Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrección en Guatemala

On Saturday I arrived, with a classmate, in Guatemala City and then took a four hour bus-ride to Guatemala's second largest city, Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela (pronounced Shay-la). We arrived in Xela after dark and found our way through the mostly un-labeled streets to a hotel we had reserved while we waited at the bus station in Guatemala City. We had eaten little on Saturday, arriving early in the morning from an overnight flight from Los Angeles and then waiting for seven hours at the bus station with few food options so we were famished by the time we got our hotel room. We decided to brave the dark streets in a country known for it's violence (in certain places) and were not disappointed by that decision. As we walked to a more central part of the city it began to rain and we found a small square with an adjacent cathedral which was filled with people celebrating Easter-vigil.
The square and the cathedral with overflow crowd in background.

After finding a food cart which would accept dollars, as we had run out of quetzals and there was no ATM nearby, we devoured a much-needed dinner.
The food stand where we got out of the rain and had some excellent dinner. I tried to take this one stealthily with my iPhone to avoid looking any more like a tourist than I already did.

As I looked around at the other people eating and those sitting in the pews for the overflow crowd coming out the doors of the cathedral I noticed that we were the only Gringos, which I took as a good sign as hopefully we will get a more authentic Latin American experience in a place that doesn't exist mainly to cater to tourists.
Contraption to heat water for the shower. Amazingly no one got electrocuted and if you turned the stream of water down low enough it actually got pretty hot.

On Easter morning we made our way back to the same square and got some coffee and tamales for breakfast. We had planned to worship in a Presbyterian church while in the city but after a short taxi ride were disappointed to find that church firmly locked.
The same square in the morning.

We walked back toward our hotel and went into the first "evangelical" church service we passed. Unfortunately it was a pretty extreme Prosperity "gospel" Word of Faith type of church. I hardly speak Spanish and even I could tell it was Word of Faith heresy but my friend who speaks a lot more Spanish was quite disgusted by the end of the sermon. I regretted not just having gone to one of the many Roman Catholic options we had passed by. Overall it was great to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord here in Guatemala though. He is risen!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ hath burst His prison!

’Tis the Spring, of souls today;
Christ hath burst His prison;
And from three days’ sleep in death,
—As a sun, hath risen.
All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His Light, to Whom we give
Laud and praise undying.

Now the Queen of Seasons, bright
With the day of Splendour,
With the royal Feast of feasts,
Comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
Welcomes, in unwearied strains,
Jesu’s Resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal,
Hold Thee as a mortal:
But today amidst the Twelve
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace, which evermore
Passeth human knowing.

-St. John of Damascus (676-749)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Take Me, and ransom your souls

Now we have found the compassion of God which appeared lost to you when we were considering God's holiness and man's sin; we have found it, I say, so great and so consistent with his holiness, as to be incomparably above anything that can be conceived. For what compassion can excel these words of the Father, addressed to the sinner doomed to eternal torments and having noway of escape: "Take my only begotten Son and make him an offering for yourself;" or these words of the Son: "Take me, and ransom your souls." For these are the voices they utter, when inviting and leading us to faith in the Gospel. Or can anything be more just than for him to remit all debt since he has earned a reward greater than all debt, if given with the love which he deserves.

-St. Anselm of Canterbury(1033-1109) from his Cur Deus Homo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday: Sorrowful unto death

Lord Jesus Christ, Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, I bless and thank you for the sorrowful beginning of your most bitter Passion, for your extreme sadness of soul, and for the anguish and dread you felt in your weak human nature, which you willingly assumed for our sake. When the hour of your betrayal was at hand you were filled with sadness and fear.

You were not ashamed to express that sadness openly in the presence of the apostles, saying: My soul is sorrowful unto death. O wondrous dispensation of God! Lord of power, who shortly before had fortified your disciples for the combat, now you appear as one enfeebled, totally devoid of strength and courage.

You generously uttered that statement in order to comfort us, who are weak and cowardly, lest one of us, being severely tempted, despair of forgiveness and salvation. For if someone were to feel less than cheerful in bearing his suffering or in experiencing certain weaknesses of his flesh, then he can repeat in his fear and sadness what we read that you yourself had said: Nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.

I ask you, most loving Jesus, my only hope in every difficulty and trial, to permit me to enter with a compassionate heart into the sorrowful beginnings of your most blessed Passion, and from there to rise little by little to the contemplation of its more bitter elements, so that in following you in every step of your sorrows I may find a healing remedy for my soul.

Grant me, for the glory of your name, the patience to suffer whatever trials may come my way, and that, when faced with many afflictions, I may never yield to despair but wholly resign myself to the good pleasure of your eternal will.

-Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) from On the Passion of Christ According to the Four Evangelists

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Crucify Him!"

. . . Has it ever bothered you that sometimes in the Old Testament when one man sins, many get swept away in the punishment God brings? For example, when David sinned by taking a census of the people (2 Samuel 24:10), “There died of the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men” (2 Samuel 24:15). Another example is when Achan kept some of the booty from Jericho and his whole family was stoned (Joshua 7:25). Maybe my experience in reading Luke 22 is a clue to the divine justice in this.

An analogy came to my mind. The hearts of humanity are like a molten mantle beneath the surface of the whole earth. The molten lava beneath the earth is the universal wickedness of the human heart—the rebellion against God and the selfishness toward people. Here and there a volcano of rebellion bursts forth which God sees fit to judge immediately. He may do so by causing the scorching, destructive lava to flow not only down the mountain which erupted but also across the valleys which did not erupt but which have the same molten lava of sin beneath the surface.

The reason I confess the sin of beating Jesus even though I wasn’t there is that the same lava of rebellion is in my own heart. I have seen enough of it to know. So even though it does not burst forth in such a volcanic atrocity as the crucifixion it is still deserving of judgment. If God had chosen to rain the lava of their evil back on their own heads and some of it consumed even me, I would not be able to fault God’s justice. . .

. . . And I believe from Romans 8:28 that, even though the lava of recompense overtakes me at a distance from the volcano, there is mercy in it. I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart. But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgment will be turned to joy. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. For precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

-John Piper, from his Holy Week reflection here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The simplest and the best

Hosanna, loud hosanna,
the little children sang,
through pillared court and temple
the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them
close folded to his breast,
the children sang their praises,
the simplest and the best.

From Olivet they followed
mid an exultant crowd,
the victor palm branch waving,
the chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven
rode on in lowly state,
nor scorned that little children
should on his bidding wait.

"Hosanna in the highest!"
that ancient song we sing,
for Christ is our redeemer,
the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise him
With heart and life and voice,
and in his blissful presence
eternally rejoice!

-Jeanette Threlfall

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Luther: "by the power of 'free-will' none could be saved"

I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want 'free-will' to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversaries, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my 'free-will' (for one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved); but because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleased God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working and running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. 'No one,' He says, 'shall pluck them out of my hand, because my Father which gave them me is greater than all' (John 10.28-29). Thus it is that, if not all, yet some, indeed many, are saved; whereas, by the power of 'free-will' none at all could be saved, but every one of us would perish.

- Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Hope Is Built

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
- Edward Mote