Saturday, December 06, 2008
To be entirely honest, Thor was not a favorite when I was a kid - the pretend Old English dialogue and the strange notions of honor were a bit difficult for a 12 year old, but the book just looked so doggone good that I had to keep reading. And when Thor was on Midgard (Earth) he was tangling with some of the baddies and teaming with many of the good guys that I loved so much.
Many say that the FF was Kirby's greatest work, and it may in fact be his best writing, but it is Thor that is iconicly Kirby to my art eye. Walt Simonson may be the best Thor writer ever, and his art on the series was distinctive, and fresh after a long spate of poor Kirby imitators, but no one can draw Thor better than Jack Kirby.
There are, I believe, two completely definitional and iconic superhero images - Batman and Jack Kirby's Thor. (Sorry all you Supes fans out there)
Kirby's Thor contains all the light and heroism of a Superman in a much more graphic, detailed, and interesting image. You still have the flowing cape, but the long hair, the winged helmet, are so evocative.
It is very fitting that this series end here. These last two images represent some of Kirby's best work. The Herc/Thor battles are legend. The classic battle of strength against strength, legend against legend.
But this last cover, Thor with the other of Kirby's definitional and never done better characters, Galactus, sums it all up. So much so that when I was choosing comics to frame and hang on the wall of my office - this was one of them. Near Mint condition, archivally framed, away from direct sunlight, it adorns the walls of my office where I gaze upon it daily as perhaps the best art ever put on a comic cover.
It simply does not get better than Jack Kirby and Thor.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Yeah, We Do Tend To Get That Backwards
"The masses want a resurrection experience without ever going to the Cross."Boy does that just about sum it up.
I have actually heard people justify this approach on the basis that Christ has done the hard work so we do not have to. Well, Christ has prevented the work from being fatal, but He has not prevented it from being hard. And the work Christ has done has yet to work on us.
I am currently in what, by any worldly measure, would have to be declared the best time of my life. I am making an exceptionally good living. I have a loving and caring wife. I have good friends and a church home that at least manages not to screw up too badly. It honestly could not get much better than this.
And yet, in the wake of my father's death, now 18 months ago, this has been one of the most emotionally turbulent and trying times I have ever been through. Oh, there were a couple of worse times in my youth, but this has been a really rough patch.
God, if we are really open to him, is always going to be stretching us. What He wants us to be is so radical, and so difficult, that it will always be trying. His work on the cross created a path, a path that did not exist before - WE MUST STILL WALK IT. He did not take the journey for us, He only made the journey possible.
Why do we so often offer the world a destination, when it is a journey that we have to sell? Well, the journey is such that the destination is the only thing that makes it worthwhile. But that said, we so often forget to mention the journey that people feel like they are being sold a bill of goods. Like promising weight loss without a diet; we are dishonest.
Which means, we have not gotten very far along the journey ourselves.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008
More on STMs
I will; however, mention one aspect of the whole STM phenomena that is really beginning to get under by skin - and that is how many people ask me for support for these "near" vacations. Certainly these trips have mission content, but when there are so many questions being raised one has to begin to wonder if people are not just using that, in part, to leverage others into paying for their exotic travel.
The WSJ piece points out how much more efficacious the dollars spent on the field would be if put directly into the filed as opposed to filtered through the trip mechanisms. When you add to that the somewhat self-indulgent nature of those participating on the trips. Yes, they do mission work, but they also visit Angor Wat, or hit the beach in the DR.
Back in the day, high school days to be precise, I was on something called "work crew" at a Young Life camp. That meant I worked for a year to qualify to spend a month at camp serving the camp. In my case as a bus boy. I was responsible to get myself there, in this case from Indiana to Colorado, and I hitched a ride with a group of local campers, so I needed no money. But I also know that experience, while mission, was really about me - it was more "Camping 200" than it was true missionary service. I, frankly, would have been ashamed to ask others to pay for me to do that.
