Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dante’s Purgatory

I recently read Dante’s Purgatory in Dorothy L. Sayers’s translation, published by Penguin Classics, and have now embarked on Dante’s Paradise translated by Sayers and Barbara Reynolds (Sayers died during her work on this and her friend and fellow scholar, Reynolds, completed the translation).

Purgatory was a challenging read because of its unfamiliar historical references, but it was easier than The Inferno for me because I could see present-day application in terms of sin, righteousness, and obedience to Christ. I imagine that it was also easier because I’m becoming more familiar with the style and language, and also because I’m working out a way to read.

One of the wonderful benefits of the work of Sayers and Reynolds are their introductions and notes and appendices. Each canto has an introduction, and at the end of each canto there are notes which explain the images employed and the historical background and allusions. When I read The Inferno I read the introduction to each canto and then in my reading of each canto I’d often refer to the notes. I began Purgatory in the same way but then switched to simply reading the translation first and then dropping back to read the introduction and refer to any notes that provided needed explanations. This turned out to be a better approach for me because it let me encounter the “story” first as a whole, rather than piecemeal. Of course it requires the reader to accept the fact that he won’t immediately know the historical references, but if the reader is able to put his curiosity on hold for a few minutes he or she will, I think, be better able to enjoy the ride – for the story is the story is the story – and we can usually get the story of the forest without being able to indentify all of the trees. Once we’ve been through the forest then we can open our guidebook and note the unusual trees we saw and understand why the Master Gardner placed them as he did.

I look forward to revisiting Purgatory for I think there is much in it concerning spiritual formation into the image of Christ. Dante was really writing about life today, about pilgrimage today – it is not a story of speculation, it is a story designed for immediate application and Protestants ought not to be put-off with the idea of Purgatory in terms of a title because Dante is writing not to the dead but to the living – he is challenging us in our obedience to Christ today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Our Source of Approval

Continuing with Thomas a Kempis from yesterday:

The minds of men are often deceived in their judgments; the lovers of the world too are deceived in loving only things visible.
How is a man ever better, for being esteemed great by man?

I am challenged by this question – how is a man ever better, for being esteemed great by man? The praise of others does not make our character better, nor our intrinsic worth, yet how many of us crave the esteem of others? I have known times of disgusting vanity, times of wanting to be recognized, to be acknowledged. I have often said that were it not for my business vocation that I wouldn’t have sensed the depths of my vanity; but that is also true of vocational ministry – the beast is always lurking in the basement or the attic.

The deceitful in flattering the deceitful, the vain man in extolling the vain, the blind in commending the blind, the weak in magnifying the weak, deceives him; and verily doth more shame him, while he doth vainly praise him.

Isn’t this the dance of a world focused on temporal things, whether they are material things or pleasures or images or positions or the esteem of others? This is not to say that we don’t praise others and recognize others; it is to say that we don’t seek the praise of others and that our egos don’t feed off recognition.

“For what every one is in thy sight, that is he, and no more,” saith humble St. Francis.

I really love this quote. At the end of the day, or better yet, at the end of life, it doesn’t matter what others think [in context], what matters is what God thinks.

It’s hard to live like that. At least it is hard for me to live like that. I want the esteem of others and it’s easy to forget that it is what God thinks that is important.

One of the critical ways that I find balance in all this is by renewing my mind in God’s Word. Francis Schaeffer wrote that one of the reasons he read the Bible was to cleanse his mind; I find that refreshing and encouraging. We live in a world of dust and we need to wash our hearts and minds or the dust will become caked within us and the eyes of our hearts will be blinded.

Oh Lord, may I remember that what I am in thy sight, that I am, and no more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Lesser or the Greater?

As I’ve previously mentioned I’ve been incorporating The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis in my morning devotions this year along with a collection of Puritan prayers. The two go hand-in-hand, which is interesting on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the historical front. Here is some interaction with yesterday’s reading from The Imitation of Christ:
Grant me, O Lord, to know that which is worth knowing, to love that which is worth loving, to praise that which pleaseth thee most, to esteem that which is precious unto thee, to despise that which in thy sight is contemptible.

