jesus replays the forty year wildness testing of Israel. And this time, by being fully obedient to the Spirit’s leading, Jesus is victorious where Israel was not. We see at every turn, that as the darkness of sin and chaos hover over all humanity, Jesus is called into the desert to overcome that darkness. There and throughout his life, Jesus will confront the enemy which seeks to foil God’s plan for humanity’s redemption by disqualifying Jesus as the sinless Savior and obedient Son of God. As with us, the devil tries to tempt us away from our adoption as children of God and ruin us in the barren land of our own willful desires. In Matt. 4:3-4, Satan does not doubt who Jesus is as the Son of God. As the Gospels show, demons in general seem to have had no trouble identifying Jesus as God’s Son. Satan is also not trying to get Jesus himself to doubt who he is. Instead, he is trying to get Jesus to misuse his identity and his prerogatives as God’s Son. This is true for us as well… If you are the Son of God, the devil says to Jesus, Why should you go hungry? You can turn these stones into bread, why not use your power to end your suffering? Come on…for goodness sake man, take care of yourself! We know Jesus indeed has this power. Later he will feed four and five thousand people at a time by miraculously multiplying a few loaves and fishes to do so! …No power shortage with Jesus. But God sent Jesus into the world to live a truly human life. This is the meaning of his incarnation. The divine Son of God would become fully human in order to save humans from their sin. Part of being human meant that Jesus would acquire his daily bread through normal human means…just like everyone else. Had Jesus turned cold stones into freshly baked bread in this case, he would have acted outside of God’s will for his Son’s incarnational experience. Because of Jesus’ obedience the Apostle Paul would later quote an early Christian hymn as he wrote to the Christians in Philippi about their relationship issues. Paul says, In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! In Deut. 8 Moses reminds the people of Israel that God led them those forty years in the desert to test their loyalty to God. One of the tests was their hunger and God’s provision. The purpose of that test was to teach that that God’s people do not simply live by their appetites or even their daily bread. There are deeper dimensions to life in relationship with God. Life also comes from the nourishing words of God which feed our souls. As with Jesus, so also with us, the enemy endeavors to get at the core of our personal trust in God’s leading. At our weakest moments, the devil will come to get us to sell our true identity in Christ for a bowl of porridge. Let’s remember from the Matt. 4 story that the immediate outcome of Jesus’ rebuke of the devil and of his obedience to the Spirit’s leading was, “Then the devil left him.” As James 4:7 says, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. And I Peter 5:9 also reminds us that we are not alone in this battle. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. No matter what the circumstances and whatever temptations we may face, standing firm on the truth of God’s word will send the devil packing every time. Again, the Apostle Paul instructs us saying, No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Cor. 10:13) Temptations are real. Do we give in to them? Yes, unfortunately we do. The season of Lent reminds us of our mortality and our mortal limits. From dust we come and to dust we go. We are ever dependent on God for life. The more we stay focused on the promised resources of God’s grace, the more we will grow in our ability to resist temptations and stand in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then bread alone will never be enough. Our hunger will only be satisfied by the bread of life and every word of it which comes from the mouth of God. Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"We was robbed!"

