Saturday, October 12, 2019

Going with the flow

It's a very blustery day outside.

(Here is a bit from one of my favorite Winnie the Pooh moments on days like this.)

The waves on the lake are positively boisterous. I'm fighting a little bit of a cold, so I'm debating about bundling up and taking a walk around Decision Hills to check on things. The deer have stayed deep back in the brush during these windy days.

It's been a comfortable morning to work on manuscripts, to plan tomorrow's Bible Overview teaching, to dig deep into scripture and drink yet another cup of coffee (Caribou Mahogany, as always) while watching the leaves fall, fondly remembering e.e. cummings' briefest of poems on that topic. The soundtrack in the background is a rich variety of Melody Gardot, Sarah Groves, John Mayer, and B.B. King. Good stuff.

Snowflakes have been in the air yesterday and last night. There's a white rime on a few of the trees that is melting now. Seems early, but October is a month when you just have to roll with things a bit.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Luke 24:36-53

Jesus has the last word. He appears to his disciples yet again, and his word is "Peace." It is worth pondering that the most common words God speaks in scripture are "don't be afraid" and "peace." The presence of God is a rock, an anchor, in the face of our daily anxieties. He is solid truth over against our vacillations. The resurrected Jesus, victorious over the grave and every other fear we face, speaks peace.

Imagine them in that room, groping with a new, expanded reality. Jesus continues to speak, reassuring them in the face of what they thought was true. In among his words are some absolute treasures. "Why are you troubled? Why do you doubt?" Well, Jesus, you were dead just a bit ago. We're having trouble catching up. Just to make things clearer–and harder to grasp–Jesus adds, "touch me and see my hands and feet, that it is I myself." At one level Jesus is dealing with their doubts. Yes, it's really me. You can believe your eyes. This is not wishful thinking. The love you've known, the grander vision you've experienced, is real.

At another level Jesus is speaking theologically, speaking about the truth of God. He says, "it is I myself" and in the Greek it is ego eimi which just happens to be (as we have noted before) the exact words God uses to name himself to Moses. Jesus says "See my hands and feet, that I AM." The resurrected Jesus names himself as God, just in case we were starting to get our heads (and hearts) around the fact that he's alive in the first place.

I AM, who met Moses at the burning bush, who rescued the Israelites from Egypt, who placed David on the throne, who dropped fire on Mount Carmel at Elijah's word, who rescued the Jews from death through Esther's beautiful courage, I AM is risen from the grave, and death is no longer a period at the end of the sentence. At most it's a semi-colon. The story goes on for eternity.

Now, Jesus says, get to work. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed to all nations. What God promised when he called Abraham, that from this one new nation he would bring blessing to all the nations, is going to be fulfilled. Everyone is welcome. You've seen it; you've experienced it. Your testimony is important. As Jesus has welcomed you and spoken his love into your heart, go welcome and love the least, lost, broken ones. Live the joy and gratitude that comes from being caught up in Jesus' resurrection. This is not the end of the story, not at all. It is only the beginning.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A few sabbath hours

How hard it is to take sabbath!

I've been reading lately in both Exodus and Deuteronomy about God's concern for his people to take time for rest. I'm confronted again and again by my warped perception that I am lazy, that I don't work enough or hard enough. I track my hours and make sure, week by week, that I am dedicating full-time work and more than full-time work to my day job, and yet...

And yet, perhaps because growing up on the farm the work was never, never done, I always feel like I have quit before the job is finished. It's a rare day when I lay my head down at night feeling like I have done enough.

Not to give the impression that I am some type-A driven juggernaut. Not at all. But I have a sense that the days are precious, and most of them include some opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, and most evenings I have a picture in my mind of swaths of mown alfalfa lying in the field waiting to be baled.

Today I have a few work duties to attend, but they are important, not urgent. I need to start looking ahead to a course I'll teach this fall. I need to begin thinking in specific depth about a sermon I'll preach in two weeks. These things are immeasurably important, but they are not so urgent that I watch the minutes tick away with a deepening sense of panic.

