Sunday, July 20, 2014

Groaning for Redemption: Our Resurrection Hope

The epistle reading assigned for today in the Revised Common Lectionary for Proper 11A is a very powerful passage  Here's an excerpt:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25).

In an article entitled "You Do Not Groan Alone," Courtney Reissig draws on the 8th chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Romans to offer a moving reflection on pain and suffering.  Beginning with the experience of losing a child, Reissig paints an uncompromisingly realistic portrait of life in a fallen world while also faithfully proclaiming the Gospel hope.  Here are some excerpts from her article:

It doesn’t take long for us to look around and realize that in many ways everything in this world is screaming for redemption. ... As we watch loved ones reject Christ and make a wreck of their lives, we grieve and groan for God to make things right. Every pain-filled cry from our created bodies screams that this is not how it was supposed to be. Every bitter burial of a loved one is a groan for the dirt in the ground that swallows us up to push forth new life in the new creation. Every wrinkle, loose skin, gray hair, and aching back reminds us that this old body needs complete restoration. We are all longing for Christ’s final consummation of all things with every feeble breath we take.

But our groaning is not the final word. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will one day raise our ailing parents, gone-too-soon children, and cancer-ridden spouses, friends, and family members (Rom. 8:11). Through our suffering we are made like him and assured that we are his children. The Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies on that last day (Rom. 8:16-17). ...

Living in a world that is groaning for redemption is hardly easy. It requires more than we have to give at times. The very Spirit who brought Christ from the cold, dark grave will do the same for us. And when we don’t have eyes of faith to see as clearly as we ought, he intercedes on our behalf. So while we live in this broken world we have hope. Not that it will be easy. Not that we will always feel able to endure. But that this Christ, who will make all things right one day, is sustaining us and making us like him in every gut-wrenching sorrow.

Read it all.

Reissig reminds us that our hope as Christians does not consist of sloughing off our bodies and leaving behind God's creation to spend an eternity of disembodied bliss in heaven.  On the contrary, the Christian hope is a resurrection hope.  We express that hope every time we say, in the words of the Apostles' Creed, that we believe in "the resurrection of the body."  And we affirm that hope every Sunday when we say, in the words of the Nicene Creed, that "we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."  

Our hope for redemption includes our bodies and all of the physical world.  It's about the marriage of heaven and earth as a new creation.  That's what we have to look forward to.  Our souls and bodies groan for this future.  And thanks be to God, that future has already begun in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Henry McAdoo: What is Anglicanism?

"[Anglicanism] is a liturgical and sacramental and devotional religion for everyday use by committed people. It is deeply aware that the individual is responsible for living his own life and doing his own decision-making in cooperation with the grace of the Spirit. Yet he is an individual who is a member of the eucharistic fellowship of the baptized and he is called to live 'the new life' of the imitation of Christ in the company of his fellows to whom he owes the duty of love. It is alive to the demands and the difficulties which being human makes on the vocation of 'walking in newness of life' but it is aware too that at the heart of this threefold duty to God, the neighbor and the self, is 'the mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.' Always the strictness of discipline, the care of observance, and the affectivity of devotion are centered on 'the new possibility' which is there when the Life recreates lives through faith and repentance."

~ Henry R. McAdoo, First of its Kind: 
Jeremy Taylor's Life of Christ (1994)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"I Remember When You Were Jesus": A Lesson from Vacation Bible School

Here at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, we recently had our annual Vacation Bible School.  About 90 children attended (twice as many as last year!).  And scores of teens and adults assisted.  It was a truly extraordinary experience that brought people of all ages together for a common purpose. 

As the rector at St. Luke's, it fills me with joy that our VBS touches the lives of children well beyond our parish and day school, welcoming them like Jesus welcomed them, taking them into our care and blessing them with the love of God.

On the last day of VBS, a little boy walked up to me and said: "I remember when you were Jesus."  It was one of the most precious things anybody has ever said to me.  And as I continued to think about that little boy's words, it hit me that every single person who gave their time last week for these little ones was being Jesus for them.  What a powerful reminder that what we do and what we say to others really matters. 

