Posts Tagged With: Christianity

Reading The Silver Chalice

Basil, a slave in first-century Antioch, follows a path from poverty to artisan (with many steps in between) in Thomas B. Costain’s novel, The Silver Chalice.  Along the way we see the nascence of Christianity as readers meet Luke, Joseph of Arimathea, Peter, Paul, and many fictional characters who are following this new faith based on the life, teachings, and death/resurrection this rabbi now called the Christ.  Followers risk their lives, seek to define their beliefs, argue with one another, and encourage.  There is great work being done. The preaching of John, the service of Peter, and the gathering of stories by Luke.  

However, a simple, silver cup becomes the means by which Basil, and the readers, are drawn into this community that was first named Christian at Antioch (Acts 11: 26).  Leaders of this young church wanted to create a chalice in which to keep their most precious relic, the cup Jesus used at his last Passover with the disciples.  Luke is drawn to this young young silversmith for the job after seeing his extraordinary work. With his freedom purchased, Basil is taken to the home of Joseph of Arimathea and begins the task of recreating the faces of those who had been present at that last supper.  Since the disciples are aging and in danger of death from persecution, time is short for Basil to see those still alive so he can reveal the lives behind the faces.

He puts extreme effort into designing and creating this object. In order to gain a deeper sense of the meaning of the chalice, he attends hidden worship services, travels to Ephesus and Rome, learns the network of Christians, runs from Roman soldiers, and hides in cramped spaces.  The work itself draws people to be involved.  Christians in this growing community know the importance of the cup from which the disciples first drank Jesus‘ ‘blood shed for them’.  It’s a physical remembrance of faith to which they can hold.

Once the chalice is complete, and Basil is at home with his wife Deborra, the word goes out and Christians come to see it.  Then, one night, it’s stolen.  Will this be the end of the faith for those involve?  Of Basil whose work is now gone?  Of Deborra whose grandfather, Joseph of Arimathea, is no longer around?  What more do they have left that builds a bridge to Jesus? 

Yet, it’s through the process of creating this chalice that Basil’s faith grows and flourishes, not in worshipping the final object. In fact, the theft emphasizes that Christianity can not be contained in any one, man-made item. The work of honoring this new faith doesn’t point to the workers.  Instead the work is a means of God to draw people to him.  Similarly the teaching of Paul, the writing of Luke, and the service of Peter are also not ends in themselves, but means to draw others into relationship with God through the forgiveness Jesus offers.

Throughout this narrative we meet many people who have given up their world or had it taken from them because of these new and threatening beliefs.  No longer are they clasping to this life, but letting go. Ultimately, the story is not about the chalice, but the One who had held it.  


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The Relief of Lent

The real man is at liberty to be his Creator’s creature.  To be conformed with the Incarnate is to have the right to be the man one really is.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Over the past weeks I’ve been to retreats, cooked meals, met new people, planned ministry events, been invited to dinners, made phone calls, spent time with friends, celebrated . . . and read, wrote, cleaned, organized finances . . . the list could go on.  It doesn’t take long before days, weeks, and months are overflowing with tasks.

It’s in the midst of such a hectic schedule that Lent is such a relief.  It’s a gift to have an expectation to give up something, slow down.

Time to reflect. To return to God.  To breathe again.

At the same time I also wonder how to describe Lent to people outside of the church – as well as to many people within.  It’s not a practice or festival that is in the Bible.  It also seems to run counter to the picture of hope and abundance that is often central to Christianity.  Does Jesus really want us to go around looking sorrowful and depriving ourselves?

No, but throughout his words there are many messages about repentance, carrying our crosses, and persecution.  These are not the jubilant voices of preachers on a Sunday morning or the comforting words of a friend.  They are the earnest pleadings of God wanting us to look at reality.  To see what is really before us, in all its brokenness, instead of painting false pictures.  A God who yearns to heal us.  In current western society that admires image, wants to create a better narrative no matter how far it is from reality, we need this call more than ever.

This is lent.  It provides a time to recalibrate the stories in our lives.  To remove the false versions of ourselves and others.  To see God as God is and ourselves as his creatures.    To step out of the daily routine.  It’s a time when it’s okay to reflect.  It’s okay to remove our masks as we hear we are ashes, we are dust.

What we each give up or take on isn’t as important as the practice of doing so – and Christ breaking into this time to reveal the Truth and to set us free.  Free to be broken and to step into this mess with Jesus in the midst.

How will you find relief and break from the routine in your life over the next weeks to open yourself to God’s calling to repent – see reality as it is and turn to Him?

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