Yesterday’s Gospel lectionary reading was Luke 22:39-51.  After Jesus prays in the Garden, Judas comes to betray him.  Then comes this amazing scene:

49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (NRSV)

Think about it: One of Jesus’ closest disciples (John says it was Peter), severely wounded someone who wasn’t a disciple.  Peter had good intentions:  He wanted to defend Jesus.  He wanted to show whose side he was on.  He thought he was doing the right thing – after all, Jesus had just told him to make sure he had a sword on him (22:36). 

How often do well-intentioned Christians end up severely wounding those outside the church?  They want to defend Jesus.  They want to make their message heard.  They think they’re doing the right thing.  But they end up slicing off ears instead of being faithful to Jesus.  I have a number of friends who have been wounded by Christians.  In turn, some blame the Church for what individual Christians have done.    To be fair, it’s not the fault of “the Church” or of Jesus himself, but of individual Christians like Peter who thought they were doing the right thing but did more harm than good.

I think this passage provides two words of encouragement to those who’ve been wounded by Christians:  (1) Jesus wants to heal those wounds.  Just as Jesus touched Malchus’ ear and healed it, so he can heal the wounds of those who’ve been wronged by his followers ever since.  Whether it was a relationship gone wrong, abuse, injustice, or any other unfaithful act by a follower of Jesus, Jesus wants to heal those wounds.   (2) Jesus’ followers aren’t perfect.  We’re not Jesus.  We’re just as much in need of Him as those outside the Church.  Even the most devoted disciples, or the most bold in demonstrating their allegiance to Jesus, will inevitably screw up like Peter did.  And when that happens, Jesus says “No more of this!”.  We have to pause and ask ourselves, “What are we called to repent of in our own actions that have wounded others?” And then we pray and trust that Jesus will heal the wounds we’ve caused.

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m in Telluride, CO, where I’ve spent the weekend at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival with my dad.  We’ve come to the festival together off and on since I was a child – the last time being four years ago, before I got married and moved to Pittsburgh.  It’s usually on Father’s Day weekend, so I’m grateful for the chance to celebrate Father’s Day here with him again.  In fact, thinking about my gratitude for sharing Telluride with him inspired this list of other reasons why I’m grateful for my dad:

  1. I’m grateful for the love of good music that he gave me.  Not only have we come to Telluride numerous times together, but we’ve been lots of concerts together: Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Emmylou Harris.  On long drives when I was growing up, we always listened to Tom Petty together in the car.  He bought me my guitar and my mandolin. Thanks for the gift of music. 
  2. I’m grateful for my dad teaching me how to ski.  (He also taught me how to golf.  Given the infinite frustrations of golf, I’m a bit more grateful for skiing.)
  3. I’m grateful for the work ethic my dad instilled in me.  He works hard.  I learned to work hard from him. 
  4. I’m grateful for the example of financial stewardship that he is.  As a teenager, I whined and complained about the fact that I didn’t get the expensive clothes and shoes my friends did.  Now, I’m grateful – my dad’s reluctance to spend money frivolously imparted financial wisdom to me.
  5. I’m grateful for the education my dad gave me.  Yes, he paid for my college, but he also did a lot to make me value the education I received to. I’m grateful for the way provided for me in other ways, too.
  6. I’m grateful for the travels my dad has shared with me.  We used to spend my middle-school spring breaks driving throughout the southwest, visiting national parks like Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Arches.  We also took a family trip to France.
  7. Along the same line, I’m grateful for the experiences of the outdoors that my dad gave me.  From fishing during summer weekends at our family’s cabin on Grand Mesa, to hikes and Jeep trips in the San Juans, my dad taught me to appreciate the beauty of creation.
  8. I’m grateful for the fact that he was at every school play, every basketball game, every show choir concert when I was growing up.
  9. I’m grateful for his personality.  The more I find myself turning into my dad, the less I mind.
  10. I’m grateful for the fact that he always said “Love ya” when dropping me off at school or ending a phone conversation.  I’ve only recently begun to realize how important that was.

Thanks Dad.  Happy Father’s Day!

Something about my last post didn’t quite sit right with me when I finished it.  A comment by PTS professor Scott Sunquist last night helped sort it out.  A student asked him to expound on the theme of hope, making reference to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Sunquist went on to talk about how all of the examples given in Hebrews 11 of heroes of faith died before they saw their hope realized (see Heb. 11:13).  What we truly hope for in the Kingdom of God cannot be realized within time. To use a seminary word, it’s eschatological hope.  It’s a hope that grows out of Christ’s resurrection.  And there’s no way to resurrection without crucifixion. 

The people of our world do indeed need to hear a message of hope, and they know this.  That’s why we look for hope in myriad places: political figures, technology, health-care, green economies, government bailouts.  All of these objects of “hope”, however, will one day disappoint us.  They are all false-hopes.  What distinguishes the Christian message of hope from all others is the gigantic cross that stands right in the center of the path to the land hoped for.  We do indeed proclaim a message of hope, but it’s one that has its center in the crucified Jesus.  Hope abstracted from both the cross and resurrection of Jesus is meaningless; hope defined as resurrection life in the Kingdom of God at the cost of the cross will not disappoint.

We just added a page on The Upper Room’s website with information about Converge – the festival we’re planning for April 25th in partnership with Urban Impact’s “Global Impact” day.  It should be a great day of food, fun, service, and music.  Check it out here!

I’ve been posting a lot recently about interesting programs my friends are starting in Pittsburgh, such as the World Christian Discipleship Program  and the class on the Church Fathers that my friends Matt and Tim are teaching. Continuing in the theme of exciting new things God is doing in Pittsburgh, this is a plug for the Formation House, which is starting in North Point Breeze.   Karen Sloan will be the “prior” of the House, a new-monastic style intentional community focused around a rhythm of prayer, work in local non-profit/service fields, and community life.  The goals of the program for its participants are summed up in four “D” words: to Discern a sense of call or direction in life, to grow in Discipleship, to Develop in both a personal and professional way, and to Disperse at the end of the year as a community sent out to follow their calling in the world.  For more details, click here.