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to “…lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…,” Hebrews 12:1b-2a.

Not to minimize sin (I have a forthcoming post about sin as a matter of fact), but I think that more often than not our enemy is not so much sin but encumbrance – things that don’t matter from an eternal perspective. Runners in a race, or swimmers in a race, pay close attention to what they wear – what they wear is directly related to the race and nothing unrelated to the race is worn by the runner or swimmer. Anything extraneous to the race would be detrimental to the competitor, would impede the competitor’s progress, would create resistance, and would weight the competitor down.

Suffer me not to judge according to the sight of the outward eyes, nor to give sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men; but with a true judgment to discern between things visible and spiritual, and above all to be ever searching after the good pleasure of thy will.

What appears good and righteous to the natural eye, to the visible world, may be an encumbrance; it may be a substitute for things eternal, it may be an exit ramp off the race course. The fact is that all of us are ignorant men to one degree or another, which is why Solomon teaches us to not lean on our own understanding but to look to God. Our vulnerability is not so much when we don’t understand, then we tend to look to God; it is rather when we understand, because then we assume we know what we are doing and we assume our judgments are correct. And we are the most certain of our own judgments when we deal with what we think is good and evil, or right and wrong, or righteous and unrighteous apart from the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ. There is no righteousness outside of Jesus Christ, and there is no glory outside of Jesus Christ – when we cloth ourselves with anything other than Jesus we encumber ourselves in the race of life in Christ.

We forget that the tree which our ancestors Adam and Eve ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – the knowledge of “good” is just as dangerous, if not more so, in the life of the Christian than the knowledge of evil – for it can deceive us into thinking we understand and experience good apart from Christ. To be sure we are called to maturation in Christ so that we can discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14), but the context is Christ, the context is always Christ.

Am I running the race with excess baggage? Am I weighing myself down with things that are good but are not eternal? What about you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wisteria and Wall Street – III

The book of Revelation is a book of juxtapositions, a book of contrasts. We see the Bride of Christ and we see the Harlot Babylon; we see Christ and we see the Beast; we see the governments of this age and we see the Kingdom of God; we see the City of Man and then we see the City of God.

In Revelation 13:16 – 14:5 we have a juxtaposition of images and thought-lives, a juxtaposition of two natures, two objects of worship, two distinct peoples. There are those who follow the Beast and receive his image and then there are those who follow the Lamb and have His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. Some people receive the name of the Beast or the number of the Beast in their foreheads or hands; other people receive the name of the Lamb and the Father.

The idea of “forehead” speaks to us of our thought-lives, and the idea of “hand” speaks to us of the things we do – the two are irrevocably connected. Paul teaches us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12; see also 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Col. 3:1-4; 1 John 3:1-3). Which image do we bear, the image of Christ or the image of the Beast?

Consider the tie to economics in Revelation 13:17, …no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

I often hear Christians talk about what they’d do if the prospect of physical persecution raised its head. What I don’t hear them talk about is our obedience to Christ today when the result of that obedience may be economic persecution – such as job loss, client loss, or sales loss. Let’s face it, there is no need for the enemy to institute physical persecution if we refuse obedience to Christ in the face of economic loss. For us to think that we can live lives of disobedience justified by economics and then to think that should a more overt form of persecution arise that we will meet the test is unsound – it isn’t likely to happen, for each decision we make involves the reception of either the image of Christ or the image of the Beast.

For years I’ve been challenged by Psalm 15:4c:

He swears to his own hurt and does not change.

Is this our testimony? Do we speak the truth to our own detriment? Do we operate our enterprises to our own detriment when truth and equity are the issue?