And yet we seem to have no shame about such now. Heck, even in full-time missionaries I often get letters now that are more about helping them express "their call" to mission than about the mission field and people they serve. I find that pretty troubling as well.
I do not know what the future of the STM fad holds, but I would like to make one suggestion - if you elect to participate, pay for it yourself, or, like the youth of my church, EARN IT, through bake sales, house cleaning, babysitting and so forth. Please don't expect me to pay for your vacation with service work thrown in.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008
What Jesus Does To You
You don’t hear about these things much any more.I don't know how else to put this - I grow weary of theology and church, I want to meet Jesus and Christians. I am tired of endless debate about worship or Arminian v Calvinism or charismatic v cessation. I grow exhausted by a body of Christ that looks for all the world like any number of my business clients, just wrapped up in different architecture, decor, and language.
We don’t like to talk about them.
We don’t like to talk about or hear about judgment. It’s a word we shy away from.
We don’t like to talk or hear about God’s judgment on sinners. We’d much rather talk about or hear about God’s love.
But friends — we overlook God’s judgment at our peril.
God may be a God of love — but God is also a God of judgment. We can not take His love — or His gracious invitation — too lightly — like those who made up excuses for not attending the banquet — or we may find that we may have gained the whole world — but lost our souls.
If we are going to be transformed as a Church, we are going to have to be transformed as individuals.
If we are going to be a Church that serves God and makes a difference for God in the community and the world, we are going to have to be people who serve God and make a difference for God in the community.
The first step is to let God make a difference in your personal life, then share that with the Church – the community – and the world.
Flannery O’Conner wrote a story entitled A Good Man Is Hard To Find. In this story, one of the characters makes the statement:
“If Jesus really did all He said, then there’s no other response to make
but to throw away everything and follow Him.”
Indeed, that’s the only way to respond to God.
That’s the response to make to the God’s gracious invitation.
Throw away everything — and follow Him.
You can come as you are –
But you can’t stay as you are.
I long for the radically different. And I long for someone to walk with me in my efforts to be radically different rather than chastise me for my non-conformity. I am looking for people that in the face of the current "downward economic cycle" and "dismal Christmas shopping season" know that Jesus Christ remains in charge and WILL provide for us. I want to enjoy Christmas even if nothing is under the tree because we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Too many of us, WAY TOO MANY of us, have come as we are and sat here. We're sitting in the pews with walls erected around us, watching, but not participating - not allowing the glory of the Lord to actually touch us. Like the spectator at the auto accident we watch from the curb, close enough to know what is going on, but not daring to help.
I want the better life, the better church, the better world that is promised by Christ. WE are the only thing standing in the way.
Lord, may we get out of your way!
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
What Lies At The Center?
Christianity revolves, not around good behavior, but around God’s mercy shown to man in the death and resurrection of Christ.I want to respond to this, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, got it - let's move on." I understand the essential truth of this statement, and I understand the seemingly contra statement that mercy which does not change behavior is of no consequence, or as James put it, "Faith without works...."
The real problem is, I think, our desire to place these things in juxtaposition instead of look at them as an integrated whole. The new covenant in Christ is not in opposition to the old, but completes it. Under the old we knew what our lives with God were supposed to look like, but we did not have sufficient access to the power necessary to get there. Under the new, the Holy Spirit is able to indwell us, becasue God's mercy has made it so, and that which was impossible is now possible.
The key, I think is neither mercy nor behavior, but will. We cannot will ourselves into "Christian behavior," we become legalistic. If, by will, we choose to rely on Christ's mercy, we become worldly people wrapped in religious rhetoric. But if we submit our will to the mercy of Christ, our behavior will change.
You see, Christ lays at the center of Christianity. When put mercy, or grace or behavior or anything else in the center, that thing reflects us, we hold the center and we have not yet obtained the totality of the gospel.
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Monday, December 01, 2008
Discipleship VS? The Gospel!?
...I'll call attention to the fifth trend he spoke of:David then goes on to makes his case this way:5. There is a trend in our churches to emphasize discipleship over the gospelIn other words the trend is to see the gospel not as something that transforms - the gospel brings salvation but not transformation.
