Friday, March 16, 2012

Experiencing the Stations of the Cross

I had the opportunity to participate in the Stations of the Cross for the first time this past Wednesday at our church. For those who are unfamiliar, the Stations of the Cross provide you an opportunity to rehearse the events related to Jesus’ crucifixion. There are 14 stations, each one representing a scene from the passion drama Christ endured, beginning as Jesus is condemned to die and concluding as Jesus is laid in the tomb. At each station you are able to meditate on the particular scene represented by that station and lift your heart in penitential prayer, such prayer being motivated by the great compassion expressed by our Savior on His way to the cross. In short, you walk the road to the cross alongside the One who bore the cross.

It is a somber ceremony. As I walked the path that Christ walked and considered His pain and agony at each step, I could not help but mourn my own wretchedness that made such a journey necessary. At the close of each station’s meditation and prayer we recited the Trisagian, “Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us,” humbling ourselves before Almighty God to petition Him for His pardon and provision of mercy.

A stark feature of this ceremonial journey is that it does not end with the magnificent resurrection but with the mournful internment of our precious Savior’s body in the tomb. Such an ending entices you to wait eagerly for His resurrection. We know the end of the story, that death could not contain our Lord, but pausing this passionate narrative at the tomb during this penitential season of Lent compels you to contemplate the agony of Christ’s act of redemption, and it urges you to consider the depravity of your own sinful state. The resurrection is glorious, powerful, and necessary, but the Stations of the Cross force you to recall the tragic necessity of death that preceded Christ’s glorious victory over the grave.

When the final station was over and I walked away in silence, having left Christ in the tomb, I couldn’t help but feel an eagerness of anticipation for the celebration of His resurrection. I left craving Easter Sunday and left craving my own future resurrection to a new life free from the constant pull of this sin cursed flesh.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The Collect for the First Day of Lent

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflections on Becoming a Father: Hear the Voice of My Cry

I am a father. A daddy. A parent. I have a child. A daughter. A baby. This experience has changed my perspective on all aspects of life, relationships, spirituality, and responsibility; and I expect it will continue to do so for many years to come. Such a change brings with it both new insights and new questions. One of these insights happened within days of being home from the hospital with our newborn daughter and continues each time I hear the voice of her cry.

In the earnest cries of my newborn daughter I hear the cries of the psalmists unto God. “Hear my prayer,” she cries. “Hear my cry,” she wails. “Do not be far from me in my time of trouble, listen to the voice of my cry,” she implores, not with words but with the only voice she can muster at her young age. Here is our daughter, a sojourner in an unknown land, surrounded by dangers and fears which are greater than any she has faced before, entering a life which forces her to wait, even if for a brief moment, to be rescued from the calamities she encounters, wholly dependent upon her parents to deliver her from her distress. These are the cries of the Psalms.

I hear the cry of Psalm 39. David is in distress and has become keenly aware of the fleeting length and exceeding turmoil of life. Knowing he is powerless in the face of such obstacles, he declares, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” (v. 7) How like my daughter’s cries! Her only hope for relief is in the arms of those who gave her life. It is precisely because she is helpless to help herself that she cries to us for relief, and it is because David knows how powerless he is before the circumstances of life and before the power of God that he pleads, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry. Hold not Your peace at my tears!” (v. 12a)

I hear the pleading of Psalm 130. The psalmist begins, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” (v. 1-2) After proclaiming God to be the one that can forgive iniquity he looks to Him as the one for whom he must wait and in whom he must place his hope. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning . . . For with Yahweh there is steadfast love . . . “ (v. 5-7) How like my daughter’s cries! In the midnight hours, when she is startled awake by a sudden noise or a fearful dream and finds herself alone, she cries out for help. She cries out hoping that we, her parents, will intervene, and she watches in hope of our return when we will envelop her in our steadfast love.

I hear the mournful distress of Psalm 51. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!” (v. 1-2) Drowning in sin, David turns to the only One that can deliver him. He knows that such a deliverance will bring relief and such a cleansing will be pure and complete. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (v.7) In seeking such a cleansing, he pleads to be restored to the joy he once knew. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (v. 12) How like my daughter’s cries! When hunger, like David’s guilt, bores deeply and  gnaws unceasingly, she cries for the ones she knows can provide relief. When she is mired in the filth of the flesh from which she cannot escape, she begs for us to intervene, to cleanse her, and to restore her to the joy and comfort she previously knew.