Last Monday in the early morning hours our church was broken into and several big ticket audio/visual items were taken. My associate and I spent the morning filling out police and insurance reports…nice way to start the week! After the police left I stopped us to pray for those who had committed the robbery. It was the standard, “Lord forgive them and bless their pointed little heads” type of prayer which as a pastor I felt obligated to offer on their behalf. Later that day at staff meeting I had another opportunity to pray for the thieves and this time I reflected on Psalm 23 and prayed that these folks would not live the rest of their lives only trying to fill their own cups and make them overflow (with other people’s stuff!) and that they would find satisfaction in the blessing and provision of God. At home, later that night,… I got angry. I was angry for having had my day taken down a path I didn’t choose…a major interruption and all the bother. Plus I was upset at the hindrance caused by the loss to the various ministries that were affected. “Dang it people! How thoughtless and self-serving can you be? Don’t you care about the trouble you have caused? And don’t you feel extra guilty stealing from a church for goodness sake? Really people!!!!????” I think my praying from earlier in the day was turning into lamenting…you know, like the psalmist does when he prays things like “Wow Lord! How come the bad guys get to do this stuff? And why are they at home laughin it up while I am here filling out paperwork? Unfair!!” …Deep theology… But the major revelation of my day was realizing that all the praying and lamenting were actually about me. I was the one who needed to pray for things like forgiving the thieves and for God to bless their lives and I suppose I had some Biblical permission to cry out to God about it at the end of the day. But I prayed for them and needed to I think, because I needed God to search my own heart to see how tied to things and convenience and the like I was. Loss always makes you have to decide how empty you are already…how much you have been filling your own cup and not holding it up to the Lord for the blessings God provides. And on church…it seems to me that I want to be pastor of a church which is just as much for those thieves as for the nice people who leave our stuff where we put it. I think if Jesus had been the pastor on call Monday morning and he had known the bad guys were at church, he would have raced over to see if he could offer them anything else they might have missed! …I want our early morning visitors from this week to know that we are happy to have them come back and want to be their church and a blessing to them.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Here is a video I saw at my recent Spiritual Academy Retreat. As a person of Christian faith I can hear the echoes of God's love and grace behind what Rene Brown says. It's about 20 min. and well worth the time. Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share. (Filmed at TEDxHouston.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How God has used the Spiritual Academy Retreats in My Life. (Ted Talk-Extended Version)

