Monday, May 14, 2012


The following is a copy of the sermon that Jordan recently preached at St. John's Episcopal Church. We have been incredibly blessed by the ministry and congregation at St. John's, and Jordan has greatly appreciated the opportunity to preach every so often (a welcomed repose from his academic work!).

* * *
During his final evening with the disciples, in those last, precious moments before his arrest, Jesus says to them:

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:9-12).

Whenever we come to Scripture—particularly to a passage like this where we are confronted with the very mystery of God’s love—it is important that we do so with the hope and the expectation that God’s Word is a word that unsettles our own. God’s Word is a word that unsettles our own. You see, often when we speak of the love of God, we do so in such a way that, without even realizing it, we limit God—we restrict Him to the level of our everyday experiences. We come to Scripture with a certain understanding of “the way that love works,” and then we map that understanding onto the way that God must love us. There is a certain sense in which this is unavoidable, of course, for we always bring our prior experiences and understanding with us when we come before God’s Word or when we offer ourselves to Him in prayer. But we must be careful not to let our experiences determine the meaning of God’s Word, for it is God’s Word that ultimately determines the meaning of our experiences. God’s Word is a word that unsettles our own. Thus, we do not come to an understanding of God by taking what we think we already know of love and then somehow magnifying that into infinity. Rather, we only truly know what love is by looking first to the God who reveals Himself in Jesus Christ. For as we read in the first letter of John, “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).

Our passage begins with a rather remarkable analogy. Jesus tells his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Now, the Father’s love for Jesus is a thread woven throughout the entirety of John’s Gospel. We read in chapter three, for instance, that “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (3:35). What’s more, we discover in chapter seventeen that the Father loved the Son even before the foundation of the world (17:24). It is no small thing, then, for Jesus to draw a likeness between the love of the Father for him and his love for each of us. Such a love is not only completely beyond our comprehension—for we know that the Son is of one being with the Father—but it is beyond anything that we could ever hope to merit. For even considered in his humanity, as a man among other men and women, Jesus lived a perfect and holy life, without sin, without selfishness, without blemish of any kind. Of course he was loved by the Father—there was nothing in him opposed to the love of God. But how many of us can say the same? Who among us comes close to the obedience of Jesus Christ—that obedience that permeates his life and ministry and eventually leads to his death on a cross? Who are we then, that Christ has chosen us to be the objects of his love?   

We are the recipients of God’s grace, the vessels of His mercy (Rom. 9:23). 

For “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). There is a sense then in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the Father’s love to us—a love whose only proper analogy is the love of the Father for the Son. For in Christ, we too are sons and daughters of the Most High God (Eph. 1:5). And because we are sons and daughters, “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba!—an Aramaic word best translated as “daddy”—and Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). By this, therefore, “we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). This is the God whom we worship. This is the One whom we adore. And in this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us first (1 Jn. 4:10)

What, then, are we to make of the following verse? Here, Jesus tells the disciples, “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Does not such a verse cut against the grain of God’s gracious love for us? How are we to reconcile such a statement with the gratuity of the Gospel? I believe that St. Augustine offers us a helpful interpretation here. According to Augustine, “it is not… for the purpose of awakening His love to us that we first keep His commandments; but this, that unless He loves us, we cannot keep His commandments.”[1] Keeping the commandments, therefore, is an effect of the divine love, not its cause. “For from the fact that God loves us, he influences us, and helps us to fulfill his commandments, which we cannot do without grace.”[2] The correct order here is pivotal for our understanding of the Gospel. We cannot earn God’s love, as we so often seek to do, both in the realm of religion and that of human relationships. All that we can hope to do is to respond to God’s love by the power of God’s Spirit that dwells within us. And just as the Father’s love for Jesus is the model of Christ’s love for us, so “Christ wants his obedience to be the model of our obedience.”[3] In seeking to respond in faith and with thanksgiving to the love of God, we look to Jesus for a life lived in perfect obedience. 

