Running as an Easter Spiritual Disicpline

La_Pieta_Santa_Maria_della_Vita_Niccolo_del_Arca_1462

Mary Magdalene running to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty Niccolò dell’Arca | 1462-63 | Painted terra cotta | Bologna, Italy

If running doesn’t yet have a feast day on the church year calendar, Easter should be the Feast Day of Running.

The Easter account tells of running – running to and from the tomb – in three of the four Gospels.

Matthew 28:8 “So [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

Luke 24:12 “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

John 20:2-4 “So [Mary Magdalene] ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.”

This Easter morning I will head out for a run at dawn, the time of day that Scripture says the women first went to the tomb.

With the women I will run.

With Peter and the other disciple I will run.

With fear and amazement and great joy I will run, for the Lord is risen. Alleluia!

The Lord has given us renewed reason to run the race set before us. To run with love. To run knowing that death is not the end of the story. To run knowing that an empty grave, new life, resurrection, and the Kingdom of God lies before us.

Run the race of hope and promise. Run the resurrection. For this is why we run. This is the Feast of Running.

The Bible’s “Marathon” Verses – 26:2

Bible 26:2

I am running my second-ever marathon this Saturday. A marathon is 26.2 miles. For no reason other than the novelty of it, I present here every chapter 26, verse 2, of the Bible – out of context, and perhaps quite odd to read in isolation from the broader story of the text.

The marathon distance is rather arbitrary, and the assignment of verse numbers to Scripture texts wasn’t exactly a precise science, either. I’m no believer in hidden codes in Scripture, nor that the chapter/verse numbers themselves have any intrinsic meaning. I just like marathons and I like the Bible.

That being said, I will certainly carry Job 26:2 with me during Saturday’s race: “How you have helped one who has no power! How you have assisted the arm that has no strength!” If I run this race correctly, I should be pretty much out of power and without strength at the end of the race (and hopefully have a new personal record). This Saturday I will certainly find comfort in the God who helps one who has no power.

I am grateful for the gifts and opportunities God has given to me to run and to train. Running truly gives me such joy, and is a great way for me to revel in the gift of life God has given me. I look forward to celebrating God’s gifts over a 26.2 mile course this Saturday.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Genesis 26:2
The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you.”

Exodus 26:2
The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be of the same size.

Leviticus 26:2
You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

Numbers 26:2
“Take a census of the whole congregation of the Israelites, from twenty years old and upward, by their ancestral houses, everyone in Israel able to go to war.”

Deuteronomy 26:2
You shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.

1 Samuel 26:2
So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph.

1 Chronicles 26:2
Meshelemiah had sons: Zechariah the firstborn, Jediael the second, Zebadiah the third, Jathniel the fourth.

2 Chronicles 26:2
He rebuilt Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his ancestors.

Job 26:2
“How you have helped one who has no power! How you have assisted the arm that has no strength!”

Psalm 26:2
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind.

Proverbs 26:2
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, an undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Isaiah 26:2
Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.

Jeremiah 26:2
Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word.

Ezekiel 26:2
Mortal, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, “Aha, broken is the gateway of the peoples; it has swung open to me; I shall be replenished, now that it is wasted.”

Sirach 26:2
A loyal wife brings joy to her husband,
and he will complete his years in peace.

Matthew 26:2
“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Acts 26:2
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews.”

* all bible verses from the New Revised Standard Version

 

Bible Verse in a Box with a Majestic Nature Scene

Have you ever noticed that so many of the inspirational Bible-verse-in-a-box images that get passed around on Facebook and Twitter superimpose the words of Scripture over a majestic nature scene?

A mountain peak reaching into the skies. “I will set my eyes to the hills – Psalm 121”

Ocean waves crashing on rocks as the sun rises. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold – Psalm 18:2”

An endless plain blowing with amber waves of grain. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. – John 14:27”

The message from these images (and from their ancestors, the inspirational Bible verse poster sold at Christian bookstores) sends an indirect yet clear message – God is found in the far-off, in the majestic, in the distant nature scene.

This is terribly sad, of course, for a people who follow a Lord whose name is Emmanuel – God with us. God might be with us in our theology, but in our popular imagery we see God as far off, in nature, away from people.

To be sure, Scripture uses nature imagery to describe God, and even Jesus and Moses ascend mountains for moments of retreat and prayer. Yet, such imagery is neither the dominant nor the only metaphor or model found within Scripture to describe the community of faith and its relationship with God.

The preponderance of majestic nature scene images in our popular expression of faith reinforces an unhealthy sense that we must “get away” from human community in order to commune with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul’s discussion of the Body of Christ and of the importance of the Christian community, in 1 Corinthians 12, attests to that.

Take a look at the next several inspirational Bible verse in a box images you find on Facebook or Twitter – how many of those images include people, include the “us” with whom our God is?

We are a people whose hope-filled imagery of God’s promised future is one of a holy city descending from heaven, and a bold declaration that “the home of God is among mortals” (Revelation 21). Jesus spent lots of time among crowds, and from the beginnings of the salvation story we see God choosing and acting within a community of people.