The following is the extended version of a Ted Talk I gave today on the impact of the four Spiritual Academy retreats I have experienced over the last eighteen months. In the fall of 2009 I did a sermon series at my church called, The Geography of Grace. It was a study of Ephesians and it focused on spiritual formation, a topic I had been living with for over a year at that point. The final message in the series was given by me on Sunday, December 12th. This was just two weeks before I went in for my annual physical and which two days after that my doctor called me to say that my PSA count was a concern, having doubled in the last year. PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. I was 58 years old and in the best shape I had been for some time and suddenly the geography of my life was about to change dramatically taking me into dark and unknown territory. As it turned out my sermon series ended at the beginning of what would become the next significant steps in my own spiritual journey, steps which continue to this day. From that December to the following May I took pills and went through tests and scans and finally a biopsy determined that I had early, but aggressive prostate cancer. The doctors were optimistic, but didn't want to waste any time and I underwent surgery on May 18th. The post op lab report three days later said, “Tumor contained in the prostate, all margins clear.” Both my specialist and my surgeon phoned me the same afternoon to tell me the positive news and wish me a good weekend. My recovery went well and I was back to work in two weeks. Three months later I had my follow up PSA test and was very pleased to see a zero where before there had been a large number. I went to my follow up appointment with a smile on my face and a word of cheer for all the people at the clinic. The news was less than stellar. It turns out I wasn't out of the woods yet. Instead of a PSA reading of 0.00 my three month post op reading was 0.52.
The doctor said, he was concerned to see this and rather mystified that he did. For the next three months we watched the PSA count climb and by 0.7 it didn't appear to be leveling off. My life soon became be a by the numbers game. All the things I had been told before the surgery that were very unlikely contingency measures including the prospect of weeks of radiation treatments and two or more years of hormone therapy shots were fast becoming the possible next steps. Within two weeks of discovering where the cancer had migrated to those tasked with my now upcoming radiation treatments were surveying the locations of my organs and tattooing sign posts on me to make a road map to guide the machine which would give me the maximum dose of radiation allowed for human beings. I found myself asking, is this journey really necessary? Did God’s shepherding of my life mean the green pastures would now turn to mud, the still waters stagnate and from here on would my paths lead only into dark valleys? And not only was my journey becoming dark and fearful, I realized just how unprepared I was to make the trek. Heretofore, I had spent my travel time focused on the next challenge, climbing over the moguls in my path like stepping stones on the way to achieving the heights I most desired. Sometimes the journey had been more like a race than a walk. Speed was the thing and with such a focus on the mission that those things in my life peripheral to it were simply a blur as I sped past them. In fact I had been running the race with such singular focus for so long that I couldn’t remember large sections of its’ scenery or even be able to tell myself just how I had arrived at my present location. And now it would appear I was in a new kind of race. A race for just being able to stay in the race and not only was I ill prepared for it, but I was trying to do it while running on fumes. My tank was reading empty. Sadly, this was not the first time that had happened. My tank had been empty before. It had gone dry in 1986 after 15 years of marriage and career pursuit and in that part of the race I went completely off the course, slamming into the hay bales and flipping over without a roll bar. The geography of my journey then became that of burn out, separation and near divorce, as well as, the loss of my chosen occupation and the ministry that went with it. I have described that time to others as the one in which I could taste death in my mouth. And what of the geography of grace? I suppose during that first road wreck grace was present in things like having to work long hours at trying to make it as a new insurance agent. Grace was also to be found in God’s Spirit patiently hovering over the waters of my chaos and helping me to begin to make some sense out of them. Grace was separation from my wife and time alone where I found space to recognize the desperation and neediness raging in my heart. And there was one other way that grace was made real in my situation, but in a way not known to me until many years later and is still an absolute mystery to me in how it could have been there, …or why. A couple had lived next door to us and had become our good friends up to and including the car wreck period of our journey. They were upwardly mobile, art loving, wine drinking educated pagans. They were everything I secretly longed to be at times and we loved them! They were people safe to be with while venting ministry steam and stress. They were the least judgmental people I knew. They watched my wife and I come to the end of ourselves, crash and burn. Years later I baptized them. They told me that it was knowing my wife and me and watching us live our lives through difficult times that convinced them of their own spiritual need and to seek the Jesus we had professed to know and did such a terrible job of following. …Grace. I suppose this all makes the case for the need for spiritual formation in my life and being in an academy such as this one. It was in between learning I had cancer and the first round of dealing with it that I took part in the first Space for God Retreat in our church conference. A small group of Free Methodist pastors were invited to a three day experience at the Catholic Retreat Center in Federal Way, WA. Morris and Rita led the experience. At the retreat God used Morris and Rita to speak into my life in such a way that my troubled steps began to find new direction in grace and toward growth. After the retreat, as I continued sharing with Rita she envisioned some of the journey ahead of me. Rita could see me and what God would be doing with me, ahead of my being able to see it. Because of this prophetic seeing I was encourage to believe God for more than I would have and that included coming to take part in this cohort of the Spiritual Academy. The challenges of my journey these past eighteen months have been set in the context of the location, content and fellowship of this experience and God has been using this in my life. The location of the abbey is near to where I went to seminary. Coming to our retreat here has allowed me space to revisit the geographical locations where parts of my earlier life took place and God in grace has been using this to redeem much of what I had come to believe had been lost in the chaos of later decisions. Being in the Academy has given me an elevated view of my journey similar to the one we get when we look down on the vineyards below the Abbey. More and more I have been enabled to see my journey from God’s perspective rather than just my own down in the valley view of it and that has given me more insight into it. While at the second retreat God spoke to me in a profound manner. I had been reading the Gospel of Mark prior to coming and about 5 minutes into our centering time before the first presentation I heard the Lord say to me, You are the man of Mark 8. You have been touched by me and though you have been able to see these many years, much of it is still a blur. …I am going to touch you again and give you clarity. The next day while Rita was presenting the clarity came and I filled ten pages of notes on how my life was connected to God’s grace. It was incredible. The map of my life which revealed so many slippery paths, arid spaces, tar pits, box canyons and dark valleys was suddenly redrawn into a spiritual landscape that only God could create and lead me through. The impact of the Academy on my ministry at church has been wonderful. The church family has been helped by having their pastor endeavor to draw closer to God. The work of God in my life has led me to a new transparency, freedom and power in my preaching, teaching and counseling ministries. And the new tools and resources I have been learning to use have enabled me to be more intentional about shepherding my congregation in the way of spiritual formation. An example of this is the development of what we call the First Step, Next Step and Disciple Road Experience. (Ad lib this part) Finally there is this. Of all the benefits I have enjoyed from attending the Academy, all the ways it has helped me and spilled over from me into my ministry to and with others, the most profound benefit of all has come from doing the soul care which has placed me in a position to be able to experience the grace of forgiveness. To be forgiven and to forgive. I have traversed the ways of bitterness far too long and it has been a cancer in my soul. It has been the content of the Academy, the timing of it and the shared experience of it with you that the Holy Spirit has used to set my feet on the path of forgiveness. It has been during these four retreats that I have found God’s grace to return to and remember rightly some of the most painful, hurtful and sinful parts of my story and to see God transform me and others in relation to it. I can’t imagine making that trip alone. I thank God that I didn't have to.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A prayer by Thomas Merton MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I am at the final retreat of the Spiritual Academy here at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon. Here are my notes from the first session which was on God's Calling on Our Lives. We all have a void in our lives. You have to step into the void to get in touch with your deep desire for God. My calling comes from before me. From eternity past. Most recently through the prayers of my grandfather Charles Isenberg who prayed for a grandson who would become a pastor. He died 6 months before I was born. I am that grandchild. I have felt the weight of this calling since soon after my conversion at age 17. I knew almost immediately where I was called by God to be. I have run toward this calling, run with it, run ahead of it and run from it. It was the most evident to me when I ran from it after I left the ministry in 1987. Others even told me that knew I was called to ministry and was not being obedient to my calling! This when I thought my ministry life was over. It is in transitions that God wants to deepen our faith. Oswald Chambers said, “Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him.” It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself? Personal Calling is balanced by three things: • It must be fitted into God’s story and God’s redemptive purposes. • There needs to be a corporate sense to it. • Personal sense of calling must be balanced by 1st order calling. First Order Calling=to love God with all that you are. (This would be my relationship with God). Second Order Calling=what we do to follow Jesus in this world. (This would be my pastoral ministry calling). These two callings must not be pitted against each other. The must be kept in the right order of priority. Second order calling must not become detached from first order calling.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cross Reflections