What to do with the sabbath hours? I am listening to a couple podcasts. I am experimenting with a new recipe. I have been out just a bit soaking up morning sunshine. I have been deep in scripture and musing over the turnings of my life and my heart, lazily contemplating the future. I am in conversation with a friend on the other side of the world about a shared adventure this winter. The day is not empty. Rather it is full in the most peaceful, restful sense.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Luke 24:12-35

This narrative has got to be one of the greatest stories in scripture. It overflows with heartbreak, humor, suspense, depth of character, and surprise. This brief anecdote is a masterful piece of flash non-fiction. Just a few examples of the amazing turns of phrase and poignant moments in this tiny episode:

"While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him." These two disciples (Clopas and another unnamed disciple, quite possibly his wife) are talking things through. Processing their grief. Scrambling for purchase in the destabilizing events that surround them. Jesus comes near in their processing and walks with them, unrecognized. Have you experienced this? I daresay.

"What things?" This is perhaps the funniest moment in the whole story. In Greek it's even more brief, just a single word: "Poia?" What things? They carry in their hearts the things that have happened in Jerusalem in these days concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Think of all that is summed up in that phrase for them, going back to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and being honored with a banquet in his home; Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday; his teaching in the temple, his overthrowing of the money changers' tables; his furtive movements in and out of the city outwitting the Jewish authorities; the last supper in the upper room; the treason of Judas and Jesus' betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane; a sham of a trial, shuffling back and forth from Annas to Caiaphas to Pilate to Herod and again to Pilate; the unthinkable flogging of the Son of God, the crown of thorns, the Via Dolorosa, the cross; Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and others taking Jesus' lifeless body down and depositing it hastily in a new stone tomb; the disciples' huddling behind locked doors for fear. All this is summed up in their conversation. It is much to process, overwhelmingly so, but Jesus (who has been the heart of every event, every twist) asks, "What things?" as though he was a rube newly arrived from some backwater corner of the countryside. We need to see the humor that is an essential part of the joy that bubbles over here.

"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" Jesus chastises these two for their unbelief, but then he goes on to instruct them. If there was ever a Bible study I wish I could be a part of, this is it. Jesus walks them through the Old Testament and shows how all that has happened is not a discontinuation, not a disappointment, but is in fact the fulfillment of God's plan. How often I am slow of heart to believe all that God has promised! I get too comfortable living in disappointment, too willing to be Eeyore in my thinking: This is all I can expect. Oh, well, I guess it will have to do. Instead, Jesus reminds them that God has a greater future planned, and the trauma they've endured is part of the outworking of God's plan.

"And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him." There comes a moment when we see God's work for what it is. This is by grace, and nearly always surprises us. This moment, this new perspective, redefines the past and we see our own history clearly for the first time, reinterpreting the events of our past. This moment reshapes the future in a flash, transforming it from more of the eternal same into a bright pathway of possibility. It is the splash of cold water on the face that wakes the sleeper. If we are too bound to our present perceptions, this will be an uncomfortable realization. If, however, we have learned to live with a God who is willing and eager to surprise his people with hope, we can ride this roller coaster with joy. Are you willing to let God surprise you?

"The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Apparently Jesus, after disappearing from the table at Emmaus, flashes to Jerusalem and has a conversation with Simon, who then has time to inform the eleven and the others while Cleopas and his compatriot run the seven miles back to Jerusalem. This is news, not just information, and Jesus spreads the fact of his resurrection around to various voices that then reinforce each other. Who is in your life with whom you can share resurrection stories? Who shares your hope? Who walks deeper into God's word, into possibility, into hope, with you?


Monday, July 8, 2019

Boundary Waters

Just to whet your appetite, here are a few of the best shots from my recent Boundary Waters trip.


This was my early morning devotions spot on Hanson Lake, just south of the Canadian border. Pretty much all our days looked like this: calm water, beautiful blue skies. Gorgeous weather.


This waterfall is just off the South Arm of Knife Lake, along the portage up to Eddy Lake. That's me out in the midst of it all.


My good friend Nate who coordinated our whole trip likes to get up at sunrise and get out solo for a bit. I caught him on his way out to catch an impressive stringer of smallmouth bass this particular morning.