Carson emphasized teaching the whole council of God centering on Christ crucified as the power of the gospel and salvation. If we see the gospel as what "saves" us and if we see discipleship as the actual place where real transformation takes place, it is not a biblical approach. Carson said this trend has a tendency to lead us to see discipleship as legalism; as what pleases God.
But if I turn the conversation in a gospel direction that often throws people. It's often as if someone asked me "what is 2 + 2?" and I answered "rutebega." When I go in a gospel direction some will say "that's not the issue." Others will say "I already know that, but what I really need to know is what to do." Some simply disconnect. If we can frame the problem in terms of mistakes or lack of effort and frame the solution in terms of corrective actions and harder work and frame the outcome in terms of improved performance then people can understand and engage with that. But if sin is the problem, repentance and faith are the solution and forgiveness is the outcome, that's very hard for most Christians to deal with.I'm not sure I get this. I am one of those people that would say, "I am forgiven, now what?" Now, having said that, I am not a person that would necessarily be "looking for something to do," but I am a person who thinks that if Christ's forgiveness has not radically transformed me, then I have not sufficiently appropriated that forgiveness. I celebrate the forgiveness Christ has given me, but I need it in sufficient quantity and quality that I be somehow stop being the kind of person that that needs it.
Curiously I find that most Christians I talk to see forgiveness in Christ as the consolation prize of life. Yes, it's nice that Christ has forgiven me but they just can't grasp that He'll keep on forgiving them. Or, maybe forgiveness is a nice first step but what Christ wants most is improved performance. Forgiveness doesn't merit a celebration, it's a nice consolation prize for those who just can't get their act together.
I refuse to believe that Christ's death and resurrection was merely so that I could continue to be a jerk.
I think David and I agree to a point here. The key phrase is this, "When I go in a gospel direction some will say "that's not the issue." Others will say 'I already know that, but what I really need to know is what to do.'"
The transformation offered by the gospel is not something we do, it is something done to us, provided we allow it. And yet in one of those strange, seemingly-paradoxical ways it is something we participate in, we have a role.
The problem is, I think, linguistic. Not unlike trying to describe the dual nature of Christ or the unity of the Trinity, we are confronted with trying to find a way to tell people that they must actively participate in letting God do something to them - both act and be passive simultaneously.
Discipleship and the gospel are not two different things. They are not separate or different. Either one absent the other is neither. (Go ahead, figure THAT sentence out) Any time we have a discussion that separates them, we have a problem.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
Edward Caldwell Moore, Parkman professor of theology, Harvard, 1902 -1929; born September 1, 1857, in Westchester, Pa.; educated at Marietta College, Ohio, 1877; A.M., in same, 1880; B.D., Union Theological Seminary, 1884; fellow of Union Seminary, 1884-86, studying in Giessen, (Jottingen and Berlin; Ph.D., Brown University, 1891; D.D., Yale University, 1909; minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Yonkers, N. Y., 1886-89; Central Congregational church, Providence, R. I., 1889-1902; preacher to Harvard University and chairman of the board of preachers to the university, 1905; lecturer in Mansfield College, Oxford, England, 1894; in Yale Divinity School, 1906-7; Lowell lecturer in Boston, 1903; author of “The New Testament in the Christian Church.”
“And they compel one Simon, a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Itufus, to bear his cross.” - Mark 15:21.
This is one of the little touches in the story of the crucifixion which it would be easy for us quite to overlook. The climax overshadows everything. Our minds like the feet of the crowd which followed Jesus, hurry to the issue. The tide which is rushing toward that great event drags us also with it, just as it seized the people of that quarter of Jerusalem and swept them up the slope of Calvary, with no thought but of one person and one awful spectacle. Later, we discover that, as often under great excitement, we had noted many things we did not know we noticed. So is it here. In truth, it seems to me that there are in the whole gospel few more touching and instructive episodes than this one of the Cyrenian who, at that moment of Christ’s need, by chance came by.