Now, so that we do not become overwhelmed at the thought of such a task, Jesus proceeds: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Despite the terrible connotations that the world so often attaches to obedience, especially obedience to God, “Jesus insists that his own obedience to the Father is the ground of his joy; and he promises that those who obey him will share the same joy.”[4] Whereas we are often made to think that obedience to God is a burden, a cruel and oppressive limit to our freedom, Christ reminds us that it is precisely in such obedience that we experience true, lasting liberation. Haven’t we experienced this in our own lives? Haven’t we tasted the joy of living in accordance with God’s will? And haven’t we also felt the pain, the guilt, and the isolation of our own sin and the sin of others? There is no joy in sin; there is only despair. There is no life outside of God’s love; there is only death. The man or woman who has experienced the love of God, who knows what it means to be freed from the captivity of sin, does not consider the Lord’s commandments a burden, but declares with the Psalmist, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7).

All of this, of course, begs the important question: what is the Lord’s commandment? What does it actually look like to live in accordance with God’s perfect will? Christ tells his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” It is with this simple commandment, therefore, that our passage comes full circle. As the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves us, and graciously mediates the Father’s love to us. And because we are loved by God, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey his commandments—that is, we are freed to love others as Christ has loved us. Such a love is not merely an affectionate feeling, but an active commitment to the ultimate good of another. Such a love is costly, for “by this we know love, that Jesus laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (I Jn. 3:16).  To love is to sacrifice everything for the sake of the other, to place the needs of another above our own. And yet, to love in this way is to abide in the love of Christ and to share in his joy. To love in this way is to be caught up in the rhythm of God’s love, to participate in His glorious ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).

Let us love then, not in word or speech, but in truth and action (1 Jn. 3:18), ever mindful that “we love because He loved us first” (1 Jn. 4:19). In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Tractate 82.
[2] Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Ch. 15, sec. 2, 2002.
[3] Ibid, 15.2.2003.
[4] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 521.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Edinburgh Caste
Edinburgh. What a beautiful city. Everywhere you turn there are massive old buildings. So much time and history has gone by on those streets. We were standing in Bloody Mary's bed chamber for crying out loud! Your imagination reels as you think of the events, the people, the stories that seem so distant on the pages of history books...

We roamed through the Castle of Edinburgh (parts of it dating back to the eleventh century). Here we got to see the oldest crown jewels. However I preferred the tour of the Holyrood Palace which is still a royal residence today. You cannot take pictures inside the palace which was unfortunate, because it was grand!

Holyrood Palace
The site of the palace was originally a monastery, and the ruins are still attached to the palace.      


However, our favorite part of any holiday is food. We were able to have lunch at La Garrigue (the restaurant that Gordon Ramsay nominated best French restaurant in the UK). We enjoyed rabbit, sardines, pork belly, fresh caught coley, lavender creme brulee, and something chocolate and delicious! The next day we lunched at The Mussel Inn where I (Krisi) had raw oysters for the first time. The seafood was so fresh. We topped off that afternoon at a local coffee shop (Leo's Beanery) which had been recommended to us as having the best Chai Tea you can imagine. I would say it was definitely not disappointing. For anyone visiting Edinburgh, I would recommend these three spots in a heartbeat. The other places we managed to dash into for a quick bite were not so amazing and must be thriving on the fact that tourist don't know any better. 

My first bite of raw oyster at The Mussel Inn

La Garrigue

Best Chai Ever!

I must say I have never seen Scotland so FOR SALE! It probably puts Daytona Beach to shame with the amount of tourist shops. I don't know how so many kilt, cashmere, and whisky shops stay in business. We were lucky to find some real charming streets, however, that seemed to represent more of a real Edinburgh. Enjoy some more pictures...

Edinburgh Divinity School

Church of Scotland

Part of Edinburgh Castle where crown jewels are kept.

