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Once Upon a Time: There Was a Knight

http://www.fromoldbooks.org/OldEngland/pages/1373-Wood-cut-of-a-Knight/Once upon a time, the Lord King selected a willing warrior, and tasked him to protect a valley nestling a lovely village dear to the Lord King’s heart.

“I shall go,” exclaimed the Knight, pleased to be of service. “From what am I to protect them?”

“You will see,” answered the Lord King.

So the Knight donned his finest armor, selected his keenest weapons and stoutest shield , mounted his bravest steed, and set off towards the valley. As he approached from the south, he crested a ridge and found himself high above the valley that opened like a chasm before him. Across the way, at the opposite side, was the northern crest upon which sat mounted a dark figure, also surveying the valley and its inhabitants.

Instantly, the Knight knew that this was his adversary. He knew that his duty was to protect this valley and these people from being harmed by that dark knight opposing him. He watched as the shadow warrior dismounted his own horse and slowly strode pensively along his cliff, surveying the valley below.

The adversary drew out a bow and began to fire arrows of dark fire into the valley. Wherever his darts struck, there was a splash of shadow and destruction, and the sounds of misery or screaming echoed up to the cliffs.

The Knight’s first thought was to attack in return. Drawing his own bow, he fired arrows of light at the enemy. The arrows shot straight and true directly towards the heart of the aggressor. But yet, they would not find purchase. The enemy would duck, dodge, or twist with preternatural speed, always avoiding a mortal strike. The arrows did distract him a bit, though. So that the enemy’s arrows of dark fire were now directed largely at the Knight, making him dismount (not to be so easy a target), and raise his shield in his own defense. The dark arrows were extinguished harmlessly, when blocked by his shield.

Still, the enemy’s arrows rained regularly down on the people, even as some of them sped toward the Knight. As the Knight was forced to raise his shield often to protect his own heart, the enemy took advantage to attack the village. The enemy was quickening his pace by the moment, and his dark arrows were flying at a remarkable rate.

“This is not working,” thought the Knight. “My attacks on him find no purchase, and though it seems that I am safe, the people are suffering.”

The Lord King’s voice seemed to speak gently into his ear, “You are trying to attack him directly. What if you simply defend the people? Your shield will reach beyond yourself.”

So the Knight sheathed his sword, and focused a moment on his shield. He discovered that he could extend his arm towards the village, as he saw where a dart would strike, and sail a shield out through the air over the people. The dart would strike the sheltering shield harmlessly, sparing the people beneath.

So the battle progressed, ever faster, as the enemy rained down arrow after arrow, and the Knight flung one shield after another like a discus to intercept each blow. But as time passed, the Knight began to tire. The enemy was utterly tireless, and the weaker and slower the Knight became, it seemed the stronger and faster rained the arrows.

Eventually (it seemed like hours, though it may have been but moments), the Knight began to lose heart, realizing he could not keep up this pace.

“Lord King, I am failing in my task. I cannot protect these people. I am flagging, and the enemy is too strong. He grows stronger as I grow weaker. Behold, even now, the people are at his mercy…” choked the Knight. For indeed, it seemed that for every arrow blocked, blindingly quick though the battle progressed, still two others slipped through devastating the village like flaming mortars of pitch blackness.

The Lord King’s voice again came to the ear of the Knight…

“This is what you needed to understand, My son. No matter how sharp your weapons, how stout your armor, or how valiant your mount, you alone… with all your strength and training… simply CANNOT stand against such creature of darkness. All of those things can strengthen you, embolden you, give you affirmation of your mission and confidence. But none of that gives you the resources to prevail against such an adversary.”

“What then am I to do? Why did You send me here?” lamented the miserable Knight.

“To protect this village. To guard this valley,” responded the Lord King.

“But HOW, Majesty?” the Knight cried, in utter defeat.

“Ah,” the Lord King replied, as you could almost hear the smile in His voice. “NOW you are asking, and asking the right question. Now… Behold…”

And the Knight felt his body relax, as though a child in the arms of his trustworthy father. His sword, shield, bow, all weaponry fell away from him. His helmet drifted away. His armor fell away. He stood arms wide open, splay legged, in simple white robe, seemingly utterly helpless and vulnerable on his cliff above the valley.