He is mentioned in three gospels. Some things that are said of him suggest that he was, later on, a follower of Jesus. The manner of his mention here makes plain he was no follower as yet. He was just passing by, when they laid hold on him. He was going into the city as the rabble with the Sufferer came out. He may have had knowledge of Jesus and no interest in Him. He may have had very little knowledge. He was a foreigner, a Jew by name but African by residence. There were hosts of Jews engaged in business in Egypt and thence westward now three hundred years, since Alexander gave the race commercial privileges which the Ptolemies and the Romans never took away. This man‘s family may have been for generations thus merchants in self-chosen exile, and not pining much in exile. There were strangers from Cyrene present at the Pentecost a few weeks after the crucifixion. There was a synagogue of the Cyrenians in Jerusalem. This man may have been attending one of the few feasts of his lifetime in the sacred city of his nation. Or he may have been a man who did not trouble much the feasts and synagogues.
He was coming out of the country in most natural fashion, intent upon his own affairs. He was perhaps no more than curious about this mob which was going out to see an execution. He must have been astonished and indignant thus to be laid hold of. The word is a rough one. It is the word for impressing a man into the service. It is to be taken in all its harsh literalness, no doubt.
The man to be executed often added this to his torment and humiliation, that he had to carry on his own back the rough beam on which he was to suffer. John says Jesus went forth thus bearing His cross. After a time perhaps, overwrought, His strength had yielded. He had faltered, may be fallen, underneath the load. There was no time to look about for one of Jesus’ followers, to force him to do the service. I fear none was nigh. Any back would do. But the mere man of the rabble never gets this sort of thing on his back. And so it was, I fancy, that this clean-washed, neutral stranger, on his little morning journey, found himself one moment well at the roadside, a mere spectator, and the next dragged by some mailed hand into the midst, faced sharp about and forced to follow Jesus with that accursed beam upon his neck. After all, Jesus was hardly to blame. The crowd jeered if Simon showed discomfiture. One might as well remonstrate with wild beasts as with the soldiers. What was to be done? What but to go on, to get done, and, soon as possible, to slip away?
Imagine for this man any relation to Jesus that you choose, it was a trying experience. It was most trying if he had had no relation. So far as we know, nothing could have been farther from Simon‘s purpose for himself. Few things could have been less characteristic, so far as he yet understood his own character. And here, right out of the even tenor of his chosen way, there has seized him bodily this absolutely unexpected force. Here he is, Simon of Cyrene, toiling up Calvary after Jesus, with that strange thing, the latter’s cross, upon his neck.
Now the lot of this all but unknown man would not be worth to us the time that we have spent in trying to imagine it, were it not for the fact that it seems to me to picture, in most interesting and suggestive fashion, the lot and life of many a man and woman whom we have known, to illuminate some fragment of experience which we may ourselves have bad.
It suggests, namely - this story of the Cyrenian - a holy and spiritual interpretation of some events in our lives, of certain whole aspects of those lives. They were unexpected events, they were forced, unwelcome aspects, when they came. They have continued unmeaning, though they have been long time with us. They bid fair to remain unfruitful, tho we should carry them to the end of our days. Perhaps they have continued unmeaning and unfruitful to us because we have persisted in regarding them as merely the net result of the misfortunes, the stupidities and iniquities of our fellow-men, instead of seeing, as we might, that in these very things we are being suffered to bear after Him a part of the true cross of Jesus Christ. For what was the cross of Jesus Christ, in one way of looking at it, but just the net result of the misfortunes, the stupidities, the iniquities of his fellow-men? And who are we that we should feel ourselves thus injured at being asked to bear a part? We might come to healing of our own torn souls and reconciliation with a mysterious hard lot, we might come to joy in it and be glorified through it, did we but realize that what has happened to us is precisely what befell this Simon, when he was so unceremoniously compelled to put his flinching shoulders and his bewildered and rebellious spirit under the Lord’s load.