Outside of Edinburgh Castle

Ediburgh Castle
Waiting at The Mussel Inn
Enjoying his chai tea!

The trip ended with Jordan's suitcase breaking so that he could not roll it, but rather had to carry the suitcase 1.5 miles home from the train station (the suitcase that I had STUFFED, because it was the only one that rolled). 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Small Pleasures...

"Life is made of little pleasures."

A wonderful thing happened this afternoon... my kettle broke! That may sound bad, but I was delighted. Our flat came with an electric kettle, and I'm an old fashioned girl and prefer the kind that whistles on the stove. However, I did not feel justified buying a new one, since our flat DID come with a device that heated water. But today it BROKE, and I quickly took myself to TKMaxx to purchase a beautiful stainless steal whistling kettle. And now I'm enjoying a cup of tea...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Meditations on Lent

The following was originally a post by Jordan over at the All Saints' Center for Theology...

Lent is a hallowed breath taken before shouts of adoration—the Church’s magnificent, collective inhalation.
Lent is a wound, a thorn in the side of the gods-of-our-own-making, an interruption in the ebb and flow of our most revered secular liturgies.
Lent is the imposition of ashes, a chorus of dust and dry bones, an invitation for living breath. It is an upturned vessel, an empty urn, an invitation for living water.
Lent is a voice crying in the wilderness, a shaking and steadfast finger pointing ever in the direction of Golgotha.
Lent is submission to the weight of costly discipleship, liberation from the cost of self-indulged freedom.
Lent is an interlude, a darkness preceding the terrible brightness.
Lent is nothing -- worse than nothing, the clatter and clamor of proud religiosity, the futile wailing of a misanthropic martyr -- if not for the one whose destruction and subsequent vindication bid the foe become beloved.
Lent is an affirmation and an invitation. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflections on a Favorite Book

Our church has been holding a Lenten Lunch Series. Every week a different parishioner offers a book review as entertainment while we eat a soup lunch. The proceeds are going to help a church in Africa. Today was my day to present one of my favorite books, and here are my eager offerings for anyone who is interested. 

I have chosen one of my all-time favorite novels, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I have read and re-read this book probably three or four times now, because of its wit, characters, and accurate depiction of human nature. It shows the depths of our human depravity and the costliness of a life led in the pursuit of pleasure rather than of God.  In short, I like it, because it is funny, and because it is true.  True, not because the story actually happened, but because it is a mirror that reflects the realities of life. As someone once put it so well, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Just as a little background, the author, Oscar Wilde, was born in Dublin, Ireland in the mid 19th century. He studied at Oxford and settled in London where he fell in with an artistic crowd, which included W. B.  Yeats (the great Irish poet).  Oscar Wilde began his published career with mediocre poetry; however, he became famous for his comic plays (the most famous being “The Importance of Being Earnest”). The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only novel he ever published.

Oscar Wilde was immersed in the rising aesthetic movement of his day, which championed the supremacy of beauty and art and advocated the pursuit of all pleasure. This movement became known as the “new hedonism.” His novel, written later in his life, explores these themes and their ultimate ends.  To sum it up, it is the story of a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

It all begins in a stately London home with Dorian Gray sitting for the well-known artist, Basil Hallward. Dorian is a wealthy, cultured, handsome young man, and he captivates Basil’s artistic imagination. While Basil is painting Dorian, Lord Henry enters. He is a witty devil figure who amuses himself by scandalizing his friends and propagating a life of pleasure seeking.  He admires Dorian’s youth and beauty, but deeply distresses him with a speech on their fleeting nature.

Speaking to Dorian:

“Let us go and sit in the shade,” said Lord Henry. “Parker has brought out the drinks, and if you stay any longer in this glare you will be quite spoiled, and Basil will never paint you again. You really must not allow yourself to become sun burnt. It would be unbecoming.”

“What can it matter?” cried Dorian Gray, laughing, as he sat down on the seat at the end of the garden.

“It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray.”


“Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having.”

“I don’t feel that, Lord Henry.”

“No, you don’t feel it now. Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly. Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always be so?... You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray. Don’t frown. You have. And Beauty is a form of Genius—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation… Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you…

The conversation continues and Lord Henry urges Dorian, “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for a new sensation. Be afraid of nothing… A new Hedonism – that is what our century wants! You might be its visible symbol.”

Finishing their conversation in the garden, they re-enter the studio to see Dorian’s portrait complete.  And “the sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation.” Staring at his own image, he began to grieve what time would do to his most impressive characteristics.

“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

And so he pledges his soul if only the painting could bear the burden of age and infamy, allowing him to stay young forever. Over the next few weeks, Lord Henry’s influence grows stronger over Dorian as he becomes a disciple of the new hedonism and proposes to live a life dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. Lord Henry enjoys the almost evil dominance he has over Dorian, and thinks to himself, “Talking to Dorian was like playing upon an exquisite violin. He answered to ever touch and thrill of the bow… There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it.”

And so the story continues. Dorian falls in love with a young actress Sibyl, who performs in a theater in London’s slums. He adores her acting; she, in turn, refers to him as “Prince Charming” and refuses to heed the warnings of her brother that Dorian is no good for her. Overcome by her emotions for Dorian, she decides that she can no longer act, wondering how she can pretend to love on the stage now that she has experienced the real thing. Dorian, who loves her because of her ability to act, cruelly breaks his engagement with her. After doing so, he returns home to notice that his face in Basil’s portrait of him has changed.

“As he was turning the handle of the door his eyes fell upon the portrait Basil Hallward had painted of him. He started back as if in surprise. Then he went on into his own room, looking somewhat puzzled. After he had taken the button-hole out of his coat, he seemed to hesitate. Finally he came back, went over to the picture, and examined it. In the dim arrested light that struggled through the cream-colored silk blinds, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The expression looked different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was certainly strange.”

Dorian learns the next day that the actress has killed herself in her grief, and he hides his portrait in a remote upper room of his house where no one can see it. For “it held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul?” This picture would become his visible conscience, “the symbol of the degradation of his sin. Here was an ever-present sign of the ruin men brought upon their souls.” And so Dorian goes on to delve deeper and deeper into his hedonistic lifestyle, and his portrait bears the image of his choices. “What the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas. They would mar its beauty, and eat away its grace. They would defile it, and make it shameful.”

For a brief moment, Dorian wants to repent, but Lord Henry steps in to prevent this. And so the battle for Dorian’s soul will continue to rage, and the bitter lesson will be learned…For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

With Thanksgiving

It has been three months since our last update, and I feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of recapping three months of life in one post... So I won't. However, the last few days, I have felt compelled to make thankfulness a priority in my spiritual life. Being thankful is not my natural attitude; in fact, I am quite horrible at it. God has been subtly yet consistently pointing this out to me through different means, most obviously through a recent immersion in the Psalms (which always tend to show me my own lack of thanksgiving) and Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. In truth, there are many things in my life that should turn my heart towards God with thanksgiving, but I most often choose to think about what disappoints me in life. I am praying that God will start to change me and fill me with His joy that rises above all circumstances. So as I start to learn how to focus on God's blessings, I hope to keep note of some of those observations here...

We have now been in Scotland almost five months, and as the cold and dark have crept upon us, we have found our new friendships to be growing warmer and brighter. Moreover, we have been continually encouraged and blessed by our church, St. John's. A long three year exploration and journey into the Anglican Church culminated this morning as Jordan and I participated in Confirmation. It was with great joy that we stood beside friends and reaffirmed our faith and baptism. We have taken seriously the decision to join the Anglican Church as we feel that God has drawn us down this road. Our relationship with Christ has been deeply enriched through the ministry of the Anglican Church during this season of academic study for Jordan. For all these things I am truly thankful.

May God bring to my mind His blessings at all times!