Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Resurrection: "They said nothing because they were afraid"

In the Gospel of Mark the regular reading for Resurrection Sunday ends jarringly: the women had seen the empty tomb, had seen an angel, had heard the message that God raised Jesus from the dead -- and kept it quiet at first. "They said nothing because they were afraid." This morning, hearing that reminded me of modern Christianity. We have good news to announce, and sometimes we say nothing because we are afraid. 

These days speaking out as a Christian often means being mocked, being bullied, being shunned. Even in a culture where so many people share our faith in Jesus' resurrection, mentioning faith is signing up for trouble. The critics are loud and proud, with many determined to exclude Christians from the public square, to exclude us from various jobs and professions. 

For the original witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, why would they be afraid to speak out? Maybe fear of being disbelieved, fear of being ridiculed. Maybe fear of the ruling authorities, who after all had just had their beloved leader executed, and those authorities were not too proud to deal with his followers the same way. Maybe even fear of the unknown, the confusion over the missing body and the angel's message. 

What moved them to speak out, to get past the fear? Well, Jesus' resurrection is really too important not to mention. It changes everyone's thoughts, everyone's plans for what to do with their lives, to know something like that. And it's big enough news that it actually changes the view of the world, of life and death, of forgiveness, of what God's love can accomplish, of whether we matter. 

Nobody took just the women's word for it; the women weren't wrong if they feared disbelief and ridicule. But once the others began to see for themselves, the fear was less and the faith was more, and more people believed. May it be so for us in our day. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.9 - Taking direction, advice, and counsel

It is a great thing to remain obedient, to live under authority, and not to be a law unto ourselves. It is much safer to be under authority than in a place of authority. Many are obedient more from necessity than from love; these find it painful, and complain easily. Nor will they gain freedom of mind unless with all their heart for the sake of God they submit themselves. If you run here or there to another place you will find no peace except in humble subjection to the rule of authority. Imagining other places and changes has disappointed many. 

True that everyone willingly acts according to his own feelings, and is inclined toward those who feel the same. But if Christ is among us, then it is necessary that we sometimes set aside our feelings for the sake of peace. Who is so wise that he can possibly know all things fully? So do not over-rely on your own sense of things, but be ready to hear sense from others too. If you have a good opinion but for the sake of God you let it go and follow another, you will gain more. 

I have often heard that it is safer to listen and receive counsel than to give it. It may happen that every opinion is good; but to refuse to acquiesce to others when reason or good cause requires it, is a mark of pride or stubbornness.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.9. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.8 - Choosing your companions wisely

Avoiding over-familiarity

Not everyone is such that you should you reveal your heart to them. But with someone who is wise and fears God you may pursue your cause. Seldom seek the company of the young and the strangers, nor flatter the rich, nor willingly keep company with the powerful and influential. Associate with the humble and simple, the devout not the worldly, who are focused on constructive things. Do not be familiar with someone of the opposite sex, but commend all alike to God. Only to God and his angels should your wishes be familiar, and avoid the notice of men.

We have love for all, but do not make close companions of all. Sometimes it happens that someone we don't know shines with a good reputation, and then his presence darkens the eyes of the onlookers. We think to please others by displaying our firm convictions, and find that we displease them more as they see the dishonesty of our behavior. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.8. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.7 - Fleeing from Pride

Flee from misguided hope and pride

It is pointless to put your hope in men or in any created thing. Don't be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ, and to be seen as poor in the world. Do not exalt yourself, but build your hope on God. Do what is in you, and God's presence will bless your willingness for good. Do not trust in your knowledge or in the cleverness of anyone alive, but trust more greatly in the grace of God, who helps the humble, and who humbles the proud.

Do not pride yourself on riches if you have them, nor in friends who are powerful, but in God who provides all things, and above all things desires to give Himself. Do not brag about the strength or beauty of your body, for with only a slight sickness its glory is gone and it becomes a source of disgust. Do not please yourself, and through humility or cleverness do not displease God, who is the source of all the good we have by nature. 

Do not count yourself better than others, or you may appear worse before God, who knows what is in man. Do not pride yourself on good works, for there are different judgments between God and man, and God is often displeased at what pleases man. If you see in yourself goodness, believe that others have more, and keep your humility. It does no harm to place yourself below others; but it is great harm to place yourself above even one. Peace is with the humble, while the heart of the proud often has envy and anger.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.7. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.6 on Temptation: Yielding to passion has no payoff

Of inordinate affections

Whenever a disordered desire comes to a man, he becomes restless. The proud and the greedy are never at rest, while the poor and humble of heart have the abundant protection of peace. The man who is not yet wholly dead to ego is soon tempted, and is overcome in small and low things. Weak in spirit and stronger in flesh, he leans toward the pleasures of the senses, and it is difficult for him to completely escape from earthly desires. And so he resists temptation sadly and grudgingly, and is easily angered at any opposition. 

But if he does pursue those desires, immediately he is weighed down by the condemnation of his conscience. He followed his desire, but it contributed nothing towards the peace that he pursued. It is not serving passion but resisting it that brings true peace of heart. And therefore there is no peace in the heart of a man who is carnal, no peace in the man who is dedicated to outward things, but in a passionately spiritual one.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.6. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art