“It took Jesus a thousand years to die.” say Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker in their fascinating book Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. Brock and Parker travelled the Mediterranean looking for early Christian art that depicted the crucifixion, instead they found wonderful images of healing, restoration and resurrection in a garden of incredible beauty. If the cross was portrayed it was always with Jesus in front of it welcoming the repentant and reconciled. For early Christians baptism was seen as an entry into paradise “Through this ritual Christians gained entrance into the garden of God, which stood beyond the open doors of every church.” (p115)
The authors contend that images of Christ on the cross as the central focus of Christian faith grew out of the sanctioning of war and violence as a holy pursuit. The earliest images of Christ on the cross that they found appeared in the 10th century in northern Europe and proliferated throughout the Middle Ages. What brought about this change? Brock and Parker believe that it was Charlemagne who began the trend as he spread Christianity by war and violence, subduing the Saxons and forcing them to become Christians. In fact it was in these Saxon churches that the earliest images of crucifixion are found.
I am finding much to think about in this provocative book which I suppose reinforces for me the fact that God’s grand plan is not war and violence and some end times cataclysm but rather a renewal of the earth and all its creatures and the restoration of the abundance, mutual concern and love of God’s original creation. I would highly recommend this book to all those who are searching for a life affirming image of the future of God and who desire to follow a Christ who defeated death and transfigured the world with the Spirit of life. and invites us to join him in making life flourish in all dimensions of wholeness and shalom.
Tom and I have just returned from a wonderful few days of vacation on Mayne Island British Columbia spent with our good friends Tom & Kim Balke. We stayed in a beautiful cabin that looked out over the water refreshing our souls each time we looked out the window. Much to our delight the blackberries were in season and a couple of apple trees laden with fruit stood just below the cabin. Blackberry and apple cobbler made from just picked fruit and topped with ice cream is not only great for dessert, it also makes a wonderful breakfast – after all I did use granola for the crumble crust. Actually according to Tom it is a well balanced complete breakfast – fruit, grain and dairy all combined.
We did lots of walking, talking and watching of videos. Caught up on our sleep and even managed to spend some time praying and refocussing though that was not the main purpose of the trip. Good fun, good fellowship and good food. What more could we ask for. We returned to Seattle renewed and refreshed and ready to get into what promises to be a very busy Fall schedule.
Over the last couple of nights I have been watching the triathlon at the Olympic Games – first the women’s with Emma Snowsill’s amazing win over a minute ahead of her rivals and then the men’s won by German Jan Frodeno. This is the most amazing display of endurance and perseverance that I have ever seen – a 1500m swim followed by 40 km cycling then 10 km running and both winners came in sprinting.
What a wonderful spiritual lesson – I almost feel that Paul must have had this in mind when he wrote the words of Hebrews 12: 1- 11 And he puts it so well that I don’t think there is anything that I can add.
1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
Yesterday we said goodbye to Peter and Anneke Geel who have lived in the basement apartment at the Mustard Seed House for the last 15 months. We have loved having them as part of our community. We had a great celebration and commissioning time the night before that I am sure all of us will look back with fond memories, but it was still hard to see them leave. Saying goodbye is never easy though it does often create good memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. In fact I told Catie that Peter and Anneke are not leaving our community they are just extending it to Washington DC. There will always be a place for them in our house and I am sure that there will always be a place for us in theirs.
Yesterday I also uploaded photos onto facebook from my early days on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis, another community that has played a very important place in my life and which has provided me with family literally all over the world. It was rather a nostalgic moment for me as I looked back over what had a been a very fulfilling period of my life. The Anastasis was scrapped earlier this year and many of us that lived through those early days have been sharing our photos as we looked back remembering both the good times and the struggling times.
Transitions are never easy especially when they mark the end of fulfilling and enjoyable times in our lives but whether they are good or bad they cannot be ignored. When I was on the Anastasis we would mark our move from one port to another with what we called our “Moving of the Ark” ceremony. The night before we sailed we would have a community meeting at which people would share their delight at all the good things that had happened in the port we were leaving. We would have a time of prayer and thanksgiving then take communion together. We would end the evening with a time of orientation for the port that we were about to sail to.
I always appreciated this ceremony. It affirmed and celebrated our achievements and focused us on the good things that God had accomplished through us while at the same time preparing us for change and the new experiences of our next port of call.
How do you mark the transitions in your life?
I thought that some of you might be interested in this medical missions conference that I will be speaking at September 18 – 20 at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. One of my workshops will be on Women in the Third World, the other on Practicing Medicine Cross Culturally. I don’t get many opportunities to be involved in medical events these days so I am really looking forward to it.
According to an article in Conservation Letters reported in the Canberra Times, all that Australians need to do to reduce greenhouse emissions and save the planet is to stop eating lamb and beef and start eating kangaroo instead. Evidently the methane-producing burps and farts (pardon my French) of sheep and cattle contribute 11 percent of Australia’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions. Kangaroos, however, emit little methane. Researchers say that 175 million kangaroos could produce the meat of 7 million cattle and 36 million sheep, and a switch-to-roo by 2020 could lower Australia’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 3 percent each year. Cutting the number of hard-hoofed livestock tramping around would also reduce soil erosion. But eating what is regarded as a nation icon by many Australians would require “large cultural and social adjustments and reinvestment,” Read the entire article