On my recent trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I visited Thorncrown Chapel, a beautiful work of architecture tucked in the woods. When you enter the space, a greeter asks you to sit down in the pews and quietly listen to music and take pictures.
The posture of siting down in the structure allows you to look up at the soaring ceiling of wood beams crisscrossing one another. It also helps you to look to your right and your left to see the trees and foliage directly outside the windows on each side. Your eyes turn toward the side lights shaped into a cross.
The chapel reinforces the fact that God is in nature and his beauty is seen in every plant and creature we see. The chapel reminds us, too, that we are part of God’s creation, formed in his image to tend and care for the earth. Tending and caring for the earth is an act of worship, and one we should not take lightly. We should honor the earth and celebrate the joy it brings to us. We should sing praises as we work to preserve the world around us, and we should take the time to reflect on and marvel at his handiwork.
But as the chapel architecture reminds us, it is the cross of Christ that should crisscross every angle that we view of the earth around us. It is that cross that makes all of life beautiful beyond measure.
I recently went on a short vacation to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. One of the popular sights to see there is “Christ of the Ozarks,” a large statue of Jesus with arms outstretched à la the Christ the Redeemer statue in Buenos Aires. But it has its own look and feel that somehow tells you that you are in the Ozarks.
It makes me think, “How does Christ look to you?” What does “Christ of Mark Zimmermann” feature most prominently? I would say that for me when I think of Christ, I think of his loving eyes. I picture his arms reaching forward to embrace me. I ponder his smile upon me.
Take a few moments today to consider what your image of Christ looks like for you personally. How do you see his face? How do you view his stance toward you? Perhaps take some time to draw your concept of Christ.
Our experiences with Christ may be different for each of us, but in the end the qualities of Christ that remain the same are his everlasting love and care, his forgiveness and grace. Those aspects will never change. Thanks be to God!
The body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1 Corinthians 12:14-18).
I find this passage fascinating because it sounds so ludicrous and basic at the same time. That thought that a part of the body want a promotion, if you will, and wants even total domination seems unreasonable. And the fact that the basics of biology require that the parts of the body stay where they are do what they are intended to makes any request otherwise seem irrational.
Yet that is so often what we in the body of Christ do. We ask God for a different role than the part God has given us to play. We ask, “Why did you make me this way?” Or “What aren’t my talents being used elsewhere?” Or “Why are other parts getting more attention than me?”
The answers to all these questions are simple. “I made you this way for a reason,” God says. “I put you in this place because you are greatly needed there,” he say. “This is not a competition. All parts are working for the Lord and all things are done to his glory,” he declares.
So be blessed and rejoice in the part you are in Christ’s body.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, knowing what laid ahead for him, he gave a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34). Jesus is talking here about no ordinary love. He is talking about a love that is grounded in what he was about to do on the cross. It is a love that is selfless, sacrificial, deep, complete and life-saving. Loving others as Jesus has loved us is not something that comes naturally to us as humans at first. We as humans at first want to love others only to please ourselves and satisfy our own needs and desires. But Jesus shows us a love that puts the other first and ourselves last. We find in Jesus a way of love that reaches outward and does not expect anything in return.
In Scripture we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We were enemies of God when Christ died for us. We did not deserve his love, yet he loved us by giving his all for us. Jesus tells us elsewhere in Scripture: Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44). That is the Jesus kind of love we are expected to exhibit in our lives. It is a love that goes against conventional wisdom. Yet it is a love that we have experienced and a love that we (and Christ) want others to experience through us.
In these contentious times when people seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in nearly every aspect of society, it is time for us to let the love of Christ enter into the picture. Let us show compassion in a Christlike way to those who differ in their opinions than us. Let us show care as Jesus would to those who are against us in any way. For Jesus died for all and his love for all knows no bounds. Our love should be just as boundless.