Years ago I advocated that firms operated by Christians include in their prospectuses a statement of values, and that this statement of values explicitly indicate that the financial “bottom line” would not be the sole factor in making decisions, but that equity, fairness, commitment to employees, truth, and other moral and ethical considerations would also be taken into account. I was told that this was impossible. But why? As long as an ethical system is disclosed then investors know what to expect.

I understand that Hindu and Islamic firms can be certified by outside agencies as adhering to their respective religions so that investors in those firms can invest in moral, ethical, and religious confidence. Presumably the “bottom line” is more than cash with these companies.

When we make return on investment, or shareholder distribution, our sole criterion for business decision making, we place ourselves in proximity to the image of the Beast. Are we showing the world a better way?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A.D. – B.C. – B.C.E. – C.E.

This past Christmas I was thinking about the shift (mainly in academic circles, but it is spreading to the popular culture) from referring to dates as B.C. and A.D. to C.E. (common era) and B.C.E. (before the common era). It's yet another attempt to pretend that Jesus never existed, and yet the very term "common era" once again refers to Christ for He is the dividing point in B.C.E. and C.E. Talk about "nuts". 

Anyway, I started to write something about it but didn't get too far, and then I put it in a sermon but ended up not using that section of the sermon.

Which is all to say that Al Mohler does a great job addressing this absurdity in his blog:
It’s worth read!!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wisteria and the World of Wall St. – II

I have read a number of books by Christian authors on business, and I’ve heard a number of Christian speakers on business; why have I never heard about the Cross and business and wealth, and why have I never heard about the underlying dangers associated with the generation of wealth?

Having written the above, I suppose I’ll need to make a few statements for those of you who don’t know me. My first career was in business and to the best of my recollection I’ve never held to a sacred-secular dichotomy; that is, I’ve always looked at vocation as sacred, whether it is the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, or the investment banker. I am prepared to go back into the business world tomorrow and to do it as an act of worship to God and service to my fellow man. I believe the sacred-secular dichotomy and the clergy – laity dichotomy are both toxic to the church of Jesus Christ. I have years invested in ministry to the business community. I am not anti-business nor am I anti-wealth – I am, however, concerned about the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ and about the health of the church – and about our loss of a prophetic voice regarding materialism and the promiscuous pursuit of wealth.

In the mid-1990’s a philanthropic investment group, New Era, attracted the investments of a number of Christian institutions. It was a Ponzi scheme. The returns were too good to be true but that didn’t stop reputable Christians institutions from investing their funds. When New Era came crashing down my seminary had to lay people off as a result of its losses, a scenario which was likely replicated at other institutions.

The story of New Era is the same as the story of Bernie Madoff, which is the same as the story of investment and banking houses and mortgage companies in our current economic climate – whether what occurred was legal or illegal, because it is the story of lust for wealth and the attendant trappings of wealth, whether material or psychological or emotional.

In the case of New Era an accounting professor at one of New Era’s clients (dupes), Albert Meyer of Spring Arbor College, analyzed Spring Arbor’s investments and returns and knew there was something wrong – after being stonewalled by his college he contacted state regulators which eventually led to New Era’s downfall. Spring Arbor’s leadership was intoxicated by its returns on investment, as were New Era’s other clients.

Intoxication, that is the name of the game in wealth and power, and that is why it is a dangerous game – people who are intoxicated don’t make good decisions, and when an entire group of people are intoxicated unsightly things usually happen.

And this leads me back to the wisteria – it looks beautiful but it will kill the tree; which in turn leads back to the Apostle John’s stark warning:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17

The harlot Babylon intoxicates the people of the earth (Revelation 17:2; 18:3). What is the church doing to guard its people against intoxication? How are we helping our business people think about the Cross and wealth, the Cross and vocation? How are we helping Christians think about the accumulation of money and “things”?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wisteria and Wall Street - I

Wisteria Tree A
The Apostle John writes:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will God lives forever. 1 John 2:15 – 17.