Thank you Charles Beard for the time and effort you have put into this project for us.
And even more, thank you for your willingness to listen to the voice of God in your life and respond in obedience to the direction it set for you.

…When we look up at this cross we immediately see its’ threeness.
…One in three; three in one.

As Christians, the concept of trinity is central to our understanding of God for our lives.
Our faith proclaims that we worship the one true and living God, maker of heaven and earth who has made himself known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The threeness of this cross also imagines for us the three crosses on the hill of Golgotha.
It helps us to remember the scene when redemption was accomplished for sinners, when the Son of God was crucified between two of them, for their sakes and ours.
The three crosses also remind us of how scripture declares that in the work of redemption this One who was crucified holds the three offices of Prophet, Priest and King.

Many things can be said of the cross and its significance for Christian faith. One hymn writer has penned the opening line,
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, in part I think, because a survey approach is needed in order to review the many meanings of this symbol. It can be said that because of the reality of the cross, Christian faith is about the agony and the ecstasy.
As Rom. 8:17 says, Christians are heirs God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The order in Christian faith is always agony before ecstasy or as Paul writes to pastor Timothy,
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
Paul even refers to himself as, crucified with Christ, as a way of explaining his daily experience of faith.

The cross is central to Paul’s understanding of redemption. In the Pauline theology of salvation, the cross is the revelation of God’s power and wisdom.
The cross dramatically reveals an all en-compassing reconciliation which bridges the gap between God the Holy One and a sinful humanity.
Through the cross the barrier has been broken between God and humans and even between alienated groups of people such as Jew and Gentile.
The cross also marks the starting point of the final era which will ultimately lead to God’s restoration of the entire cosmos.

Here are some reflections on each of the three crosses as Charles envisioned them.

The cross which forms the foundation of this piece is made of rough, unadorned cedar. It is believed that this was the type of wood most commonly used for crucifixions in the ancient world. In the first century AD crucifixion was one of the strongest forms of deterrence against insurrection or political agitation under Roman rule.
When Jesus was crucified the sign posted above his head mockingly read,
King of the Jews. It was for the supposed reason that Jesus had been proclaiming himself Lord and King above Caesar that Rome put him to death. At the same time, to the Jewish community, Jesus was a blasphemer, being accused of making himself out to be God, and so crucifixion was for the Jews of that time a way of making real Deut. 21:22-23 which proclaims that blasphemers are cursed and should be put on public display by being hung on a tree.
This first rough hune cross in the piece reminds us that a Roman cross in Jesus’ day was both a cruel and terrible instrument of death and a means of public disgrace for the person hung who on it and by extension, for those who followed that person. There was no method worse than crucifixion as an instrument of public execution.
Jews could not imagine that God would allow their Messiah to die in such a way and Greeks and Romans had no respect for such victims.
For Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus proved he wasn’t the Messiah and for the Gentiles it made Jesus a person no body would take seriously.
So from all sides of culture the prophecy in Isa. 53:3 was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus,
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

