Tag Archives: lent2019

He Is Risen!

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

by Lauren Spohn ’20. Lauren is a junior in Currier studying English.

We have reached the end of our prayerful walk through this Lenten season, and we have come, at long last, to the empty tomb. Rejoice! He has risen; he has risen, indeed.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. We leave the final word to St. Matthew.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” […]

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 1-10, 16-20; New International Version

We Call This Friday Good

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Aidan Luke Stoddart ’21. Aidan is a sophomore in Eliot concentrating in the Comparative Study of Religion.

We have arrived at Good Friday, the day when we are especially invited to reflect on Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. It is perhaps the most frightening, the most harrowing, the most heartbreaking story in all of Scripture—and, of course, it is also probably the most important. As we draw near to Christ Crucified, venerating his cross and taking in the weight of his momentous sacrifice, this passage from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is on my mind:

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

“In spite of that, we call this Friday good”! If you’re anything like me, you might take the name “Good Friday” for granted, passing by it without much thought. And I could imagine why! For one thing, this name is just traditional—we’ve always referred to the Friday before Easter as Good Friday. It’s just what we do. Furthermore, we already know the end of the story. Perhaps, eager as we are to jump to the Resurrection, we don’t take the time to sit with the utter paradox at the heart of the name “Good Friday.” Given that Easter is on Sunday, the name may strike us as sensible, appropriate.

But it is not Easter yet. The words of Paul in Chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians are instructive here. We do not proclaim Christ Risen, but rather, “we proclaim Christ Crucified.” The core of our proclamation of religious triumph is the cross, and lest we forget due to the its ubiquitous appropriation in our culture as a watered-down symbol, the cross is a gallows. This is truly ridiculous; to use Paul’s words, it is “a stumbling block” and “foolishness” to those who don’t understand it. And yet, this cross is what we proclaim. It is our kerygma. And we call the day when we commemorate it “good.”

So, let us abide in “Good” Friday, reflecting on the utter outrageousness of its name. Let us confront the horror of the Passion narrative and remember in spite of what we call this Friday good. And let us encounter Christ on the cross, and remember why.

Jesus was reviled, oppressed, and afflicted. We led him like a lamb to the slaughter, to crush him with pain. He who had done no violence himself became an innocent victim of our own violence, and in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

We abandoned him in the garden as he prayed in fear through the weary hours of the night. He loved us and uplifted us, and we denied him—once, and again, and again. And yet, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
We struck him, we spat on him, and we mortified him. We gave him a crown of thorns to tear open his scalp and make a mockery of his kingship. Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

We drove nails through his hands and his feet. We hammered him onto a cross, and hoisted him up on a hill to die a traitor’s death. As he bled out, we taunted him all the more. Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
We looked on as agonizing hours passed, and heard Jesus as he cried out in the words of the psalmist: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We watched as he died of the wounds we gave him. We watched as he died utterly and inexorably alone. Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

In spite of all this violence, in spite of all this hatred, in spite of all this derision, in spite of all this darkness, we call this Friday good. Why?

The answer is Love.

By suffering death on a cross, Jesus fully exemplifies and demonstrates the Love that is the living breath of the Gospel: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The Love that God is, the Love that holds all things together, the Love that created us: this same Love is the essence and meaning of the cross.

This why it is not just by Christ’s being or his life but by his wounds that we are healed. It is not just by his life but by his death that we are restored and vitalized. The cross is not an uncomfortable obstacle on the road to the joy of Easter. In a certain sense, the cross is the end in and of itself, because it is on the cross that Jesus enacts the love that draws us together and sets us free. The cross is God’s greatest act and embodiment of self-emptying grace and love for everyone. All the gruesome horrors of the Passion make this moment of Love all the more powerful, for God takes the violence, hatred, derision, and the darkness, and forges them into something new through the fire of Love:

We lead Jesus like a lamb to the slaughter, but even as we do, he leads us to himself.

We abandon Jesus and deny him, but on the cross he shows us that he will never abandon or deny us.

We strike him, we spit on him, we mortify and mock him, but he always responds to us with peace self-sacrifice.

