#CrucifyHim (a Good Friday parable)

How often have prominent public figures had to walk back, clarify, or disown public comments in response to a social media protest?  A recent Pew Research poll showed that only about 25% of American adults use Twitter, and about 25% of those people write 97% of all Tweets.  Yet, journalists, politicians, executives, individuals, and others often feel they need to bow to Twitter and other social media or be “cancelled.”  I’m not sure which is more worrisome, that so few largely anonymous Twitter users have so much power, or that even U.S. presidents sometimes yield to them.

Paradoxically, while the pandemic has shaken many people’s confidence in authority, at the same time some worldly authorities are claiming more power, having failed so miserably to manage the pandemic and its ripple effects.  To me, a lesson of the pandemic was: “See all these things people trust in?  They can all be torn down overnight.”  It has left a lot of people shaken.  Those we used to trust aren’t trustworthy, but where else can we turn?

The authorities respond: “Just give us more power and we will try again, but harder.  Ignore the evidence and trust us.”

The authorities of Jesus’ time were pretty lousy themselves.  In the greatest abuse of authority in history, they killed Him on a cross on Good Friday, humiliating Him publicly for all of history to see.  The rebel Barabbas was released by Roman political authorities instead of Jesus because of the cries of an angry mob stirred up by a few Jewish religious authorities jealous of Jesus’ appeal and resentful of His claims of authority.  Astonishingly, it’s not entirely unlike Twitter.  In modern times, the mob wouldn’t even need to show up to have Jesus killed, the “influencers” would just have to start #CrucifyHim trending and people would follow along just to be seen holding the popular view.  If Jesus’ message of love and hope for mankind died with Him, where can we turn?

Fortunately, we have Easter, where Jesus responds: “You hit me with all the power you have, and it wasn’t enough.  Even the grave cannot hold Me.  I rose from the dead and now sit at the right hand of the Father, in the place of ultimate authority.  The tomb is empty.  Observe the evidence and trust Me!

Jesus is risen indeed!

The stone that the builders rejected
            has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
            it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
            let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!           
            O LORD, we pray, give us success!” – Psalm 118:22-25

The Affair of the Sausages: History Bit for March 9

The idea that the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther nailing the ninety-five theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany is fairly well known.  Less known is that the spark for Reformation in nearby Switzerland was a controversy over sausages.

March 9th was the first day of Lent in 1522, and Huldrych Zwingli, a pastor in Zurich, Switzerland, was the guest of printer Christoph Froschauer, who published some of Zwingli’s sermons and later his translation of the Bible into German.  Froschauer, working long hours with his staff, invited Zwingli to dinner on March 9th and served slices of smoked sausage to fortify everyone for the work ahead.  However, during Lent eating meat was illegal under the Catholic church-run government at the time, and Zwingli was arrested along with others at the dinner.

Zwingli said he did not eat any sausage and so was spared the indignity of arrest, but the event was a turning point for him, and about one month later he preached a sermon titled “Freedom of Choice and Selection of Food” where he argued for freedom of conscience regarding observance of Lent.  The sum of the sermon was: “if you want to fast, do so; if you do not want to eat meat, don’t eat it; but allow Christians a free choice.”[1]

Zwingli, having previously been only loosely connected to Martin Luther and other Reformation figures and ideas, was appalled by the prioritization of state and priestly authority over the authority of God in each person’s heart:

“If you would be a Christian at heart, act in this way. If the spirit of your belief teaches you thus, then fast, but grant also your neighbor the privilege of Christian liberty, and fear God greatly, if you have transgressed his laws, nor make what man has invented greater before God than what God himself has commanded…You should neither scorn nor approve anyone for any reason connected with food or with feast days whether observed or not.”