Luke 24:1-11

The resurrection narrative starts with this glorious word, "But." In Greek it's a tiny, indeterminate connecting word, not the conjunction that implies a clear contrast. That's correct, of course; the crucifixion and resurrection (as well as Jesus' entire ministry) is a continuous outworking of God's necessity and plan. It's not like Satan won the crucifixion, but now Jesus is going to win the resurrection, even though it sometimes gets preached like that.

And yet, in the experience of the disciples, and probably in our experience as well, there is a marked contrast. "But" is not too strong a way to transition into this resurrection story. J.R.R. Tolkien in his remarkable essay "On Fairy Stories" says that every good fantasy story (in the broadest sense of fantasy, of which the gospel story is the most supreme and most true example) includes the "dyscatastrophe" of tragedy but then also includes a turn, a "eucatastrophe" of joy. I want to quote Tolkien here at some length:
The consolation of fairy-stories, of the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn' (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist' nor 'fugitive.' In its fairy-tale–or other-world–setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the idea of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
If we do not enter into the gospel story enough to experience the depth of grief, of "dyscatastrophe" that the disciples, huddled in fear in an upper room, are experiencing, then we will never receive the fullness of the resurrection. If we cannot bring our own grief and tragedy into the story, the resurrection will remain outside of us. This small conjunction, "But," holds for us the turning of the story. The women come to the tomb and experience something quite different than they had expected. The angels announce to them, just as they announced to the shepherds at Jesus' birth, an amazing truth beyond the expected continuation of tragedy, oppression, and fear.

Our grief seems so permanent to us. Our fears and our frustrations dominate our days. If you have walked through grief, loss, separation, longing, you can feel the weight like gravestones on the hearts of the women as they walk to the tomb. Jesus is dead, and with him their hope has died. The announcement of the angels rings like breaking chains.

A word here about endurance. The greater the surprise in God's word to us, the clearer he will communicate. If God is asking you to do something truly surprising, he will make that direction clear. And like with Moses' objections or Gideon's fleece, he will be patient with your questions and discernment. Jesus is so tenderly patient with those who need a moment to adjust to his resurrection. But once he has made that new direction clear, once he has revealed a new path, his voice will fade. He is still patient, but he will not continue to provide signs and speak in the silence of your heart to confront each doubt. Having revealed himself, he will ask you to wait with him. This is why the remainder of the New Testament speaks so much and so eloquently about endurance. Now that we know the risen Christ, we endure the waiting for the fulfillment of his Kingdom. In the same way, if God has spoken a surprising word to you, once it is clear you may need to endure for a long while before you see movement toward its fulfillment.

Like the women at the tomb, the meantime is often fraught with confusion. Though they go and announce their disorienting experience, the rest of the disciples can't receive it, and in fact reject the idea as an idle tale. Don't let the confusion of others dissuade you from all Jesus has spoken to you. In his own good time, Jesus will reveal himself to the others.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The need for conversation

I realized this morning that it's been more than a month since I blogged anything. I have lots of reasons for that, of course: day job, a Boundary Waters trip, other writing projects, the delights of a beautiful Minnesota summer, lots more. But overall I've just had kind of a malaise about writing anything.

Been thinking about that malaise the last few days. I realize that throughout my life, writing has been an uphill battle not because it's work (it definitely is, and it should be) and not because I'm a perfectionist (that's complicated but not the reason I get funky about writing). No, the reason I back away from writing is the lack of dialogue. I realize I have always wanted writing to be a conversation. Maybe it's part of my impatience. I want the conversation NOW. I want immediate feedback. Currently I'm slogging through the process of writing a novel as an exercise in self-discipline, knowing that I won't get much feedback until I've finished the first draft and then completed a significant revision of that. At that point I'll allow myself to put it out there where a few people can read and offer insights. Until then it continues to whirl in my head until I put it away in frustration, then force myself back to the slow-growing manuscript. When there's no conversation around the project, I retreat to parts of my life where there are conversations to be had.

When the conversation isn't there, the writing spirals inside my head as the echoes fade away.