We fill his body with nails and pierce it with spear points, but he fills our bodies with himself and pierces us with his Spirit.

We hoist him up on a cross, but as we do, he brings us up with him, drawing us to unity with God (for atonement is quite literally at-one-ment).

We look on him and mock as he suffers, but by that very suffering he demonstrates his intimacy with us, and shows us that in his great Love he will not look on our suffering from afar, but suffer with us.

We watch as he dies. But, just as he gives himself to suffering so that we may be healed, he gives himself to death so that we may live, because he loves us so greatly and so fully.

Because of all this, we call this Friday good.

I want to conclude by offering three brief reflections. First: the cross is for everyone. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you’ve done, what you will do, or what you believe, you are included in the great movement of Love that led Jesus to the cross. God’s Love for you is abiding and infinitely deep, and it will never let you go. The miracle of the cross is not reserved for the people who do the right thing, or say the right words, or formulate the right doctrine, or have all the right answers. It is God’s will that everyone be saved, and by the cross, God draws all people to God’s self.

Second: the cross is not actually about punishment. Many of us have heard the pervasive interpretation of the Passion narrative that renders Jesus’ death as a story of penal substitution: humans are depraved sinners who offend God in abhorrent ways, and God needs to punish. So God kills Jesus instead of us, saving us from violence that we actually deserve. This take on the Passion is prevalent in some Christian traditions. But this is far from the only interpretation of the story, and it is actually a relatively recent development in Church history. Therefore, I wonder if it might be life-giving to think about the Passion from a different perspective. After all, the God we meet in Jesus the Incarnate Word is a God of Love, and Love does not delight in violence or punishment. Furthermore, if we cast Jesus as a separate object of Divine retribution, we may fail to recognize that the Father and the Christ are One, and that the truest justice is not necessarily retributive. In light of this, I invite you to consider another theological paradigm: the Passion is not God enacting violence as a substitutionary punishment. Rather, the violence in the story is our own human violence, to which God gracefully and peacefully responds with Love. This Love, embodied by Christ on the cross, breaks the cycle of sinfulness and hate, and conquers the forces of darkness. Through his loving sacrifice and radical forgiveness in the face of evil, we are healed, redeemed, and set-free.

Third: the cross is God’s delight. The point of Good Friday is not, despite the poor theology many of us have been fed, to make us feel guilt and shame about the Passion of Christ. Rather, the cross releases us from guilt and shame, and invites us to rejoice in God’s great Love for us, a Love that metamorphoses even the cruelest human sin and violence. God longs for us and desires to be in communion with us, and it is God’s joy to sacrifice God’s self for us.

As I said earlier, the cross is a gallows. But, we proclaim it because, in God’s hands, even a gallows can become the gate by which we return home. We proclaim it because, in God’s hands, even a gallows can become the throne from which a new reign of Love begins: unfailing, infinite, redemptive, delightful love for every human being on Earth.

I close with a passage from the writings of St. Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English mystic who experienced a powerful vision of the Lord’s Passion:

With a kindly countenance our good lord looked into his side, and he gazed with joy, and with his sweet regard he drew his creature’s understanding into his side by the same wound; and there he revealed a fair and delectable place, large enough for all mankind that will be saved and will rest in peace and in love. And with that he brought to mind the dear and precious blood and water which he suffered to be shed for love. And in this sweet sight he showed his blessed heart split in two, and as he rejoiced he showed to my understanding a part of his blessed divinity, as much as was his will at that time, strengthening my poor soul to understand what can be said, that is the endless love which was without beginning and is and always shall be.

And with this our good Lord said most joyfully: See how I love you, as if he had said, my darling, behold and see your Lord, your God, who is your Creator and your endless joy; see your own brother, your savior; my child, behold and see what delight and bliss I have in your salvation, and for my love rejoice with me.

And for my greater understanding, these blessed words were said: See how I love you, as if he had said, behold and see that I loved you so much, before I died for you, that I wanted to die for you. And now I have died for you, and willingly suffered what I could. And now all my bitter pain and my hard labour is turned into everlasting joy and bliss for me and for you.