So go forth to seek and serve Christ in every person you meet.  Because you never know.  Someone you've reached out to with a loving word or deed just might look back one day and say: "I remember when you were Jesus."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Musical Interlude with Coldplay: "Midnight"

In the darkness before the dawn
In the swirling of the storm
When I'm rolling with the punches and hope is gone
Leave a light a light on 

Millions of miles from home
In the swirling swimming on
When I'm rolling with the thunder but bleed from thorns
Leave a light a light on
Leave a light a light on 

In the darkness before the dawn
In the darkness before the dawn
Leave a light a light on
Leave a light a light on

Thursday, May 22, 2014

J. R. R. Tolkien: "The one great thing to love on earth"

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. ...  There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires." 

Monday, May 12, 2014

David Bentley Hart: "The limitless beauty of being"

I may be something of a superstitious romantic myself, but it seems to me that one's meditations on the world's contingency should end more or less where they begin: in that moment of wonder, of sheer existential surprise .... It can be a fairly taxing spiritual labor, admittedly - it is, in the end, a contemplative art - but one should strive as far as possible to let all complexities of argument fall away as often as one can, and to make a simple return to that original apprehension of the gratuity of all things. From that vantage, one already knows which arguments about reality are relevant or coherent and which are not, whether or not one has the conceptual vocabulary to express what one knows. In that moment of remote immediacy to things - of intimate strangeness - there may be some element of unreflective innocence, even something childlike; but any philosophy that is not ultimately responsible before what is revealed in that moment is merely childish.  That sudden instant of existential surprise is, as I have said, one of wakefulness, of attentiveness to reality as such, rather than to the impulses of the ego or of desire or of ambition; and it opens up upon the limitless beauty of being, which is to say, upon the beauty of being seen as a gift that comes from beyond all possible beings.  This wakefulness, can, moreover, become habitual, a kind of sustained awareness of the surfeit of being over the beings it sustains, though this may be truly possible only for saints.  For anyone who experiences only fleeting intimations of that kind of vision, however, those shining instants are reminders that the mystery of being as such occurs within every encounter with the things of the world; one knows the extraordinary within the ordinary, the supernatural within the natural.  The highest vocation of reason and of the will is to seek to know the ultimate source of that mystery.  Above all, one should wish to know whether our consciousness of that mystery directs us toward a reality that is, in its turn, conscious of us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rob Bell's 'Oprahfied' Theology

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, best-selling author Rob Bell shares his theological vision.  Compared to what BC at Catholicity and Covenant describes as "the mystery of Incarnation, Cross, and Resurrection" and "the great drama of the Paschal Mystery," Bell offers a "spirituality" that is at best a sad, bland, and boring substitute.  And as Andrew Wilson writes on his blog, this interview "is probably a far better reductio ad absurdum of so-called 'progressive' Christianity than anything I could write myself."

Check it out:

Here are some of the "highlights":

Oprah: What is the soul?
Bell: It's the thing that keeps telling you there's more.

Oprah: Your definition of God?
Bell: Like a song you hear in another room, and you think, "Boy, that sounds beautiful but I can only hear a little bit.

Oprah: What does prayer mean to you?
Bell: Prayer to me is usually one word, which is, "Yes.  I'm open.  What's next?"  That's what it is.

Oprah: What's the lesson that's taken you longest to learn?
Bell: There's nothing to prove.  All that's left to do is enjoy.

Oprah: What do you know for sure?
Bell: That you can say "yes" to this moment, and you can experience a joy that can't be put into words.

Oprah: The world needs ...
Bell: ... all of us to wake up.

Oprah: I believe ...
Bell: ... that we're going to be fine.

Oprah: Heaven is ...
Bell: ... here and now and then and there and at hand and among us and upon us and available and real.

Oprah: My favorite thing to do on Sunday morning is ...
Bell: My thirteen-year-old son and I will often go surfing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

St. Ephrem the Syrian on Jesus Christ the Conquerer of Death

The following is an excerpt from an Easter homily by St. Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306-373).

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sermon for Easter Day 2014

Alleluia! Christ is risen! 
    The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! 

An acclamation like that goes all the way back to the earliest Christians. It's not hard to see why. For it captures the joy of this day, celebrates the heart and soul of our faith, and points to the culmination of mysteries we cannot explain, but which instead explain us by giving our lives their ultimate meaning and purpose. And it’s all grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. 