Before God, we are but newborn babies in need of the strength, wisdom, love, and redemption of the One who is our Creator. Sometimes His response is swift and powerful as He plucks us from the imminent dangers that threaten to destroy us. Sometimes He delays responding to our cries to give us time to learn to wait upon Him. Sometimes He lets us confront our fears so we can persevere and become more mature. Always He is our hope for deliverance from the stain of sin, a stain of our own making, in which we too often dwell and from which only He can cleanse, redeem, and restore.

“And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”
~ Mark 10:13-16

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Will Resume Soon

For those that may be randomly following my blog, I really do intend to begin writing again. Let me get you caught up on where things are in life:

Daughter Born: Ziona Katriel Reimer was born at 11:32am on February 16, 2012. She weighed 7lb 15oz and was about 19 inches long. She and my wife are both doing wonderfully.

Ecclesiastical Events: Lent has begun, Ziona went to Ash Wednesday service with us, the church did the "Thanksgiving for Women After Child-bearing" service for my wife, and my daughter will be baptized on March 18, 2012 (which means family is coming to town and much celebration will be had).

Teaching: I'm in the midst of teaching a class called "Old Testament Ethics in a Post Modern World: Re-calibrating Your Moral Compass" as part of my internship. The class is halfway over and it has been quite enjoyable.

That's the main highlights. I look forward to sharing some of the thoughts and insights I've had and shifts in perspective I have experienced through all of these.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Evermore & Evermore

The day of the arrival of our daughter is coming ever closer, although we aren't quite sure what day we will actually get to meet her. It is reassuring to know that we can trust God as the one who always has been and always will be.

That God is the One who is evermore and evermore is the theme of a very ancient hymn called Corde Natus Ex Parentis. It was written in Latin sometime between 348-410. Recording labels and copyright filing wasn't too common back then, so the exact date is a bit sketchy. These wonderful lyrics were translated into English by John Mason Neale and Sir Henry Williams Baker in the 1850s. Father Chris shared these lyrics in a Sunday School lesson a few weeks ago and I have been drawn to them repeatedly, with the result being the composition of a new song. The hymn "Of the Father's Love Begotten" has been around for many years using several of these verses; this is my take on these precious words.

This is a rather quick recording, so my apologies in advance for some of the flubs.


Of the Father's love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framed; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam's children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father's throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
SInners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Of the Father's love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Evermore and evermore!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Contemplations on a New Year

A new year is upon us and with it comes a mixture of emotions. There is the joy and relief of passing a fresh landmark mingled with the anxiety of uncertain days on the horizon. There is the hope of future times that have been untainted by folly joined with the guilt of realizing past goals have not been met and mistakes have been made. In addition to the cacophony created by this emotional milieu, this year we have the added variable of a looming political season that is exceptionally polarized and will surely threaten to divide many communities, families, churches, and social groups, as differences in viewpoints on justice, morality, society, and culture are exposed. In the face of a landscape such as this, I would challenge us all to realize that this new year is splayed before us untouched and untainted by past habits, biases, misunderstandings, and failures.

Let us consider the example of the apostles. Here was a group of men from disparate backgrounds. Some cooperated with big government (Matthew, as a tax collector) while others owned small businesses (Peter, James, and John, as fishermen). Some faced the temptation of guilt for past failures, whether they had denied Christ (Peter) or persecuted His church with deadly zeal (Paul). Others had to confront other apostles with differing opinions on ecclesiastical standards (Peter and Paul). While these characteristics are not hidden from the pages of Holy Scripture they do not define these individuals. Rather, this diverse group worked amidst ridicule, threat of violence, and social scandal to promote the unifying gospel of Christ and perpetuate His church.

Matthew, whom some may have seen as a government lackey, promoted a system of social justice in his recollection of Christ's preaching of the Sermon on the Mount that challenged readers to consider themselves part of a kingdom not of man but of God and to behave accordingly. John, a partner in a family-owned business, considered love for others to be the standard by which he should be known rather than his ability to expand the financial enterprises of his family. Paul did not wallow in guilt for past atrocities but instead used the memory of the past to propel him to diligently pursue Christ in the present. He also, although having confronted Peter, urged people in the church to not hold a grudge when offended but to instead confront the offense and then move forward in unity to the Table of the Lord.