We have arrived at the end of the Lenten season, at the Friday of the Crucifixion that we call good, in spite of the violence, the hatred, the derision, and the darkness we throw at God and each other. For all I have written, the name “Good Friday” might best be explained in this single phrase: by Christ’s passion, God cries, “See how I love you!”

This Good Friday, and indeed at all times, I invite you to gaze upon the Cross and see how deeply, how tenderly, and how sweetly God loves you.

Amen.

Two Travelers on a Way

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Bradley Yam, Saybrook ’21. Bradley is majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics

YOSEF: Greetings! What is a young woman like yourself doing on a road such as this outside the city almost at the tenth hour?
SALOME: I am travelling to my master’s house.
YOSEF: You must know that it is unsafe, ever since the rebellion and the fall of the temple, Rome cannot be counted on to protect these parts. You are carrying a heavy load, let my donkey bear it for as long as our paths cross.
SALOME: I appreciate the offer, but this is a load I must carry by myself.
YOSEF: Do not be afraid, child, she is a steady beast and will not mind. Allow me to lift this for you – What could you be doing with this many wineskins, child? They are all full to the brim, and look very new. The wine smells new as well.
SALOME: Excuse me, sir, it is merely wine for my master’s feast. I must carry it by myself, and be on my way.
YOSEF: Your master’s feast? But today is not a holy day, and if anyone within a five mile radius of here were throwing such a party with this much wine, surely I must have heard of it. […] I have heard reports of a small, fanatical band of blasphemers preaching a new religion, whose practice is to consume wine as if it was the blood of their God and eat bread as if it was his flesh. They call him God, yet he was a man, who lived sometime before the temple fell. You would not happen to have heard of them?
SALOME:
YOSEF: The Roman praetors in this region are looking to weed them out, for they will not bend the knee, the people who follow this way.
SALOME: Sir, I am but a child, and uneducated, I do not know how to answer your questions.
YOSEF: Yet you have more wine on you than you could afford with a years’ wages. It is clear to me that you are a member of this strange cult, for I see that your clothes are worn thin and your hair is unwashed. This cult seems to be especially popular amongst the poor, for I hear that all who join it are compelled to share all they have with each other. Necessarily such a scheme attracts the people with the least to give but the most to gain.
SALOME: Sir, I see that you are a man of letters, from the scrolls on your donkey. I cannot tell you whether I am in a cult, or a new religion. I am but a child, and uneducated, I can only live as faithfully as I can to my God and Savior, Yeshua, who died for me. This wine is for the feast that he instructed.
YOSEF: Do not be afraid, the Romans are suspicious of all people at this time. I will not turn you over, although I find your beliefs strange. How can this man, Yeshua, be a God?
SALOME: I am but a child, I cannot answer fully. But I received this as my first instruction: He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. But on the third day, as is attested to in the scriptures, he rose again, and appeared to Simon Peter of Jerusalem, and then the Twelve, and then to many more brothers, and even more sisters. How can he not be God, who has the power to raise himself from the grave, never to die again?
YOSEF: Child, surely such an outrageous thing must only be the stuff of the imagination. Your teachers must be hallucinating, or dreaming, or fooling you. The Romans are brutal, efficient and excellent executioners. I have never seen anyone come back from a crucifixion alive, and many of my own friends and brothers were victim to this cruel practice.
SALOME: The twelve are fishermen, farmers and day-laborers. They are practical men. My uncle was also a fisherman. He stands all day on the tiny boat riding the swells and currents of the sea, ever unmoored, looking for the silver flashing glint in the water. If I know anything, it is that fishermen are hard-headed, suspicious, attentive people. They are not dreamers, and they do not take anything for granted. It would be easier to persuade a Roman teacher than a Jewish fisherman about this Yeshua!
YOSEF: I have not met these twelve, what do I know of their testimony?
SALOME: Yeshua ate, and drank, and talked, and walked with many others. Some of them were my friends, my family. Surely they cannot all be dreaming.
YOSEF: Then they must be fooling you. This part of the world is quickly becoming enveloped in a shadow. Rome is quickly becoming more brutal, less tolerant. All of our futures are uncertain, it is natural to invent wishful thinking.
SALOME: Sir, I am but a child, and uneducated, but I pray you do not say such things. Who would give their life for a lie they made up themselves? If Yeshua did not rise, then why would my own adopted mother refuse to recant at the cost of her blood? She always told stories about eating with Yeshua in the days before the temple fell, she said it was like sitting in the radiance of God.
YOSEF: I am sorry to hear about your loss, child. I have also lost friends to the Romans.
SALOME: Many who have claimed to see Jesus risen from the dead have also fallen. Sir, none of them recanted. I cannot help but believe their testimony written in their blood.
YOSEF: I see, child. What will become of your faith if the body of this Yeshua is discovered? The Romans are putting out a high price for it. More than three hundred pieces of silver.
SALOME: It will not be discovered, for Yeshua my Lord and his body have ascended into heaven, like Elijah in the days of old.
YOSEF: The Romans are saying that the twelve stole the body.
SALOME: It was Roman guards at the tomb, was it not? Surely fishermen could not have overcome centurions, and if Rome cares so much about finding the body, and it has eyes and ears in so many places that it could crush the rebellion, how could it be that Rome still has not found it?
YOSEF: You are a child, but you are perceptive.
SALOME: I am only being obedient to my Lord, he is as true to me as you are, standing before me.
YOSEF: How can this be? Have you seen him?
SALOME: Not while he has walked this earth, for I am but a child, but in a vision as I was walking along a road. He instructed me to leave my town and find a gentile woman, Apphia, and ask about the name of Yeshua. She adopted me into her home, and taught me about the way.
YOSEF: I have heard about these visions. One of the teachers of my teachers, Saul of Tarsus, was zealous for the LORD. He was persecuting the people of the way in Damascus when it is said that he received a vision himself. Instead of persecuting them, he joined them. It is still a mystery till this day why he chose to give up his status and prestige, everything he owned, and all his authority, to join this strange new way. He was one of the most learned men of his time, and sadly perished at Roman hands on account of this new way.
SALOME: The man whom you call Saul of Tarsus, my adopted mother called Paul, and in her youth would often correspond with him via letters. He taught extensively in the region, preaching the gospel of Yeshua, opening the scriptures up to us. Our hearts burned as we listened.
YOSEF: Saul of Tarsus taught of Yeshua from the scriptures, you say? Is there anyone who has heard this teaching?
SALOME: I am on my way to my master’s house, where we study the scriptures, and partake in the bread and the wine of the body and blood of our Lord Yeshua.
YOSEF: I will take you to your master’s house, for the wine is heavy, and the road unsafe, and you are but a child. But lead me on the way.