When I was a young Christian I was with a church that thought of the “world” exclusively in terms of outward image and display and certain actions. The way people looked and dressed was vital. Whether folks drank alcohol or smoked or used swear words was critical. These were signs that you either were or weren’t a Christian. Things were oriented to the external and little was said about the heart or about the thought-life.

The other end of the pendulum is that the outward doesn’t matter one wit, that you can do and say anything you like but that at the end of the day it’s your motive and heart that matter. Both approaches – as old as philosophy and religion, miss a number of points which I’ll forgo in order to narrow my thoughts to wisteria and image and deceit and our society – especially in the midst of economic depression and uncertainty. 

There is a connection between the inward and outward, that’s why there is Madison Avenue – create images for the consumer to desire, to lust after; create images for the consumer to give himself to in the form of money and lifestyle.

But in addition to Madison Avenue we have not an avenue but a street, a street that has a history older than Madison Avenue’s, a street that creates its own images and provides its own rationales for lust and desire – Wall Street.

Wall Street radiates images of wealth, power, control, prestige; it radiates images of an “in-crowd” that those in the know should desire to join.

Wall Street has crashed and burned to varying degrees throughout our history. It occurs in every generation to some extent. I recently read an early 20th century sermon in which the speaker made the same point, proving once again, as Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Every country has its Wall Street; it is as old as fallen humanity.

In Revelation Chapters 17 and 18 we have either two Babylons portrayed or one Babylon with two distinct elements to it – John saw an entity (or two entities) characterized by 1) spiritual promiscuity and 2) economic promiscuity. Or, if I may be so blunt as to use Biblical imagery, John saw a whore (or two whores) who traffics in religion and economics.

In Revelation Chapter 13 we see that a primary characteristic of the Beast is economic control (Rev. 13:16 – 18).

Economics is a distinctive thread in Revelation. It is even more so if we consider that early Christians were economically persecuted if they were members of guilds, for members of guilds were required to participate in pagan ceremonies in honor of the particular guild’s idol-patron – and failure to participate led to revocation of membership, which usually led to the inability to practice one’s trade.

So again, as I wondered in a previous post, where has been the voice of the North American church in the midst of our collective greedy and lustful pursuit of wealth? Where have our warnings been to those who have pursued wealth the way others pursue sex or drugs? How have we taught Christians about the relationship between the Cross and wealth? We lament the prevalence of pornographic addiction within our churches, but do we lament preoccupation with the promiscuous pursuit of wealth? If not, is it because one can’t tithe pornography but one can give to the church a portion of one’s money?

More to come on this…

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wisteria and Deceit

Wisteria Tree A
The wisteria which could have been pulled away by hand is now one with the tree – wisteria kills trees.

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus says:
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mt. 13:22)

Just as wisteria chokes the life out of its host tree, so worry and deceit associated with the world’s values choke the Word of life out of lives.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I wonder where the prophetic voice of the church has been during our collective pursuit of wealth? A large segment of the North American church seems to have said, “Bigger is better, richer is better, accumulation of material goods is better.” It is the equivalent of removing all speed limits from our highways – travel as fast as you want, faster is better.

The values of this age are deceitful, whether they are values of wealth, accumulation of goods, prestige, power, awards, position, accomplishment, whatever the case may be; Jesus says, “he that seeks to save his life shall lose it.” Do we, as the church, confront this reality head-on, or do we acquiesce in or encourage the pursuit of the things of this world?

It sounds archaic to talk like this. Surely we can have it all and still be Christians. Surely we can have it all and live as God wants us to. There is no reason to drive a car with a governor to modulate speed, there is no reason to be moderate and circumspect in accumulation.

Could it be that in affirming that wealth and “things” are not evil in and of themselves that we have neglected to post speed limits and warning signs on the highway of life regarding the hazards inherent in the values and things of this age? Could it be that while we have celebrated professional and corporate success that we have failed to equally celebrate the success of those who choose to live simply? Could it be that by not celebrating prudence and discretion in lifestyle that we have unwittingly pressured others to value themselves according to the benchmarks of this age rather than the principles of the Kingdom of God?