Part of the struggle is needing the right conversation partner. Just to test my own perceptions, I posted a chapter of this work-in-progress onto a writers' site for feedback. Three immediate critiques said it's boring, it's hard to understand, it doesn't work. Good for me to hear, and sent me back to seriously revise some things. But at my core, I began to doubt the overall value of the project. Then yesterday I got a note, not even a critique, from an individual who ran across that chapter. Totally different demographic from the first three people to critique, and this individual was eating it up. Looking for more. Intrigued by the story and the characters. Resonating with theme and style and all of it.

For me, at least, conversation is a huge source of hope and encouragement. Lacking it, I end up inside my own head like a whirligig beetle (check it out) on the surface of those Boundary Waters lakes. Spin and spin and spin.

Self-discipline is a good thing, and the lack of feedback forces me to rest back on my own volition as a writer. Maybe it's good for developing character, or maturity. We are, after all, inherently relational beings, but we also need a little suffering in this life to develop strength. Guess I'm still a work in progress.

That said, I frequently think about this "commentary on Luke" project I've been blogging through here. I'm up against the final chapter. Just a couple more sections to write, and they're the fun ones, focusing on Jesus' resurrection. So for all you starved blog readers, know that I'm working on it. Pondering it. Reading it. Living it. And soon I will be writing about it.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Luke 23:18-56

Looking at the crucifixion of Jesus is always overwhelming. It's a little like trying to see North America from downtown Kansas City. No matter where you look there's something significant, something that is a part of the greater whole, but it's nearly impossible to see the whole thing all at once. And like trying to see all of North America, trying to see all of the crucifixion and its implications requires getting such a distance that you really can't pick out very many details.

This moment, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate in about 29 or 30AD, becomes a fulcrum for the rest of human history. Massive changes rooted in this moment will ripple out and transform Jewish identity and significance, the Roman Empire, and all of human history.

Why does the death of one Galilean man, sentenced to torture and death for pretensions of being a Jewish king, have such impact?

If the crucifixion was the end of Jesus' story, we would know nothing about him, as we know next to nothing about so many other prophets and revolutionaries from his time period. It is the resurrection that fuels the fires and makes Jesus' impact unimaginably significant. But given that we know what comes next, we examine the details of Jesus' death and find immeasurable wealth here.

Take one tiny moment out of the narrative as an example. The story of the dialogue between Jesus and one of the two criminals crucified next to him is unique to Luke. We don't know the names of these criminals, and scholars debate if they were thieves, rebels, or what. Luke reports that one of the two recognized their sentences were just, however, and that Jesus' was not. He appeals to Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." It is an odd statement to say the least. Jesus is hours away from death, just as he himself is. Neither will be coming down from their crosses alive, and the coming hours will include unimaginable pain.

The gospels stop just short of stating the fact that the cross is, in fact, Jesus' throne, but the implication is clear. He is crowned with thorns, and the sign above his head (a Roman custom so that passersby could see the sentence for which each criminal had received this terrible punishment) proclaims him "king of the Jews." He has just completed a procession into Jerusalem in which he received accolades as "son of David." He has debated the meaning of that title with Jewish authorities. A few days earlier, when two of his closest followers asked to sit at his right and left when he was enthroned, he deflected their question, stating that those positions were not his to grant, but that they belonged to those for whom they had been prepared. And here are the two thieves, one on Jesus' right and one on his left, as he hangs in agony and glory.

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Perhaps this is the plea of a dying man, looking for a way off the cross, hoping to see the miracle worker do one last amazing thing. Or maybe it's the recognition by a criminal that his sentence is just, but the universe is ruled over by a merciful God -- and he is bold to ask for pardon.

Jesus' response shows that either he is privy to information unavailable to the soldiers and mockers watching him die a slow death, or else he is completely deluded: "Today you will be with me in paradise." Theologians and cosmologists have debated ad nauseam what these words mean. At the very least, they seem to provide hope for a dying criminal. Down through the ages, countless numbers of Jesus' followers have seen themselves in this thief's place, asking for mercy from Jesus in their desperate hour. Note that the request doesn't say, "Help me avoid the consequences of my actions," nor does it say "Make it as if I'd never done anything wrong." The request is simply, "Remember me." What that looks like, the petitioner leaves up to Jesus.