A good part of the load in life which serious men and women find themselves carrying was not created by themselves, it was not due to themselves, it was not chosen for themselves. Do I not accurately describe the case when I say they find themselves carrying it? This load was not created by Simon, it was not due to Simon, it was not chosen of Simon. He found himself carrying it. For that matter it was not created by Jesus, it was not due to Jesus. But you will say to me that it was, at least, freely chosen for Himself of Jesus. He was not simply caught under the load of the misfortunes and iniquities of His fellow-men, He had the insight and the courage freely to accept His cross before He came to it. And that makes a difference. Yes, and His followers have learned to do even that after Him. But sometimes, apparently, God asks no harder thing of you and me than this, that we shall have the insight and the courage to accept our cross after we get it. Get a good deal of it we shall, anyway, if we are true men and women, this cross hewn by the mistakes, the miseries and sins of men. Get a good deal of it, I say, we shall anyway, if there is any manhood in us. So that what we choose, after all, is merely this, whether we ourselves shall be curst or else blest and glorified in the bearing of it.
Or let us look at the matter in another way. This story of what happened to the Cyrenian affords us some rational and natural and everyday explanation of what we mean by the phrase, “the cross of Christ.” The phrase through much use has often become hackneyed and conventional. Jesus laid great stress upon the thought. We are sure it is a thing we ought to do, to take up some cross. But we have most vague and mythological notions as to how it is to be done. Superficial people talk most arrant platitudes. They manufacture some absurdity. They put this holy name upon some trivial and artificial thing. They rack imagination and bring forth some small asceticism. Zealots do unreal and unnecessary things, bigots even wrong ones, and call that the bearing after Him of the cross of Jesus Christ. And all the while the grand course of life has been trying to force on us something which perhaps we never thought of save as an imposition upon us, our ill-luck, blunder or badness of somebody in which we have got tangled, violence, wrong, even if unintentional, which someone has done us. We are still animated by the paltry hope that some day we shall give the soldiers the slip, or even get redress. We have spent a good part of our life in trying to be rid of this burden. Or, we have gone on bearing it grimly, embittered against men, and all the space dark between us and God.
I have seen men and women do this thing grandly, bear loads for men in general and men in particular, for parents unfortunate, brothers foolish, friends treacherous, or even wicked - loads which they neither had part in making nor could escape part in bearing. I bow in reverence before them. But all the time my heart goes out to them. They do not seem to know what they are doing. They do not realize that this was just what Jesus did, and that in thus doing, they most closely follow Him. They probably have manhood and womanhood enough not to say anything. But in their hearts, at least in tired moments and by wakeful nights, they dwell on the gross in¬justice which was done them. They cannot forget that they have been rudely laid hold of. They were passing innocent along the road. They have been by unseen and unloved hands compelled. It rankles. It rankles enough to make men and women who bear grandly all their lives just miss the transfiguration of their own characters, the glorification of their own spirits, which ought to go therewith.
Do not you know men and women who have carried just as much lumber up a lifelong Calvary, have set their shoe soles in the still warm footprints of the Christ of God, and hardly got more good out of it, just now, you might say, than one of the thieves? It cannot fail but that they will get that good by and by, in that day when all eyes are opened. But one could mourn for them, whoever they may be, that they do not get that blessedness now. So near is the glory of life to some who do not seem to know it. So far is it from some who prate most about it but shun these galling loads.
The Christian life is, at bottom, no new life which we lead after we are converted. It is rather, a new and noble and blessed way of looking at the same old life which, if we are half way true men and women, we have to lead in any case. And the cross of Christ is no pious decoration of our existence which we carpenter together or cast of gold and set with sharp points of steel and put next our skin. Nay, but it is the same old bloody, wooden thing which the weakness, folly, wickedness of mankind has been forever creating, and the true part of mankind has been forever carrying, and the one perfect Man bore perfectly, happily, triumphantly, and longs only to teach us how to do the same.