Have we done a disservice to those who have achieved a high measure of worldly success by not  challenging them to look for the Cross in all that they do and value?

In what areas of my life have I allowed the wisteria of the world to choke the Word of God? What about you?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wisteria - The Image of God or the Image of Man? The Exchange

Wisteria Tree A
Paul writes concerning humanity,
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures,” Romans 1:22 – 23.

In Psalm 106:19 – 20 we read concerning Israel in the Wilderness:
“They made a calf in Horeb and worshipped a molten image. Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

In Romans we have humanity as a whole exchanging the glory/image of God for other images, in Psalms we see Israel, the people of God, exchanging the glory/image of God for another image.

The tree hosting the wisteria is a locust tree, but it has exchanged its glory for that of the wisteria, and the wisteria has killed it.

Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, yet Eve bought into the lie that if she ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that she would become like God. She was deceived into exchanging the glory she had for another (perceived) glory, and she and Adam became hosts for sin.

If Adam and Eve are a type of Christ and the Church, then we have a picture of an ever-present temptation to the Church, to exchange the glory of our husband, Christ, for the glory of another. And so we read the words of Paul:
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:2 – 3.

It seems to me that the Western Church has become a market-driven competitive arena in which alternative glories to Christ are sold. Those glories have many forms; political agendas, self-help programs, family, doctrinal emphases, music, church polity, methods of prayer, evangelism, missions, small groups – just fill in the blank on methods, leadership training and coaching, gift assessment, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, various “charismatic” expressions, social relevance, the list is literally endless. Rather than the Bride being clothed in white, rather than the Bride being the glory of her Husband and seeking the glory of her Husband, the Bride is clothed in a patchwork garment and reflects competing glories and seeks competing glories.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2.

Oh that we might be as jealous for Christ’s Bride as Paul was, and as determined to know nothing but Christ as Paul was determined.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wisteria - The Image of God or the Image of Man?

Isn’t the wisteria in front of our friend’s home beautiful? Doesn’t it provide colorful adornment to its host tree? Isn’t it aesthetically pleasing? We have wisteria throughout the Zuck homestead, but this is, I think, its most beautiful expression.

But what are we really looking at? What is the wisteria doing in all of its lavender glory? Its roots are deep in the earth, its diameter is thick, wrapping around the trunk of the tree and entwining itself around the branches. The wisteria has embedded itself in the tree, what was once on the exterior of the tree and which could be pulled away by hand has now become one with the tree – there is a merging of identity. Do you see the tree or do you see the wisteria?

The wisteria may be beautiful, but it is also deadly, the tree is dead. Wisteria will kill a tree. That which is pretty to the eye is deadly to life in this instance – appearances can be deceiving, and perhaps never so much as in a society attuned to image and appearance. As a tennis star used to say in hawking cameras, “Image is everything.” That does seem to be the mantra of Western Society, “Image is everything.”

There is a sense in which this is true. The question is, “Which image?” That is, the decision we make as to which image we will pursue in life is everything. Shall we pursue the image of God or shall we pursue the image of man?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

“Mary” Part III

Musings on Mary, and Mary, and Mary:

In Bethlehem on Christmas we have a Mary, and outside Jerusalem on Easter we have a Mary. Christmas and Easter are bridged by Good Friday in which we have both Marys with Jesus at the Cross.

The Mary at Bethlehem speaks Jesus’ name; the Mary at the Tomb hears her name spoken by Jesus. Bethlehem speaks to us of God becoming mortal flesh; the Empty Tomb speaks to us of flesh incorruptible, of mortal flesh being made imperishable.