God came among us in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. This Jesus was anointed in Baptism as the Christ, the Messiah, the One through whom and in whom God’s plan to defeat the powers of sin, evil, and death was to be fulfilled. Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor and freedom for captives. He called people to repent of their sins and revealed God as a loving and merciful Father. He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the deaf hear and the mute speak, spoke truth to power, confronted religious hypocrisy, told beautiful and sometimes puzzling stories about the Reign of God, taught with divine authority, raised the dead, befriended sinners and outcasts, and gave hope to the hopeless. 

People experienced the power and the presence of God in Jesus. And in everything he said and did, they saw God’s love in action and God’s passionate desire to set things right in a broken world. But the whole plan seemed to come crashing down when Jesus was crucified as a common criminal.  

What mere mortals at the time could not see was, in fact, at the heart of the Divine Plan. For Jesus died on the cross to do away with our sins. Jesus died on the cross to defeat the power of death. Jesus died that we might live. And on the third day, by the power of God, Jesus Christ was bodily raised from death, forever conquering the grave. 

And so the Psalmist is right: “On this day the LORD has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). 

The Easter message that God raised Jesus to bodily life again after bodily death turns the world upside down. It flies in the face of experience and common sense. It mocks the pretensions of human wisdom. It undermines our faith in the all-sufficiency of reason. It boldly announces that a Power has been unleashed into this world against which tyrants and bullies, sickness and disease, loss and grief, fear and shame, sin and evil, and death and decay are powerless. And it proves a staggering truth: that God loves this world in all of its dazzling diversity, and that God loves each and every one of us, so very much that He will go to any lengths to guarantee our salvation, including suffering the ravages of death and hell so that we don’t have to. 

But for many of us, the message that Christ is risen may sound too good to be true. It’s not hard to see why. After all, we live in a world in which evil still runs amok. We live in a world in which children go hungry. We live in a world in which dictators and fanatics use violence to bully and intimidate, and bombs go off in marketplaces. We live in a world in which greed and the lust for power hurt others and rob us of our dignity and our capacity for compassion. All too often, the unholy trinity of evil, death, and decay appear to have the upper hand against love, mercy, and kindness. 

But my brothers and sisters, the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ is greater than the world. For as we see in the Christus Rex towering over our altar, this is a God who takes an instrument of torture and shameful death and transforms it into a throne of glory from which the risen Jesus calmly and confidently reigns as the world’s true Lord. And because God is so extravagantly good and loves us more than we can possibly imagine, something too good to be true has really happened. For in Jesus Christ, God’s mercy and favor have “shined upon us” (Psalm 118:27). And the power of God has trampled the death and hatred of this world into the dust. 

The immortal words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans captures the triumph and the hope that is ours by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection: “For I am convinced,” Paul writes, “that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). And this is all true only because Jesus Christ is risen from the grave. 

Our Easter celebration reminds us that the resurrection is not just ancient history. For we continue to encounter the risen Lord. Jesus is alive today. And we meet him in so many ways: in the Word of God read and proclaimed in our worship, in the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Mass, in friends and strangers, in the love and care of our fellowship here at St. Luke’s, among the poor and the marginalized, and in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Christ is risen, and through the power of the Holy Spirit he guides, comforts, and transforms us into a people whose lives radiate faith, hope, and love. 

And so on this joyous day, we don’t merely look back to what happened to Jesus. We also look forward to what will happen for us and for all of creation. Because Jesus was raised from the dead in the past, we are promised a new kind of life in the future. It will be an eternal life filled with abundant joy in God’s kingdom. We express our hope and longing for this life every time we say in the words of the Nicene Creed that “[Jesus] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” For in God’s kingdom come on earth as it now is in heaven, we shall be freed from sorrow, sickness, suffering, and death. God’s peace and justice will prevail. And “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habbakuk 2:14). 

On this Easter Day, we can go forth from our worship living a freedom and a joy that only the One who has overcome the world can give. For what the angel and the risen Jesus said to the women at the empty tomb, Jesus says to us today: “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5 & 10). 

Do not be afraid. 

Jesus is right: there is no longer anything to fear. For the tomb is empty. The Lord is risen. Death has lost its sting. God’s plan to heal and redeem all of creation is underway. And our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). 