The same heavy wood is with us still. I think that one day we shall give thanks, that, as Paul put it, there are things behind of the sacrifice of Christ which we are to fill up. I think that some day we shall give thanks that we took life as it was, or rather that life took us as we were. The soldiers dragged us whither we were not wise enough or had not sufficient grace to wish to go. So much of the meaning of life opens to us only as life opens. And all is good that opens life to us. Ah, they were our ministers, those soldiers who took us by the throat, the mob who jeered at us, the clean people who got behind us. They did not exactly mean us the good. But now that we are calm we see also that they did not mean us all the harm. They were our ministers, I say, and we could pour out our thanks to them, only, I fear, they might not understand. Surely the day came when the Cyrenian gave thanks to God for nothing so much, as that the brave Christ ‘s flesh proved, for a moment, insufficient, and that, at that moment, he, Simon, chanced to be passing by.
And now I think that you will have seen coming all the rest that I have to say. Almost I am of divided mind, whether it is better to draw examples or to let you draw them for yourselves. Your own are best. You are a man whose bit of wood, dropped from the shoulders of the Christ, and forced on you in the rough soldiering of life, goes back to your very youth. It weighed on your sensitive spirit when you were a child. You wanted an education, you had a right to a start in busi¬ness, an opening in a loved profession. And the money which should have gone into that, may be God did not let your father earn, or let him earn and lose. And may be that was part of his cross, that he could not do for you as he hoped. And you and he might clasp hands over that bit of wood instead of misunderstanding one another as perhaps you have done.
Or somebody was a fool or wicked and squandered that money, or frittered away a commercial or personal influence, forfeited a reputation. Some family shame overshadows us, some sin or crime is committed by one to whom we ought always to have been able to refer with pride. Somebody’s over sanguine temperament in business and loose sense of responsibility involves a whole wide circle in lawsuit or indebtedness. Somebody’s towering and unscrupulous ambition, or again somebody’s sheer inefficiency, improvidence, laziness or plain vice, piles up loads of obligations which almost break the faithful souls to earth. Sickness, misery, fall within our circle so closely that even the world says, there is something for you manfully to bear. Sickness, misery, misfortune, fall outside what we have called our circle, but somebody has to bear. You see, it is matter of the size of the circle an strength of the carrying sense. And was only He to whom the whole race w the circle of His brethren, and every woe lay on His willing heart.
You will feel that I have described no lives, but some aspect of every life which arises into seriousness or worthiness of any sort. And that is true. That is only to say I have said before, that the opportunity of Christliness almost forces itself upon us so soon as our eyes are open to see. Every true man or woman knows the sensation, knows the shame which for affection‘s sake we tenderly cover, knows the patience called for by the faults of those we should revere, know burden which is borne for those who cannot, and sometimes even for those who will bear it for themselves, knows the complication and annoyance, lifelong pain and embarrassment into which somebody’s thoughtlessness: vanity, obstinacy, may have plunged a connection, knows the debts that must be the weakness that must be paid, the weakness that must be shielded, wrongs that, so far as may be, must be atoned for, the wretched consequences that m kept from others, must be taken quietly ourselves. That is life to those who deeply live.
Jest has been made of the fact allege there is enough wood of the true cross in Europe alone to build several ships. The jest is a sorry underestimate. Of the real stuff of the true cross, of the kind of material we have just been speaking of, there has been enough to give to every man and woman, every child, in every generation since the Christ, a good large piece. And so far as one can judge there will be enough to last till Christ come again.
You stand by the wayside some morning of your life. We all do it in our turn. Fresh from your rest in the country you are going into the city of your choice, perchance to worship in some synagogue or to the high temple, as befits your state. So stood the Cyrenian. And he wist not of what sort the offering and worship of that day I be.
You are intent on business, your own profitable, pleasant business. Has not every man a right to his own successful business? And what a monstrous wrong it is that all that wretched business of others should be made into a load for you to bear. You have your own clear right and privileges, your own bright plans. So had the Cyrenian. He had no idea what his real business and privilege that day should be.
