Grace and Restoration

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Peter's Denial

This statue stands in the courtyard of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (or “cock’s crow”), which was built on the site of the Caiaphas’ House in Jerusalem where Jesus was held the night before his crucifixion and the site of Peter’s denial.

The inscription from Luke 22:57 “Non novi ileum” means “I do not know the man.”

It is a beautiful and moving depiction of Peter’s denial.  Take time to notice the various elements of the story that the sculptor artfully incorporates into the sculpture.

All is well,


Psalm 73

summer-psalms-web1Following is a “spoken word” performance of Psalm 73. While it is an urban performance of the Psalm and probably quite different than you have heard it read before, it is very powerful and relevant.

We hope you enjoy it!

Psalm 40


He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Psalm 40:3

Below is a kinetic typology video (an animation technique combing movement and text to express or emphasize an idea) made to go with Toby Mac’s Psalm 40.

Psalm 19

We hope that you are continuing with us through the second week of reading through the Psalms.

Below is a beautiful trumpet and organ performance of Benedetto Marcello’s “Psalm XVIII: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God,” which confusingly is really Psalm 19.

All is well,

Easter Wings

Easter Wings

George Herbert (1593-1633), a 17th century Welsh-born Anglican priest and poet, is believed by many to be the greatest religious poet in the English language.

This famous pattern poem (see how the words appear as wings especially if you turn it sideways as the poem was originally published), “Easter Wings,” allows the reader see the hope and reality of our shared resurrection in Jesus Christ.

A beautiful and insightful commentary on this poem can be found on, where we found this beautiful design of Herbert’s poem.

He is Risen!

Casting of Lots in I Samuel

From the Winchester Bible, a lavshly illustrated 12th-centry English Bible

Here is an interesting observation from 1 Samuel 10 that I had to pass over during the sermon on Sunday morning due to time constraints: Saul was chosen to be king using lots.

The reason I find this passage interesting is it provides additional Biblical support for how Calvary selects elders and deacons. Acts 1 is the best passage for affirming the practice of casting lots to choose leaders, but here in 1 Samuel 10, Israel’s first king is chosen by lots.

Lots will also be used just a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 14 (part of our passage for this week) to highlight Jonathan as the person who ate food when everyone was commanded not to eat. This example gives further evidence to the common use of casting lots in Israel and the way that God speaks through them.

It is important to note that we do not have any examples of the casting of lots in the Bible where the lot falls to the wrong person. In the case of Saul in 1 Samuel 9-11, Saul had already been anointed as king by Samuel in a secret ceremony but only God, Saul and Samuel were privy to that information.

If Samuel anointed Saul, why did there need to be the casting of lots?

Because even though God had selected Saul, there needed to be a way to communicate that decision to the people, which would be recognized as being from the Lord as opposed to being the will of Samuel. So casting lots became the second step in the process. There is actually a third step in the process in 1 Samuel 11. After Saul is chosen by lots to become king, the Spirit comes upon Saul and he leads Israel to great victory. After the victory, the people acclaim Saul as king, affirming the decision made through the casting of lots, which itself was an affirmation of the secret anointing ceremony between Saul and Samuel.

If the casting of lots was used to select Saul as king, why wasn’t David selected in this way?

I believe David was selected using a different method because when David was chosen to be Israel’s future king, Saul was still the reigning king. And during the time between David’s anointing and his ascension to the throne there were many years for God to prove that David was his chosen king. As a result, the casting of lots was not necessary to affirm God’s choice of David.

Both Saul and David were anointed by God to be king. At the time of his ascension, Saul was known by very few people in Israel and time constraints mandated that he be selected immediately. At the time of David’s ascension, everyone in Israel knew who he was and could affirm God’s calling on his life to be king.

If you are interested in how lots are being used today in Egypt, check out this article on the selection of a leader for Coptic Christians on




That They May All Be One

“That they may all be one” is my favorite work of contemporary religious art.  It hangs above the entryway to the dining hall at Wolfson College, where Jim studied at Oxford.  As we lived and spent time in the college that was atheistic by design, it was a symbol of God’s presence – whether acknowledged or not – every time I saw this painting.

The painting is by a Herefordshire (UK) artist named Charles MacCarthy.  I have never been able to find much information about him but he is described on art websites as a well-respected artist. I don’t know if he is a man of faith but he has captured some amazing aspects of communion in this piece of art (or at least I found them whether intended or not).

In the middle is Christ’s cup.  It is completely segregated from the rest of the picture because only Jesus is able to drink from the cup.  Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  In obedience to God, Jesus drank from the cup, paying a price that none of us could pay.

I love that all of the cups are simple.  This was not a dinner restricted to the wealthy, or the influential, or the wise.  It was a dinner for anyone willing to take up their cross and follow Christ.

Different colors and the placement of the cups in the panels convey to me that each person came separately to the table.  Each person who sat at the table made the decision to be at that dinner, marking a series of decisions to follow Christ.

My favorite part of the painting is that there is space at the bottom.  The last row of panels is empty as if to invite each one of us to join them at the table.  Logically, we could not physically be at Christ’s crucifixion.  However, Paul writes in Galatians 2:20a, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  His shocking claim is that we were actually there at the cross with Christ.  When Jesus gave up his life for us, each believer was spiritually at the cross with him so that in his resurrection we might have access to new life.

Finally, although Christ has his unique position, although the cups are simple enough for anyone to participate, although there are individual invitations to the table, as well as space at the bottom for us, together it makes one painting, one story, one record of redemption.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the Lord’s supper.  As we prepare our hearts to receive communion in community, remember we are all part of one story so that we may all be one.

All is well,




Les Miserables Movie

This December, Les Miserables — commonly referred to as Les Mis, is coming back to the big screen.  There are been twelve movie versions in the past (Jim has used some clips of the great 1998 version in at least one sermon) but this is the first time it will be a musical.  While the voices of the upcoming movie simply cannot match some of the amazing people who have sung on Broadway or in London, I am really excited about it.  You can watch the trailer below:

Les Mis is my favorite musical.  I saw it for the first time with my French class when I was a senior in high school.  It was my first time to see a musical, and for some reason our seats were behind posts so we actually ended up sitting in the aisle for the entire performance.  I was completely and totally captivated.

After seeing the musical, I read the entire (think long) book by Victor Hugo, which is an amazing story of law and grace.  There are several intertwining stories set during the French Revolution in the nineteenth century.

One story line involves Fantine, a tragic character who sings these lines about her life in the famous song “I Dreamed a Dream” that is featured in the above trailer for the movie:

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I’m living,

So different now from what it seemed…

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…

As the musical progresses, grace intervenes, and the havoc that sin wrecks gives way to life.  As they talk about their future, the cast sings lyrics full of biblical overtones, including:

They will live again in freedom

In the garden of the Lord.

They will walk behind the plough-share,

They will put away the sword.

The chain will be broken

And all men will have their reward.

Themes of redemption, self-sacrifice, scandalous grace, justice, corruption, forgiveness and most of love, abound.

Although the possibility of snow seems almost impossible in this wonderfully warm weather, it’s great to know there is already something to look forward to.


P.S.  The movie is not yet rated but since sin is rarely G-rated, it will not be appropriate for children.