I think our popular imagery should reflect our theology.

I like beautiful images from nature, but our collections of faith-inspiring imagery should also include pictures of people, of urban and small town landscapes, of the communities that God so loved that he sent his only Son into them. I’m sure some such images exist, but in my experience they are few and far between. We can change that.

I’m not a very creative person when it comes to graphics, but I dabbled with some photos on Flickr to see what it could look like to superimpose words from Scripture on images of people. Here are two that I created.

Keep Watch

Light shine

What can you create? Find photos with people, or take your own photos of friends, family, neighbors, and join them with words of Scripture.

Tag the photos #photoverse and share on FB, Twitter, your blog, or wherever else you share photos. Let’s expand how we see, imagine, and share God among us.

Same Gender Marriage & The State: A Perspective Rooted in Freedom & Faith

2014-01-13 09.26.10

Yesterday I stood with hundreds of fellow citizens outside the doors of the Indiana State House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on HJR-3 – a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I was part of the large crowd opposing this unnecessary, anti-family proposal.

As a person of faith and as an American, I oppose HJR-3 for many reasons. Here are just a few.

  • Constitutions ensure, rather than deny, certain rights and protections.
    This proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit a class of citizens from eventually accessing a body of legal protections available to the general population, and would limit the ability of future legislatures and courts to provide that class of citizens with those legal protections.
  • Democracies don’t vote on legal protections for minority groups. All are equal under the law.
    If passed by the legislature, HJR-3 would lead to a general election vote on whether a minority group should ever have the chance to access certain legal protections that are enjoyed by the general population. In this case the minority group is gay and lesbian citizens. Which minority group will be next to have their legal protections determined by the majority’s vote?
  • Marriage doesn’t need protection. People do.
    Supporters of HJR-3 speak of protecting or defending marriage. Marriage is an institution that has changed dramatically over the centuries – socially, religiously, and legally. The state has authority to address only one understanding of marriage – civil marriage. Civil marriage, and the rights, responsibilities, and protections it affords, is quite popular and doing just fine. Civil marriage doesn’t need any so-called “protection.”
    What does need protection is the class of citizens whose families are endangered because they cannot enjoy the rights, responsibilities, and protections of civil marriage. Let’s protect people.
  • Gay and lesbian soldiers and veterans deserve legal protections.
    I am applying to join the Indiana National Guard as a chaplain. I am concerned that soldiers who serve our state and nation could be denied legal protections if this constitutional amendment passes. People who offer their lives in service to others don’t deserve this kind of legal discrimination. Neither do their families.
  • 2014-01-13 09.58.37John 10:10 – “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
    My faith informs the way I live and the way I look at public policy. How can my neighbors enjoy the abundant life that our Lord desires for all people if they are denied basic legal protections for their families? We’re talking about inheritance, health benefits, property ownership, joint bank accounts, medical decisions, and so forth. An abundant life is made much harder by legal and constitutional restrictions on a class of people.
  • The Fifth Commandment – “Thou Shalt Not Kill”
    In explaining the fifth commandment in his Small Catechism, Martin Luther writes that not only are we not to kill, but we are to do everything we can to improve the wellbeing of our neighbor. Limiting access to legal protections harms the wellbeing of our neighbor and is a violation of the fifth commandment.
  • Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
    Scripture is chock full of calls to justice – to protect the orphan and widow, to extend care to the outcast and marginalized, to welcome the outsider, to lift up the lowly, to visit the imprisoned, to feed the hungry, and so forth. HJR-3 is exclusionary and runs counter to the Scriptural call to extend care and protections for all people.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:5 – “Love does not insist on its own way.”
    HJR-3 insists on its own way – a narrow definition of civil marriage that would restrict legal protections and rights for a minority class of citizens. Why not have a more inclusive approach to the rights and protections of civil marriage? Even if HJR-3 is defeated, people who hold a certain “traditional” view of marriage will still be able to maintain their traditions and teachings. Even if same gender civil marriage eventually comes to the Hoosier state, “traditional” marriage will continue to be legal.

I enthusiastically endorse freedom of religion, and I respect those whose faith lead them to hold other views of marriage and sexuality. My objection here is not about those who hold a so-called “traditional” view of marriage.  My objection is that HJR-3 would deny a class of citizens from one day enjoying certain legal protections and benefits.

We do not need to deny our fellow citizens access to legal protections. We do not need HJR-3.

A Dead Poet’s Society of Church Readers

A few times now, when talking with youth at church, I have shown them clips from Dead Poet's Society. Though I admit there is something old-manish about showing kids a film that was released years before they were born, the film taps into the power of poetry and of words.

The words we read in church have power. The Word of God is living and active. Not that I want our lectors on Sunday morning reading at a frenzied Robin Williams pitch, I do encourage readers to read clearly and with energy, and as if the words they were reading had the power to change lives … because they do.

Enjoy these two clips from Dead Poet's Society, and may the reading of Holy Scripture in your church give life to words that have the power to give life.