The stark roughness of this first cross reminds us that at the foundation of our faith, at the cornerstone of redemption’s work, there is rejection and death.
As John says,
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

This is the scandal of the cross.
It dares us to put our trust in the one who was cast out, humiliated and cursed as he hung upon it. Yet it is also God’s way of salvation for despite its’ rejection and death those who trust in the work done upon it are received by God and find eternal life through this same crucified One. John says,
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

In vivid contrast to the base cross, the second cross is pure white and unmarred.
White is the color which takes into itself all colors and in this piece the white cross stands for the Holy One of Israel whom scripture reveals to be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Looking at the white cross in between the other two crosses reminds us that sin is the reason we are separated from God.
Sin separates because God is Holy.
Isaiah cried Woe is Me!
…and was undone when he was suddenly confronted by the holiness of God with nothing in between to shield him from it. Peter had a similar experience when a miraculous catch of fish suddenly gave him a glimpse of who Jesus really was.
Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said to him,
Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

Again the threeness of this cross piece symbolizes for us who God is. For in this second white cross we hear the seraphim of Isa. 6:3 calling out,
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
The thrice repeated word holy conveys the Hebrew way of understanding God as not simply good or holy, but as most holy.
Yahweh is the most holy One.
It is this superlative holiness that judges sinners and bars their way to the throne of God.
And it is because of this holiness that sin can never be ignored and or left unpunished. It was this One of such holiness who was present at the scene of crucifixion.
The Holy One of Israel stood over the cross of execution, there judging the sin which separates and so elicited that mournful cry of,
Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani from the lips of Jesus as he, who knew no sin, literally became sin for each of us.

The second white cross reminds us that God’s holiness was at stake in the sin of humanity and the need for God to vindicate that holiness through the blood shed from the sacrificial lamb on the cross was genuine. At the same time, pure love was also on the scene working through the crucifixion to forgive sin and reconcile sinners unto God.
This is why our faith declares that Salvation is by grace through faith and not by the accomplishment of sinful human beings.
God alone has provided the lamb for the sacrifice.
And it is by that lamb that the curtain which formerly barred access for people into the holy of holies has now forever been ripped asunder.

The third cross in this piece is in fact our former sanctuary cross. In this way Charles has joined together our church’s past and future.

Note the position of the third cross.
It is slightly to the left of center from the other two upon which it rests. Charles told me this positioning of the third cross represents the perspective as seen from God’s point of view. It affirms that Christ is the risen and ascended Lord who now sits at the right hand of God the Father acting there as our advocate.

Charles has completed his trinity cross with the grandest of truths about the meaning of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Both Hebrews 1:3 and 8:1 say that Christ is at the right hand of the Majesty on high and that means as, Karl Barth notes, that the throne of God also belongs to Christ. That Christ is God in the fulfillment of the divine will, the use of his divine power and the revelation of his divine purpose. To Christ, God the Father has committed all things.
It is Him God loved before the foundation of the world and through him that same world came into being and is now being held together.
It is in Christ that God has reconciled the world to himself which thus declares that Jesus Christ is the bread of life,
…the good shepherd,
The light of the world,
…and the way, the truth and the life.

As these three crosses before us affirm,
All that belongs to God also belongs to Christ.
The Father is in him and he is in the Father,
…for he and the Father are indeed one.
Those who see the Son, also see the Father who sent him.
Those who believe in him believe not only in him, but also in the one who sent him!
There is nothing that is not subject to him that is not also subject to the Father as well.
To the glory of God the Father, Christ is the bearer of the name which is above every name, and one day at the hearing of that name every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that the crucified and risen Jesus is both Lord and Christ!

Jesus Christ is the Good News we proclaim!
It is the glad tidings of his kingdom we publish to our world!
He is the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure we sell all to get.
To encounter Christ is to know God.
To listen to Christ is to hear God.
To obey Christ is to obey God.

It is therefore to become a disciple of this Lord that we deny ourselves and take up the instrument of his crucifixion as our own. To God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in one, be glory, honor and praise forever just as these crosses proclaim!