 

 

Five Steps to Good Friday

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By John Daoud, Pauli Murray College ‘21.

Glory be unto God, for it is unto Him we give thanks for having brought us to this blessed Holy Week, in which we commemorate the Passion of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. What follows are just a few short reflections I have on the orders of the week, per the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The translation used is NRSV.

Monday: Expelling the Lenders/Money Changers

The Gospel of John tells us today, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.

“Zeal for your house will consume me”, says Psalm 69, but does it consume us? Are we filled with passion for the house of the Lord? Our churches, our communities, and ourselves; God is everywhere and in everything. So, I ask myself, do I have that zeal for God in everything?

Tuesday: Serve the Lord

The Gospel of Matthew tells us, in two consecutive passages, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master,’ from the parable of the talents and, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

It is not a coincidence that these passages are both in the same reading, as far as the church is concerned, and that they follow one another in the gospel. Christ’s point is not vague; to serve him is to serve others. Full stop. It’s not even about being “salt” and “light,” it’s about the image and likeness of God in every, EVERY, person on earth. Are we faithful stewards of what we’ve been given? I go to X School, I have Y career/internship, I can expect Z salary, so what? Am I using my talents/privileges/opportunities/Harvard/Yale to be a good and faithful servant? Am I reaching out to all people? Not to convert them, Not to show that I am a “good person,” but because they are also God’s?