And suddenly someone starts out of the crowd. You have hardly time to know it is all about, no questions asked, no remonstrance heeded. Resistless hands are on you. The tide of the world is bearing you along the with it. It would all seem a bad dream were it not for the plain duty, too prosaic and urgent to admit of being dreamed about. You never proposed to do it. But you are going to do it. You are too much of a man, too true a woman not to do it. There is that responsibility. But it was not you who incurred it. But. it is you who are going to have to carry it. There are the consequences which you even warned your friend against. There is that unending patience to be shown, that unfaltering faithfulness to be manifested, there is that wisdom to be exercised, loved, cherished, even against greatest odds. There is the wood. And there is the Christ going before us, bearing what He can of all the burden of the world, and leaving behind Him just enough to make all men great and Christlike if they will but follow in His steps. Perhaps you never said that you were going to follow Him. But you will. You are too much of a man not to. You may not have called your following by that name. That makes but little difference. It is the Christ that goes before in all noblest human life. And we follow Him when we do nobly hear.
And now, are we going to accept this interpretation of the things that have been wearing upon us? Shall we not let all the rebellion that in our hearts be healed, and then go to take up those tasks again, rejoicing in Christ as we had never done before?
We noted at the start that trait in our text which makes us feel reasonably sure that this Simon stood near to the Christian circle, later on. Mark, writing for that circle, brings his man forward out of all uncertainty with one, swift stroke - ”the father of Alexander and Rufus“ - he it was whom they compelled to bear the cross. He assumes that these names are well known to his readers. One cannot help letting his imagination play with this fact. Simon‘s sons would seem to have been Christians, and his family one of standing among the supporters of Christ’s cause. Does it seem unlikely that the father was a Christian from that April day?
I think that at the first he meant, when, with the cross, he should have reached the top of Calvary, to slip away. I think that as he watched the holy Sufferer the world was changed. I think that the clean rebellious man whom we saw at the foot of the hill, Simon of Cyrene, was well changed. I think that the soiled and stricken man, believing and transfigured, that crucifixion evening would not have changed his 1ot with that of any man on earth. It was a strange way to become a follower of Jesus, was it not? And yet I am sure the like has happened since. I think that through the mist of years and dust of other services, he looked back to that morning and to the violence then done him, as the pinnacle of mortal privilege and only wondered why the heavenly privilege should have fallen just to him. I think he was recon¬ciled.
But you will say to me it is easier to be reconciled to my own cross than to that part of it which projects into my children’s lives. It is easy to see the spiritual profit for me. But what of them? That is the last straw upon the weight of many a man‘s cross. You think on some fair morning as you go into the city, that the blessing for your children will lie in the fortune that you make for them, in the position, public or social, that you win. You are often thinking of them far more than of yourself when you say you cannot bear this cross. “My father, there is the wood for the burnt offering, but where is the lamb?“ said little Isaac. “My son, God will provide himself a lamb,” said Abraham. But who shall say what was in his heart as he looked at his only boy?
Oh, my friend, those things we named are good - sometimes. But I do also know that there is no heritage on earth like that which those children do enjoy who have seen their father or mother go bravely up life‘s Calvary with the cross of Christ upon their backs. I think they would not change the lot. I think they are reconciled. It is rather a strange way of ensuring that one‘s children will be followers of Jesus. But it is rather a common way, and rather sure. Never fear. Your Alexander and Rufus will bless you. And the world will have cause to bless your Alexander and Rufus. The world will never know - there are many things which the world need never know - that it all goes back, this grace and benediction which those lives have been, that it all goes back to a morning when you were dragged from your vantage by the highway, as Christ passed to be crucified so long ago. But in the stillness of your heart you may know, and in that will be happiness enough for earth and almost enough for heaven.
My friends, these things are a parable. We think our crosses wooden. It is we who are wooden and do not see. We curse men when we ought to be blessing God. We are cast down when we should be lifted up. Let us have done. Let us appreciate that what then in the wood could happen to but one man, may happen, in the spirit of it, to every soul of us, to be allowed to bear after Him a little of the burden of the true cross of Jesus Christ.
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