These saints of old are examples of Christians who lived life with a motivation that surpassed this transient and mortal life. As we face a new year, with the opportunity for resolution that goes with it, may we resolve to have a solitary motivation in life that sees God as our Almighty King and we as His faithful subjects. May we develop a resolute dedication to God and His church that overshadows all other aspects of our lives. As we face a polarizing political process, may we recognize that the body of Christ was forged from one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. Let us not question the eternal state of those with differing economic, political, and social viewpoints from our own. Rather, let us realize that the body of Christ is diverse; there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, Democrat nor Republican, socialist nor capitalist.

This is the perfect opportunity to push forward with a new drive to live life in pursuit of the One who should be our unique priority. As we look ahead, may we all put aside past guilt, reliance on financial security, political allegiance, and unresolved offense as the motivations for our decisions. May we all instead live life in complete service of Almighty God, boldly pursuing Him on the basis of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What's In a Name?

We are excited that we now have a winner in the baby name contest we've been running. Congratulations to MrFribbles for your guesses. You were victorious and Shanna has already begun work on the victory lap quilt that we'll be sending your direction.

So, without further delay, allow me to announce our excitement at the ever-nearing arrival of our daughter Ziona Katriel Reimer.

Ziona is a derivative of the Hebrew proper noun "Zion". This is a term with a rich meaning in the Old Testament text, especially in the Psalms and in the prophecy of Isaiah. It is primarily used in relation to the future hope of God's covenant people. Psalm 50 proclaims that it is from mount Zion, described as the perfection of beauty, that God will shine forth. It is the daughters of Zion that were to look forward to their King riding on a donkey. In John's apocalypse the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is envisioned standing upon mount Zion surrounded by those emblazoned with the name of the Father. For Shanna and I this name reminds us of the future hope of glory that we have and that she will enjoy as a child of God.

The name Katriel is from the Hebrew root ktr or qtr with the suffix "-el", for God. The first root, ktr, means "to surround" or "to encircle", or more metaphorically, "to crown". The second root, qtr, means "to make sacrifices smoke" or "to burn or offer a sacrifice". The name, using the first root, means something akin to being "surrounded by God", or more metaphorically, to be the "crown of God". The second root means "offering of God" or "sacrifice of God". This name has a profound meaning for Shanna and I as we think of her in light of our relationship with Almighty God. We consider her a gift from God but we also offer her back to Him as an offering and pray that she is encircled by God's presence and grace.

We already love our child dearly and are eager to meet her face to face. It will be one of the greatest joys of life to see her christened with this name and grow into a thriving participant in God's covenant.

Allow me to share the prayer for children one more time, for this is our prayer for her:
ALMIGHTY God, heavenly Father, who hast blessed us with the joy and care of children; Give us light and strength so to train them, that they may love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report, following the example of their Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baby Name Contest, Round 4

Round 3: Complete - No winners yet
Round 4: Complete - Winner (and name) announced in What's In a Name?

The coming of Advent is a time in the church calendar that allows one to reflect upon and prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time not only to reflect upon His incarnation as an infant, but also to prepare His coming glorious return. The anticipation of the birth of our daughter brings a deeper and fuller meaning to this time for us. Although there are myriad challenges and dangers in this world of which we must be wary, Christ's incarnation and the future hope of His return is a source of comfort as we look forward to raising our daughter to be a child of our Almighty King.

For the rules, go to the "Round 1" and "Round 2" posts earlier in my blog; the clues for the previous rounds can be found in their respective posts.

Clues for round 4:

Clue 4-1
The Psalm readings and 1st and 2nd lesson readings for the first Sunday in Advent, according to the lectionary in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, contain clues to the root or meaning of both names.

Clue 4-2
The middle name was guessed in the last round (but we will not tell you whether or not it was actually guessed as a middle name).

Prayer for the Children (from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer):
ALMIGHTY God, heavenly Father, who hast blessed us with the joy and care of children; Give us light and strength so to train them, that they may love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report, following the example of their Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.