Wednesday: Day of Betrayal

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Judas asked the Pharisees, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

When I read this, I see two things. The first a little less obvious and it’s the words “from that moment.” Judas isn’t waiting to betray Jesus. Judas isn’t saying “Maybe I should see what these people are all about.” No! Judas is ready to give up someone with whom he’s lived for THREE YEARS, just like that (picture a snap). And, obviously, no one gets to this point in a day. Judas has to have had some long-building resentment and anger that has been allowed to fester. So, am I willing to examine my anger? Am I ready to see the tiny things where I say, “No big deal, it’s okay, no sweat” both in my human relationships and with God? Am I ready to bring them to the light? To the Light?

And the second thing I see, it’s pretty obvious, but it’s that he’s betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver. What’s my price? Can I confidently say that if I was promised my deepest desire, I wouldn’t betray God? We move into the crux of the Passion Week following this day and these are the questions to which we must have an answer.

Thursday: Washing the Feet

The Gospel of John tells us, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” And then it tells the story of the washing of the feet of the disciples. This is a great act of love and it models real service for us.

We must also be willing to lower ourselves. I actually remember that, as a young kid, one of the sisters at my church’s summer camp insisted that we pair up, get down, and wash each other’s feet. It was absolutely disgusting. But the lesson that followed on service and our posture towards others as we serve them is unforgettable.

But, back to the verse at hand. There is a real power in those words. Repeat it over once or twice, but instead of “his own” or “them,” say “me.” Having loved me who is in the world, he loved me to the end. This gospel is written after the fact, John knows what comes next. He’s trying instead to send us the message that everything that we know happens on Friday, happens because He loves us.

Isaiah tells us “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” And even more so, one Coptic prayer that sticks with me says, “My sins, O my God, are the thorns that pierce your holy head.” Do I live as though someone has suffered and died for me?

Friday: Crucifixion

The Gospel of John tells us, “Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor. Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

No king but the emperor, it’s an outright rejection of God. There is a power present in those words, or rather, running from the true power. We praise God as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but now Caesar is king and what is God? And so, as we head into the joy of Resurrection we must ask ourselves: Who is my king? Do I have no king but God?

 

The Crumbling of Hadleigh

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Trey Kinison, Branford ’20.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Dusty crypts, wooden chests, and Nicholas Cage. This is what comes to mind when I think of the word treasure. Yet when I read Matthew 6, I am reminded of the narrowness of such a definition. Rather than images of rubies and gold, Matthew calls forth an image of that which is vulnerable, that which the owner cannot protect, and that which even the moth can destroy. The concept of ownership is shattered and the fickleness of holding a firm grasp on the temporary is exposed. Amidst my incredibly limited view of time and my selfish desire to cling to what I feel I deserve, I have often found it much easier to deceive myself than to face this truth.

The reality is that it is much harder to picture treasure as the things that are close to my heart. The two numbers that define my academic performance, the one-page Word document that summarizes my achievements, and the 5-year plan built in my mind are much closer to my heart than any physical treasures I own. And when I attach my heart to something that does not completely fulfill, something that can always be topped or improved, then I will always be left desiring for more. Thankfully the sacrifice of Jesus and the love of God will never be topped or leave me unfulfilled.

This past week, I found myself in front of John Constable’s rendition of Hadleigh Castle. I instantly found myself gripped by the texture and the ruggedness of the landscape but most of all by the painting’s sense of earthly rebellion. The prior majesty of the castle is hinted to the viewer; however, the present reality, with a central breach running through the tower wall, could not be more different. One can only wonder what brought the castle to this state. Constable, who I assume knows this, places the self-sustaining, untamable wilderness right next to it as a reminder that whatever mankind tries to build, whatever I try to build, whatever you try to build in this earthly life will eventually come to ruin.

And so, I ask you: what is it that you are holding just a little too tight? What is it that would break you if the thief came in the night and took it? What makes you want to tear your clothes at the thought of it being torn down?