At the very least, such a request requires trust, and trust is perhaps the oddest of commodities coming from a man being executed on a cross. There's a lot here to learn about the nature of faith: It comes when all other options are gone, when hope itself looks like a delusion. And in this utter helplessness, we see anew the depth and power of the incarnation of Jesus: Being in the form of God, he didn't count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, and took the form of a criminal on a Roman cross so that he could reach this criminal who has thrown self-justification to the wind and has simply reached out for mercy.

In a few hours, Jesus' lifeless body will be pierced with a spear even as the thieves' legs are broken to hasten their deaths. Jesus will be buried in a borrowed tomb and his followers will quietly reassemble in an upper room in Jerusalem, convinced they need to figure out how to go back to life as it was before Jesus called them to follow.

It looks a lot like the end of a tragic story. Appearances can be deceiving.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Joy in the moment

Every morning, almost without exception, I start my day reading Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest along with a few other readings. I was telling a friend the other day that for me, reading Chambers isn't like reading the Bible; rather, Chambers becomes a good sparring partner, a fellow saint who often sees things differently than I do and we have interesting and challenging conversations about what it means to follow Jesus.

Today, Chambers was on about God's provision, and how we need to recognize (among other things) what it is God has given us. We are (I am) too prone to self pity, and that attitude leads inevitably to a cesspit of ... well, here's how he says it:

If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we banish God’s riches from our own lives and hinder others from entering into His provision.

He goes on to say that no sin is worse than self pity, because it "obliterates God and puts self interest on the throne." I started thinking about this and realized yet again how richly blessed I am:


  • Just in the last few days I've had multiple conversations with good friends about important topics -- conversations laced with humor and grace and joy. I've had the privilege of hosting some of these treasured friends in my home, cooking and eating and relaxing together in this very peaceful place, and I anticipate more of that tonight. Among the most important of those excellent encounters are regular in-depth conversations with each of my daughters and my son-in-law. Those relationships are incredibly rich these days.

  • I get to work both my mind and my body in the most amazing combination of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise that enriches me and blesses others and feels like a tangible way to do what God commanded Adam -- to steward the earth and tend it well. It doesn't hurt that for me, that work has lately included putting in a couple of docks here on "my" lake, driving all over my almost 70 acres of Eden in a beat up old pickup (not to mention getting farther back into the woods on a 4-wheeler) to do acts of service to make others' ministry possible, and watching deer, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, bass, a surprising catfish and innumerable birds. The fruit trees are blooming these days and flowers are poking up through the detritus of winter all around. 

  • Since early April when the church I serve re-ordained me into official pastoral roles, ministry has been a growing thing. So I balance the more physical groundskeeping parts of my life and living onsite at Decision Hills with building communities that meet in homes and pursuing that passion, working like a sheepdog for the health and beauty of this particular congregation, and -- this is one I really love lately -- developing a new format for our Wednesday night worship called "Growing Deeper" that gives me a chance to teach at a deeper level each week around topics that are, biblically speaking, really important, and designed for people who want to grapple with intellectually challenging facets of Christianity. (BTW if you're interested in listening to those teachings, we're posting the audio as podcasts on iTunes -- just search for The Open Door Christian Church and you can find us.) 

  • New opportunities to have a "voice" in this world abound. Yesterday I had a conversation about maybe going to Colombia in August to explore mission opportunities, so I need to resurrect my rusty Spanish. I'm in conversation about bopping off to the Philippines next winter to explore new relationships and renew old ones. I'm working on my writing at a new level these days, getting over some of my inherent sloth and disengagement in intentional ways. I'm learning and growing in multiple ways that are deeply satisfying to me and that have the potential to increase that ability to speak into the world.