Also in the sermon, Zwingli emphasizes the “why” a Christian does what he does over the “what”:

“Here is another sign of the times. I think that there is danger of this age being evil and corrupt rather than reaching out towards everlasting righteousness. Further, simple people think everything is all right if they go to confession in Lent only, observe the fast, take Communion and thus account for the whole year. God should, however, be acknowledged at all times and our life should be one of piety, whereas we act to the contrary when we think that it is quite enough if we pay attention only to the times of fasting whereas Christ says, ‘Be vigilant: for you know not the day or the hour’”

In an earlier post on Lent, I wrote that whatever our liturgy, it is useless as a “bargaining chip” with God, and that “if we do not value the prize – God Himself – nothing we give up for Lent will make us – or God Himself – happy.”  Zwingli became a forceful voice during the Reformation arguing that external pressure from church and state can strip us of grace and enslave us to legalism, but he also recognized with Paul that “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things[2]  Self-control cannot be forced by others, but in search of an “imperishable” prize, each should prayerfully consider the disciplines that help them better serve God, in accordance with His word, while showing grace towards others who God may ask to behave differently.  Not all athletes compete in the same events and train the same way.

Closing Note
I once considered naming this blog “Lenten Sausages” after the events described above, but that might have defined the blog as what it’s against.  Instead, the current name emphasizes the common destiny of all for whom Christ was crucified.  Every Christian became one because of Christ.  Before there were Protestants there were Christians.  Many of them.  After there were Protestants there are Catholic believers and Protestant nonbelievers, and vice versa.  One man’s liturgy is sometimes another man’s legalism.  Regardless of what’s on the sign in front of your church, it’s what’s inside that matters.

Soli Deo Gloria


[1] Zwingli, Huldrych.  “Freedom of Choice and Selection of Food.”  (1522)
[2] 1 Corinthians 9:25

The Weight of Lent

Earlier this week, I was reading the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, chapters 34 and 35, which together have an interesting contrast.  In chapter 34, with Jerusalem under siege by the Babylonians, King Zedekiah ordered the people to release all of their Hebrew slaves, seemingly with the motivation of appeasing God.  However, soon the people were returned to slavery.[1]  In chapter 35, this behavior is contrasted with the Rechabites, who, for about 200 years, had obeyed their ancestors’ vow to not drink wine, or build houses, but to live in tents.  God tells Jeremiah to call some Rechabites together, pour them some wine, and offer it to them.  But they refused to drink, citing their ancestral vow.[2]  The two stories together illustrate that this family could obey a stricter code than God’s, from a lesser authority (their human ancestor), and on less-important issues.  The Rechabites are an admirable example to the rest of God’s people, and a testament to what the covenant faithfulness of God to us looks like.

What does this story have to do with Lent?  This metaphor from the Apostle Paul provides some help:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-26

Paul says discipline and self-control are valuable in the same way that training is valuable to an athlete – they bring us closer to obtaining an objective that is valuable to us.  To those who love God, being a disciple will require discipline, and vows are a form of discipline.

Lent is celebrated many different ways by many different people but is generally seen as a time to practice spiritual discipline as a way to greater awareness of, gratefulness toward, and/or obedience to, God.  Often something is given up for the 40 days of Lent, which makes it in some ways similar to the vows of the Rechabites, or the Nazirite vow taken by Samson (or by his parents) in the book of Judges[3].

However, if we do not value the prize – God Himself – nothing we give up for Lent will make us – or God Himself – happy.  Lent will not help us love Him, or our neighbors, more.  Like the Israelites who flip-flopped on slavery, treating it as a bargaining chip with God and not as an act of faithfulness to Him, wrong motivations can lead to cycles of disappointment.  But, for those in Christ, the prize is worth every ounce of effort we can put into it.  Discipline during Lent can be like lifting weights for an athlete, strengthening them, and enabling them to better compete in their sport, but discipline during Lent for the sake of self-denial or for trying to impress God is to aim too low.  True religion to God is not a trade – He has already given us everything in Christ Jesus and we can’t earn more.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” – Matthew 5:5

I’ll close with this long quote C.S. Lewis’ sermon, The Weight of Glory:

“The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[4]

[Note: Today’s post idea came to me this morning, based on the beginning of Lent and tying together a couple of things I’ve recently read.  While not really part of the Beatitudes series, this post seemed fitting.  However, with Return To Office beginning, Lent has already begun by the time I could write this!]


[1] Jeremiah 34:8-11
[2] Jeremiah 35:1-10
[3] Judges 13:7
[4] Lewis, C.S.  The Weight of Glory (1949).  P. 25-26.