My hope is that one day these things would not grip me so tightly. That I may look upon the crumbling of my own Hadleigh Castle and smile, thinking of the fullness that Christ is bringing to replace it. For nothing I create will ever hold up to the beauty of what is coming and the fullness of communion with God made possible through Christ’s resurrection.

Words of Praise

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Sam Oh ’20. Sam is a senior in Quincy studying Philosophy and Computer Science.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!” – Psalm 36:5-11

Some of the most joyous moments in my life are the moments when two of my close friends finally meet each other in person. By the time the two meet, they usually already have a good sense of who the other person is based on weeks and weeks of hearing my praise of the other. I can’t help but tell the one about the kindness and humility of the other, or the compassion and steadfastness of the first. I know each of these friends well, and find that I appreciate their character and nature even more when I am verbally sharing their praises with others. Through these spoken praises, both sides build up anticipation to finally meet the other. And, by the time they finally meet, both have a sense of the important characteristics of the other, having heard the earlier praises.

Psalm 36 is primarily a descriptive psalm of praise. The author is singing the praises of His God, declaring the praiseworthy characteristics of the God He worships. From these verses we learn of His steadfast love, His faithfulness, his righteousness and justice, his role as a provider, as a fountain of life, and as a protector. The author of this Psalm not only knew these characteristics of God in his mind, but he had also experienced it in his life and known these truths in his heart such that he was compelled to sing God’s praises.

One of the most important endeavors in our spiritual journey is to pursue an understanding of a God too holy for our full understanding. To constantly learn more and more about the character and nature of our God, and to experience the truth of who He is. As Tozer simply puts it, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” All of our identity and worth comes from our idea of who God is and what kind of God He is. It is ever more important in this day and age full of distractions and sensory overload for each of us to focus our minds on who He is. From there, the praise will overflow.

In this season of Lent, let us remember to declare the greatness of God. In the good times, let us not forget His promises and His character. In the difficult times, let us rely on those unchanging truths. Let us challenge ourselves to speak these truths out regularly, not keeping them stored up in our minds. The tongue has the power to build up or destroy, so let us use this power to speak these truths over our lives.

Good Things

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Bradley Yam, Saybrook ’21. Bradley is majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

            I am more blessed than I dare imagine. I am blessed with a loving family. I am blessed with generous, kind, and understanding friends. I am blessed with a place of privilege at Yale. I am blessed with many good things. It is possible that I am blessed with so many things I could hardly list them here even if I wanted to. And yet, why do I still anxiously scramble from place to place, why do I constantly fret and worry about the future, and why am I often dissatisfied with what I have?

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

            The light shines brighter in the darkness. Water tastes best in the desert. It is easier to choose the better thing amongst bad options, than when surrounded by good but deceptive ones. Christianity is often chalked up to a kind of asceticism; a denial of the self for the sake of heavenly rewards. If this is true, then it is only the most basic of truths, for what becomes of the heavenly rewards when heaven must eventually meet earth? Must they not also incarnate, as our Lord Jesus has?

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

            St Matthew’s formulation seems superficially transactional. If we seek first the Kingdom, the things of God, then we will get everything else we want. Let’s disabuse ourselves of this notion. If we seek the Kingdom for the sake of these other good things, then we are actually seeking these other good things, and instrumentalizing the Kingdom. In this case, we get neither the Kingdom nor the good things. To truly receive good things, we must earnestly seek the Kingdom for its goodness itself.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

            The Kingdom seems abstract enough, but perhaps this is how we tell when we have found it: when our attention on the Kingdom is healthy, then we will suddenly become alive to the true goodness of the good things in our lives. C.S. Lewis, in his essay “First Things”, said: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.” We seek the Kingdom because its goodness shines forth from all the good things that are already around us, and by seeking it, we receive the ability to enjoy the good things we already possess. These good things shine in their roles as sub-luminaries, declaring and announcing the final, ultimate, singular, perfect Good: The Good King himself, returning to reclaim his Kingdom.