There are more examples of God's abundant provision in my life, and I could go on. Does this mean everything in life is delightful and I'm content? Not hardly. I could easily make a list of challenging things, unpleasant things. I could enumerate all the ways life is less than satisfying. That's the point of writing out this list, at least in part. There are times when I get down in the weeds of things I wish were different. Sometimes my longing, my sense of brokenness and alienation and loneliness and deprivation and dissatisfaction makes me want to tear my teeth out. If I allow my focus to become myopic on those parts of my life, I can swirl down into the cesspit pretty quickly. It's important to recount for myself the incredible ways God has provided for me. As Chambers says this morning, "What does it matter if external circumstances are hard? Why should they not be!" It's a good reminder that just because God invites us into "good pastures" (Psalm 37) doesn't mean we have everything we desire and it certainly doesn't mean that we will be content.

Recounting the good God has done is an important spiritual discipline. Recognizing provision in the moment -- even if there are elements of God's provision we still long for, completely unsatisfied -- provides perspective and opens the possibility of joy in the moment, trusting God for joy in the future.




Thursday, May 9, 2019

Luke 22:63-23:16

In his excellent book, The Day the Revolution Began, N.T. Wright asserts that the crucifixion of Jesus initiates a revolution. The revolution, he says, is that self-sacrificing love is taking over. In fact, he makes a powerful argument that self-sacrificing love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that Jesus' life, death and resurrection start setting the broken, sin-sick universe back in line with the character of God whose nature is self-sacrificing love.

Most of us have a soft spot, however deeply hidden, for stories of "true love." While we may trivialize this term with tales of overblown heroes and heroines, there's something in us that loves a love story.

This section of Luke's gospel brings us into such a story, the most true love story of all time, and we may be surprised what love looks like. Jesus stands, in turn, before the temple guard, before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate (and Caesar, whose power is the foundation of all Pilate does), before Herod, and before Pilate again. In short, Jesus stands in apparent weakness before the greatest powers ruling over that part of the world. What power does he bring to bear in this contest?

Weakness. Jesus brings the willingness to sacrifice himself. Why? Out of love. "Greater love has no one than this," Jesus said, "that he lay down his life for his friends" (see John 15). Jesus stands without making a defense in the presence of those who have made themselves his enemies, and he goes to the cross for their sake and for the sake of the world. The New Living Translation of Romans 5:10 says that "our friendship with God was restored while we were still his enemies." Jesus sacrifices himself in love for Pilate, Herod, the Jewish authorities, the temple guard with their whips and their crown of thorns, the Roman soldiers tasked with flogging him within an inch of his life, and us.

But is it reasonable to say that Jesus' self-sacrificing love is a greater power than all these worldly authorities? Isn't that just insipid idealism?

Look at the results. The temple guard and the Roman soldiers are nameless to us. Herod is remembered by history as an egotistical tyrant in a long line of egotistical tyrants who bore that name. Pilate washed his hands to avoid guilt and is remembered for little else today but this one action. Tiberius Caesar's empire endured the ravages of history for another four hundred years before the Visigoths sacked Rome and brought the empire to a whimpering end.

In comparison, the impact and influence of Jesus has just continued to grow. This bleeding man, sacrificing himself before the authorities and powers of his day, sparked a revolution that has expanded from that day to this. The irreconcilable divide between Jews and Gentiles was bridged within a generation and continues to pull together what the world keeps trying to split apart. Jesus' followers stood loving in the face of a Greek and Roman culture that discarded the handicapped, aborted and exposed unwanted infants, and abandoned the sick. Christ-followers willingly gave up their lives to protest the grisly spectacle of gladiatorial games and needless violence simply for the sake of entertainment. When Europe descended into darkness and ignorance after the fall of Rome, tight-knit communities of Jesus' followers preserved learning and invented western science. Similar communities created large-scale health care and hospitals. This movement that Jesus started became a refuge for women who were normally viewed as property.

The record of Christianity has been far from perfect. Far too often those who claim the name of Jesus act more like Herod or Pilate. But compared to what the world was without Jesus' self-sacrificing love, the changes wrought by this Galilean and his followers are staggering. Looking at the broad sweep of history, Jesus' movement has indeed been a revolution.

It is a sinking feeling to stand in the face of power, willing to be brutalized for the sake of love. But I am convinced Wright has expressed this accurately: In the long run, there is no power in the universe capable of greater things than self-sacrificing love.