The Mary at Bethlehem was a virgin when Gabriel appeared to her with the announcement that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and that the Son of God would be conceived in her. The Mary at the Tomb had been possessed by seven demons – she too would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit; she would be cleansed by Jesus. No doubt both Marys were in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, both would become part of the Body of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ.

It may be likely that a third Mary was in the Upper Room (and perhaps a fourth – see Luke 24:10, John 19:25; D.A. Carson does a thoughtful job in sorting out the Marys in his commentary on Matthew for the Expositor’s series)  the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This Mary speaks to us of rest in Christ, of sitting at His feet. All three Marys adored Jesus, followed Jesus, had hearts captured by Jesus.

Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, lavished Jesus with costly ointment in preparation for his burial. Not only did Judas not understand what she was doing, neither did the rest of the apostles (see the various Gospel accounts). This mentality of not wanting to wast time and resources on Jesus is even more prevalent in our own day when pragmatism rules the Western church – if it “works” then let’s do it, if it doesn’t “work”, in the sense of producing results, let’s not invest ourselves in it.

Some of us have known Jesus all of our lives, we can’t remember a time when we didn’t know Him, much like Mary at Bethlehem. Others of us have invited Jesus into our home, entertained Him, and become His friend in a progressive and natural way, perhaps like Mary of Bethany. And then there are those of us who know the hell of seven demons and the cleansing Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us into a life and light that we didn’t think possible.

He calls each Mary by name – just as He calls you and me by name.

Monday, April 5, 2010

“Mary” Part II

And what of the One who spoke the name “Mary” on Easter morning? What of His anticipation?

He watches her and her sisters approach the Tomb. He witnesses their dismay. Off runs Mary to tell the men. Here runs John ahead of Peter. Peter arrives and immediately enters the Tomb, John entering behind him. Mary trails behind the two men, exhausted emotionally and physically. The men leave. There is no record that they comforted Mary. The men leave Mary at the Tomb.

Mary looks into the Tomb again and sees two angels. Jesus observes the interchange:

Woman, why are you weeping?

Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.

What of Jesus’ anticipation as He beholds this broken-hearted woman seeking Him, seeking His body?

Ah yes, Mary. It was for you I died. It was for you I hung on the Cross. It was for you I, the Lamb, bore the wrath of God. It was for you I laid in the very Tomb you now peer into. It was for the joy of speaking your name that I endured the Cross and despised its shame.

You do not yet recognize me Mary. Oh how I have waited for this moment. This moment when I can speak your name, and by speaking your name speak the name of countless brothers and sisters across time and space, brothers and sisters to whom I will reveal the name of My Father. Oh Mary, I died and am risen that I might speak your name.

The first recorded word of the resurrected Christ was a name – Mary. Oh the delight of Jesus when He spoke her name to her – and His delight when He speaks your name to you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


This morning I visited John Chapter 20, verses 1 – 18. I don’t think there is any word in the Bible, nay, in all creation, more beautiful than the word “Mary” coming from the lips of Jesus in this passage. For in that name, the name “Mary”, is contained all the names of all the boys and girls, and all the men and women, who have sought Him, been drawn to Him, have found Him, and to whom He has appeared.

The name “Mary” is a stone dropped into a placid ocean of names, and from that name, from the voice that utters that name, expanding circles of names are enlivened by the breath of the One who speaks that first name uttered on Easter, “Mary”. In “Mary” we find Michael, and Pauline, and David, and Sally; in “Mary” we find names in languages strange to Western ears and all but unpronounceable to us; in “Mary” we hear our own names from the breath of Jesus; you hear your name, I hear my name.

Easter is not an esoteric ideal, a cosmic cloud of star dust. Easter is not about spring. Easter is not about the impersonal. The infinite-personal God, incarnate, was personally crucified for our personal sins and was personally raised to life again, having personally defeated death and Satan, and His first recorded act was to personally call a woman by her personal name - “Mary.” Ever since then He has been calling people by their name; what began with Mary has continued through the ages.

…the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20