Because Christ is risen, we can now face the changes and chances of this life with the confidence that we and all those we love but see no longer are eternally secure. We can live our lives knowing that every contribution we make for the spread of God’s Kingdom with our time, talent, and money – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem – makes a difference and will last into the future God is building. We can live without fear, knowing that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. And we can be sure that God’s will for abundant life shall prevail over every enemy. 

For God has graciously given us the victory of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. And we belong to the risen Jesus forever.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Is This Worthy of a Bishop?

That's one of the questions Fr. Peter Carrell asks in a posting at Anglican Down Under regarding Bishop Gene Robinson's inaugural column for "The Daily Beast." Here's part of what Bishop Robinson writes:

Maybe you’re religious, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re one of many who claim to be spiritual but not religious—which I take to mean that you hold many of the values espoused by one religion or another, but you’re highly suspicious of organized/institutional religion and its failure to live out its stated values. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s famous line: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”... 
Much of what you will read here will be critical of organized religion, since along with Chesterton, I believe in Christianity but seldom see it put into practice. Love is the central theme of the Bible, and yet we find it so hard to live lives of love. The enemy of love is not hate, but fear. When confronted by those who seem filled with hate, I try to ask “What are they afraid of?” with as much sympathy as I can muster. Responding to hate with love is one of the most daunting tasks of those who claim to follow Jesus. 
This column will also go far beyond Christianity. God is infinite, and it comes as no surprise to me that there have developed, over time, many credible and faithful approaches to understanding God. In the end, no religion holds a lock on the reality of God. Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God and offers insight into God’s reality, and we would do well to exercise a good measure of humility in claiming we know God’s will. Better to begin each pronouncement we make about God with “In my experience…” or “From my perspective…” or simply “For me….” At the end of the day, no matter how much we believe we know God’s will, we must acknowledge that each of us is only doing the best she/he can.

Fr. Carrell's response hits the nail on the head:

A bishop, intended within Anglican polity to be a teacher of the faith, belittles his own religion and its claim to have received the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus Christ by declaring 'Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God.' Further, as a bishop authorised by the church to proclaim the Word of God, the best he can do is boil down all proclamation of God's truth to 'In my experience.'

This is not Christianity. Nor is it Anglicanism as a manner of being Christian which is both catholic and reformed.

And, I would add, in comparison to the fullness of the faith as received within Anglicanism, Bishop Robinson's post-Christian religion of personal opinion is just downright boring.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bishop Frank E. Wilson: The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Mystery of Christianity

Sacraments are the vehicles for the conveying of divine grace.  Think, for a moment, of a medicine prescribed for one's physical health.  It consists of certain chemical elements which have been brought together.  Those elements taken separately are possessed of certain qualities, but when they are combined a new medicinal virtue is produced.  You may not be able to put your finger on that virtue but you learn from experience that it is there, underneath the chemical elements.  You take the medicine and dispose of the elements, but the virtue remains with you and acts upon your body.  It may not produce results until you take the medicine, but the virtue is there, whether you take it or not.

Something like this is meant by the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  The bread and the wine still remain bread and wine, but by combination with the spiritual act of Consecration they are invested with a peculiar spiritual virtue which is identified with the Body and Blood of Christ.  "This," said our Lord, "is my Body ... and this is my Blood."  Christ is spiritually present under the forms of bread and wine.  The virtue of His Presence produces its results when the Sacrament is received by the communicant, but the Presence is still there whether received or not.

There is a good deal of mystery in this, isn't there?  People have attempted to strip Christianity of its over-natural elements and reduce it to a purely logical system of living.  They have abolished most of the New Testament, discarded our Lord's nativity and resurrection, dispensed with the Sacraments - in short, they have amended His "Do nothing of the sort."  What they have left is a dull, unattractive residuum of rationalism. 

God cannot be measured with the yardstick of the human mind.  Human life consists of so much more than the human mind.  Man is not merely an animated brain.  He is also emotions, will, instincts, intuitions, and many other things.  God cannot be kept out of any of them.  Some of the most valuable factors in everyday living are entirely beyond the reach of straight logical analysis.  Who ever dissected friendship?  Yet we live by it every day.  Who ever charted, diagrammed, or card-indexed love and courtesy and good-will?  They cannot be even accurately defined, yet we all know what they are and we live with them daily.  They are mysteries just as Sacraments are mysteries - just as God is the greatest mystery of all.  Because the Christian faith is meant for the whole of a man, Christ made it colorful and interesting.  Drain the mystery out of it, and religion becomes flat and tasteless.