Let Justice Roll: History Bit for January 15

On January 15, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  A leader in the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s, he is the only non-president to have a national holiday in his name, celebrated on the 3rd Monday of every January.

During this holiday, many will cite positives and negatives from King’s life and legacy, and here I will focus on one, specific positive.  His father and maternal grandfather had both been pastors of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and he carried this religious heritage into his own studies and activism.  In pastor Tim Keller’s book “Making Sense of God” he writes that the strength of King’s arguments comes from his knowledge “that human rights have no power if they are simply created by a majority or imposed by judicial fiat. They have power only if they are really ‘there,’ existing on their own, dependent only on the fact that the wronged person before you making the claim against you is a human being.”[1]

King applied the teaching that “God created man in His own image” from Genesis 1:26-27 to argue that this image gives every person: “a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him a dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God.”[2]

In one of my favorite quotes from King, he cites the American institutions of democracy and its founding documents, but knows that even these must be rooted in religious truth to be effective:

“One day the South will know that when these dis­in­her­ited chil­dren of God sat down at lunch coun­ters, they were in re­al­ity stand­ing up for what is best in the Amer­i­can dream and for the most sa­cred val­ues in our Ju­deo-Chris­t­ian her­itage, thereby bring­ing our na­tion back to those great wells of democ­racy which were dug deep by the found­ing fa­thers in their for­mu­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the De­c­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence.”[3]

Keller continues in his chapter titled “A Justice That Does Not Create Oppressors” that “Martin Luther King Jr. did not ask white America to make African Americans free to pursue rational self-interest, their own individual definitions of a fulfilling life. Rather, quoting Amos 5:24, he called them to not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’[4]  God provides, and demands, more than “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

While His justice and righteousness will only be made fully manifest in eternity, when we bring a bit of it into this world, we provide something available no other way to our neighbors, communities and beyond.  We should not be satisfied with anything less.


[1] Keller, Timothy.  Making Sense of God (2016).  P. 199.
[2] From a sermon King preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on July 4, 1965.  Cited in Making Sense of God, P. 199.
[3] From “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, dated April 16, 1963.
[4] From King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963.  Cited in Making Sense of God, P. 199.

Hate New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s a Replacement Idea.

Fellow travellers,

Happy New Year! I’ve been finding it hard to write consistently for a while, but did want to share a variation on New Year’s Resolutions I’ve been trying to do personally for a while. It’s been helpful to me, and might be to you. I’m sure there’s already a book out there with a similar idea, but here’s mine, starting with some background:

A while back I realized two problems I had with New Year’s resolutions: 1) I get frustrated by failing at them, and 2) they aren’t permanent. So they go nowhere.

About the same time I realized similar things about giving up something for Lent, a roughly 40-day period.

So what if, instead of making temporary changes at New Year’s or Lent, a person could make smaller, but permanent changes every 40 days? In any year, there are about 40 times 9 days. What if, even if they failed at half (or more) of the changes, the successful ones still added up to a massive shift in habits over a multi-year period or even a lifetime? They don’t need to be “spiritual” or major, they just need to be something you think will make your life better, permanently.

For example, in 2021 these were some of my attempted changes:

1/1/21 – Drink at least 32 oz of water a day
5/1/21 – Blog regularly, and
8/29/21 – Open a devotional before checking my phone in the morning.

There were more – some I failed at and some I’ll keep private, but they are significant enough to have a cumulative effect without being too hard to keep them all.

Are there small things you are doing that are harmful to you? Are there small changes you can make to improve your life? Can each of us build a better “Life Liturgy”** over time, step by step? The idea is to accumulate victories in small battles, and over time to better love God, yourself, and others. Keep a record of what you’re changing. In years, hopefully the cumulative change is emormous.

I keep a list of the 40-day periods each year and the change I want to make. Sometimes I do nothing until later – I don’t criticize myself for missing a deadline or going back on something.

My “Life Liturgy” change for 1/1/22 is to keep Facebook off my phone. The next date is 2/10/22, and I have a couple of things under consideration for then.

What do you think, and what do you have planned for 2022?

** I had called this “Eternal Lent” for myself, but ended up liking the Liturgy concept better.