Until Light, indescribable, warm, brilliant Light… began to infuse him from all around. The glow, the joy, the awareness was both unspeakably wondrous, and unbearably powerful all at the same time. He lost all sense of what was happening, lost all awareness of time, or questions, or answers, or even himself as himself. All the Knight still knew was that… he WAS… He IS. The will of the Lord King was his own will, His desires his desires, and His love his love.

His eyes… his eyes were changed and new. His heart was changed and new, and his heart now held mastery over his eyes. He looked outwards, his arms open wide, and all… ALL was light.

He looked downwards, into the valley, and saw with all the love in his heart, the people there. His ears heard their cries, their joys, their pains. And as he noticed their sufferings, as he realized the darts were striking the streets and homes from overhead, he focused on the opposite crest and for the first time noticed the enemy there.

Suddenly, his love for the people, his passion, his care for and heart of protection for them, caused a phenomenal explosion… a blinding flash and deafening report… as Light burst forth with the strength of a thousand suns, flooding all the land and sky for just a moment as his love for the people, his protection and care for them, utterly overwhelmed him.

In the next moments, as the echoes drifted away, the Knight (now quite recovered as himself) looked down at the valley and saw all filled with light, with hope, with love, and with joy. Looking opposite, there was no more presence of the enemy or of shadow.

And so, in great peace and satisfaction, he set up his camp there on the pinnacle… to protect and to serve the people evermore. He now understood, no force of arms that he could bring to bear would guard them. But the Lord King… within him, through him, around him… when he focused utterly on His Majesty and HIS love for the people… this would care for the people.

Was he, this mighty Knight, sent here to use his strength to protect the valley?

No. He could not succeed at that.

Rather, he, this mighty Knight, was sent here to acknowledge in his weakness that he could NOT protect the valley, but to provide a vessel and a voice, to make way for the Lord King Himself to do so through him.

He became one of the greatest and wisest Knights in the Kingdom, and lived very happily ever after.

 

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Gone Fishin’

Sunrise CrossPowerful things are happening among the Disciples in the days immediately following the Crucifixion. Powerful lessons are laid down for us here.

This morning, my heart is a bit heavy, and it brought these texts to mind. I thought I would share with you.

Let me open with Paul. He had written a letter to the Church at Corinth because they were misbehaving. They’d formed factions, were squabbling about foolish things, had mistaken “liberty” in Christ for “license” (and those are not the same). All in all, they were acting a bit like kids act when their parents and elders are away from home. So Paul wrote this letter, a bit harsh, calling them to order. They responded, and drew themselves back up, taking the correction with grace and sorting themselves out. In this passage below from a later letter to them, Paul addresses his regret and mixed feelings about having to correct them, and expresses an absolutely critical teaching about “sorrow” that I’ve found invaluable across decades of counseling…

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. [2 Corinthians 7:8-10]

There’s the critical teaching: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had a phone call last night asking for my prayers for an 8th grade child who has decided to do a research report term paper on “Suicide”. When their teacher asked why this topic, the answer was… This child’s 25 year old cousin, married, with a spouse and three children (a 5 year old, and twin 2 year olds), had committed suicide yesterday. The student didn’t understand… hence, the research topic.

Suicide? Bible? These days? Yes.

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. [Matthew 27:1-8]

I know I’ve posted on this before, but I am irresistibly drawn to these passages as I pray for this child, her family, and the family of this sad young man. I have no idea what was happening in his life, his mind or heart, or his family. But one thing I know, as someone who works a great deal with suicide, is that in the moments that he made his fatal decision… that young man was filled with a sorrow that leads to death, and he could see no hope of recovery. HOW he came to that moment, I do not know. THAT he came to it, I am certain. As did Judas.

Judas betrayed Jesus. He felt conviction on that. He felt remorse. He tried to undo it, to make up for it, to put things back the way they were. He tried to renounce his act, give back the money, and restore his heart. But he failed. He focused on all that he did wrong, and ultimately executed himself for it.