Moreover, men and women refuse to submit to an existence gone stale.  They will enliven it artificially with pomp and circumstance, spectacular theatrical productions, or the elaborate pageantry of innumerable fraternal orders and so make fictitious mystery.  It is a natural human instinct, and any religion which overlooks it is not true to the kind of life which God has created.  No one ever needs to apologize for the mystery that inheres in the Christian faith.  It is there because Christ put it there.  And He put it where it is because there is no other way by which God can be made real to the wistful souls of struggling humanity.

~ The Rt. Rev. Frank E. Wilson
taken from The Anglican Digest 56/1 (Spring A.D. 2014), pp. 29-30

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Abuses of the Pulpit

The Rev. Andrew Mead hits the nail on the head in a brief summary of what constitutes abusing the pulpit rather than faithfully proclaiming the Gospel.  AAK shares it at Sed Angli in a posting entitled "Abuses of the Pulpit."  Here's what Fr. Mead writes:

I also believe, and have since my seminary days, that clergy are ordained to deliver the Gospel and the catholic, apostolic Faith of the Church. Over the 40-plus years since then, three general abuses of the pulpit in churches have come in successive waves: 1) using the sermon to advance a political agenda; 2) using the sermon to engage in psycho-babble; and, more recently, 3) using the sermon to focus on the person of the preacher. Of course the Gospel often touches upon politics, or psychology, or the personal life of the homilist; and these can be useful introductions to the Gospel. But the subject is the Good News of JESUS. The Apostle has it, as ever, just right: 'We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake' [2 Corinthians 4:5].

I've heard all three of these abuses from the pulpit, including one on Easter Day in which the preacher talked about his spiritual journey for the entire sermon (not one single meaningful word about the resurrection of Jesus!).  Perhaps one of the more egregious instances was listening to a clergy colleague talk from the pulpit about his dog defecating while taking a walk in the rain.  If only that sermon had been about politics or psycho-babble instead!

Fr. Mead reminds us just how important it is that those of us entrusted with the authority of preaching God's word focus on Jesus and not ourselves.  It can be quite a challenge.  As one person commenting on Fr. Mead's thoughts put it on Facebook: "Perhaps the biggest challenge for the preacher, especially this one, is how to be appropriately personal in the process of attempting to apply the Scriptures to the challenge of being a Christian in today's world." 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tyler Blanski: "Christianity is not safe"

Some people scoff at Christianity.  They think religion is a crutch, an emotional cushion for the timid and weak-minded.  "Faith is an easy out," this line of reasoning goes.  "Who wouldn't want the comfort of a loving God?"  But Christianity is not safe.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is anything but the high and easy road.  You cannot have salvation without damnation.  To accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is to accept a world where all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all have gone astray, where each of us has warped and twisted the image of God impressed on us into a diseased, leprous narcissism.  There is no one righteous, not even one.  There is no one who understands.  No one who seeks God.  All have turned away.  To believe what Jesus is saying is to believe that the whole sweep of human history apart from God has culminated in the twenty-first century hipster: jaded, sarcastic, desperate for a teenage dream in the face of a yawning, cankerous vacuum.  The fruit of sin is ripe and rotting.  It produces nothing but isolation, fear, anger, the misuse of the earth and the abuse of other people, even ourselves.  Is it any wonder that the revenue of sin is death?

We might like to think we are the exception to the rule but only because we conveniently ignore our abuse of oil, our exploitation of international labor, and our endorsement of something as monstrous as a megamall.  We overlook what we do in dark rooms with a strong Internet connection and what we delight to watch on television.  Even Christians are proud to flaunt their healthy bodies and their manicured lawns yet timid to flaunt righteousness and truth.  If we are to take this wild and woolly God-man at his word, we are forced to admit that, like those in the days of Noah, we too deserve to die.  Death.  Death by water.

But there is hope in the horror.  The flood is not the end of the story.  Sin and death are not the last word.  "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).  We not only need to drown in the floodwaters; we need to be lifted up into a new life with Christ.  This is the gift of Baptism: we get to die to our old sinful selves and to be reborn in the light and life of Christ's boundless love.

~ Tyler Blanski, When Donkeys Talk: A Quest to Rediscover the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (2012)