Let us contrast that with another betrayal of Jesus at that same time. Let’s look instead at Peter.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, *said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. [John 18:25-27]

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. [Matthew 26:75]

Bitter tears, conviction, remorse. Look familiar? Denied his Lord and best friend… cursing even. How deep was his sorrow in such moments? Who can imagine it?

But Judas experienced “sorrow of the world”? How do we know that, why can we say that? By its fruit. His sorrow led not to salvation and rescue, but to death.

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Peter, on the other hand, returned to his brothers after the Crucifixion, he ran to the tomb at the report of the women, he was with the brethren that evening when Jesus appeared. He did not abandon his life and duties, focusing myopically on his own failings and flaws. Did he know sorrow and remorse? Scripture does not say specifically, but I have no reason not to think he did.

But he and Jesus do not directly speak to one another again until they have breakfast on the seashore. I started to try to “cut and paste” through the story to put it here, and just could not bring myself to do it. The tale is a united whole, and to try to edit it just seemed “wrong” somehow.

Please look at this beautiful report… and feel how remarkable the transitions, hopes, sorrows, sadness, exuberance, joy, all of that… that Peter’s heart goes through in just this very short time.

John 21

We start with: Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They *said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

Does it make you smile a bit, too? There they are… confused… alone… frightened… grief-stricken… totally unsure of what to do or what’s coming next. Finally, Peter stands up, likely with an air of “I-have-had-enough-of-this”… and says, “I’m going fishing.” (Perhaps he intended to be alone, reflect and rest, relax a bit with some private time.) He didn’t tell anyone to come with him. Didn’t invite them. But there we go, they stand up and say, “we’re coming along”.

The passage continues with incredible tenderness between them and the Lord. Please look it over yourselves… too rich to comment on here.

But it’s the ending, with Peter, that I want to highlight.

Look at this amazing thing… After throwing himself into the water with impatience to get to Jesus, look at what Peter DOESN’T SAY!

Peter doesn’t say:

  • Lord, you were right, I was wrong
  • Thank You for praying for me
  • I was afraid, and didn’t know what I was doing
  • I’m so ashamed
  • He doesn’t even say “I’m sorry!”

Isn’t that AMAZING? And Jesus has NO PROBLEM with that! The Lord doesn’t berate him, accuse him, or rebuke him in any way. Instead, as Jesus so often does, He simply “cuts to the heart of the matter”. Peter denied their relationship three times. Jesus asks Peter to affirm their relationship three times. And it hurts… Peter is hurt by the third time Jesus asks if he loves Him. But Peter bears with the pain, answers each time, and receives the instructions that have now rippled outwards from that moment into the heart of every shepherd on earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is the point of this post?

I am praying for the loved ones of a 25 year old husband and father who lost all hope, could not see how to make things right, and ended his own life.

Judas came to that same moment in his life, by betraying Jesus.

Peter also betrayed Jesus, may have felt as bad about it as Judas (or maybe worse), but he did NOT come to that place of hopeless despair.

What was the difference between them? That’s a question worthy of much study and I encourage you to ponder it. There are lots and lots of answers, and I’ll not catalog them here.

But here’s the critical piece I want to light up here:

We all do regrettable things. But the sorrow of the world focuses our gaze on ourselves… our own failings… what we did wrong… how we can make it right… what WE have to do about it. This was Judas’ approach.

The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation… to rescue. Peter did not just focus on himself. He got with the Disciples, he shared their amazement at the tomb and in the closed room. When he decided to go fishing, and they invited themselves along, he did not deny them. When John told him Jesus was standing on the shore, he did not hide in the back of the boat. Peter embraced his own failings, got about his task of leading the Disciples, and embraced them. Peter regained his hope, trusted Jesus even having denied Him, and received full forgiveness, absolution, and restoration, without any confession or apology.

Could it be that God is not nearly so interested in our examens, confessions, penance, breast-beating, pleas and cries of remorse… as He is with simply restoring our love and trust in relationship? Could it be that He would dearly love our focusing vastly less on our sins, sinfulness, and failings, and vastly more on His love, kindness, mercy and embrace of us?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wonder if that 25 year old husband and father knew this? I hope more learn it.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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