Tommy

On this day a couple of years ago I lost a friend I dearly loved–my family loved. He was dear to many of us. When he died something changed in me, something I have yet to fully understand, largely due to the circumstances surrounding his death. But I know that because of what happened the previous year I will see Tommy again. He was born April 29, 1964. He was reborn in Christ on Aprile 20, 2014. He left this life and entered into the next on April 15, 2015.

He was a loyal friend and one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. I miss him.

A few weeks ago an older man entered into the worship gathering at WCC. Afterward he came to me and introduced himself. He said, “I am from Maryland. I wanted to come and worship God here today because two years ago I lost a dear friend named Tommy. In my desperation for hope I found your article, ‘What Tommy Taught Me.’ I discovered you had lost a Tommy too. Your article comforted me and I wanted to meet you and worship with this Church.” I cried.

I told this man how humbling it was he would join us. I shared with him how this article I wrote for Christianity Today was a process of personal healing and that I was grateful to God that he found it as source of some small measure of healing too. In honor of Tommy’s precious life, I share this with you all today:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/november-web-exclusives/what-tommy-taught-me.html

I want to thank Christianity Today for making this article freely accessible today.

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Tommy’s Bible

 

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Holy Week, Friday – The Cross Speaks What is True

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In the Cross, God speaks what is true for those who believe. As the Word Incarnate died upon it the Cross becomes His voice. In the Cross, God offers this message of truth in both a promise and summons. The promise is new life lived with God now and forever. The summons is to live this new life with a deep-seated trust and obedience to the way of life witnessed in Jesus, and to do so in community with others who believe. In the Cross, God speaks what is true. 

No longer lost, we can live in light.
No longer dead, we can come alive.
No longer blind, we can see.
No longer suffocating, we can freely breathe.
No longer broken, we can be healed.
No longer numb, we can feel.
No longer stained, we can be made pure.
No longer weak, we can endure.
No longer deceived, we can know the truth.
No longer must we search, His love is proof.

He is our way. He is our light.
He is always true. He is our life.
He never leaves. He is our peace.
He is our help and sweet relief.
He is our strength. He is sure.
He is more than enough. He is the crucified Lord.

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Tears Have a Way of Washing the Blindness from Our Eyes

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Oscar A. Romero once said:
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”
He also said,“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”
 
There are days and weeks our hearts must be broken by the lovelessness and hurt in our world. Society tells us that productivity, power, popularity and point-blank speech are virtuous and worthy pursuits. Yet, we see a world increasing with systems of violence, coercion (power-grabbing), anxiety, and fear mongering. When our hearts are finally broken by what we see tears will fill our eyes and we will long for a different kind of peace. It is then, in the words of Romero, we can see things as they really are and that these so-called virtues are not the fruit of virtuous character at all, rather the fruit of godless idolatry and pragmatism.¹ Productivity, power, popularity and point-blank speech will be seen as they should, instruments that work against peace, generosity, and the “tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.”
Tears have a way of washing the blindness from our eyes.
 
May our hearts break and eye be filled with tears. Perhaps then our hands will open, our feet will move, and we will follow the Way of Jesus, and become instruments of peace.

¹ By pragmatism I am drawing from the philosophical tradition and the notion that meaning or worth is determined by practical consequences. It’s close to the meaning of utilitarianism, that usefulness is the standard of what can be called true or good. This understanding aligns with the works of ‘classical pragmatists’ and philosophers like William James, John Dewey and George Santayana. Ironically, pragmatism and a philosophical system of thought originated in the United States and is considered the West’s gift to philosophy.
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Label Makers and the Lord as Maker

Liberal. Conservative. Progressive. Republican. Democrat. Libertarian. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I’ve been called all these and more. I’ve even thrown some at others. I bet you have too. 

After years of label making and label taking I agree with Danish philosopher, theologian and poet Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) who once said, “When you label me, you negate me.” 

Placing labels upon another demonstrates a woefully pitiful tendency to childishly avoid dealing with whatever issue is at hand. Casting down labels is a stubborn refusal to deal with another’s personhood. 

However, as one who has confessed that Jesus is Lord there is one label I’ll readily take: Christian. It is what I am. All other descriptors and labels are frail attempts to categorize others based upon a faulty logic of managing one’s own party-political ideology. 

Jesus won’t be managed. He won’t fit in our ideological categories no matter how hard we squeeze and cram. 

Jesus is the Redeemer, not a Republican. Jesus is the Lord, not a Libertarian. Jesus is the Day Star, not a Democrat. When he chose to walk this earth he was a brown-skinned man hailing from Nazareth, not a white man hailing from the West. In self-giving love on a blood-stained cross He showed us that He would rather die for His enemies than kill them. As risen Lord and God of all creation we must come to realize that He may “fit inside your heart” but he will not fit inside our preferences. He is Lord of lords. He is King of kings. He is the ever-present almighty God of life-changing eternal Love. When all other kingdoms become a footnote in the pages of history, His will stand. And He won’t accept split allegiances. 

I think Christians in these United States would do well to remember this. 

As for me, I am a Christian. I pledge my allegiance to the Lord alone and I am grateful that His grace welcomes a wretch like me. 

Selah.

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Poetry: Free

I wrote this simple poem around 2003. It was a season of profound transition and hurt brought about by a most unexpected disappointment. In a desperate attempt to reconcile my failures with faith, I was pushed to consider Jesus in a way I never had before. The poem become a psalm of personal reflection clinging to the hope that despite all my imperfection I wasn’t lost on Christ, the embodiment of Love and only One capable of setting me free.

Lately I’ve been wandering
Why You came to rescue me
From this life I have made
And my waves of restless peace

My life is so off course
What is it that You find
That You would come for me
To save me from a heart
So darkened by my pride
That You would leave everything behind

Lately I’ve been wandering
Why You would die for me
To give up beauty indescribable
Just to set me free

My life is so off course
What is it that You find
That You would come for me
To save me from a heart
So darkened by my pride
That You would leave everything behind

Brighter than the sunlight on a hot summers day
Cooler than the autumn breeze that could take my breath away
Higher than the farthest star any eye could ever see
Is the Love that came to this world
And He came to set us free
Oh this love
God’s love
Has come to set us free.

~ Fred Liggin, 2003

Below is a musical recording of the poem. Me (guitar and vocals) and my extraordinarily talented friend Simon (guitar and vocals) recorded it at least 15 years ago. We used to play quite a bit together. Although years and miles have separated us, his friendship has left an indelible mark on my life.*

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*Words by Fred Liggin, Music by Fred Liggin & Simon Sakatos
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Lonnie, Jason, 3e Restoration & #GivingTuesday

Hey there! I know it has been a while since I have written. Let me explain. One of the reasons why is due to my work with 3e Restoration Inc. Led by our staff and partnering churches, God is using 3e Restoration to change lives in profound ways. It keeps me hustling and makes it hard to take time to write.

When it comes to 3e Restoration I could offer you story after story outlining how God is rewriting people’s stories through gracious hospitality and friendship. Instead, I will just point you to one  in the form of a video, specifically of my dear friends Jason and Lonnie (click their names or click the picture below).

I want you to see why giving to 3e makes sense. I want you to see why God’s work through 3e is unique. (There are several other videos you can watch on our Vimeo page).

Please, watch the video and consider giving on #GivingTuesday. You can give HERE. Together we can make a difference, alleviate poverty and eradicate homelessness one friend and family at a time.

Oh, and if you’ve never heard of #GivingTuesday, here’s the deal. #GivingTuesday is a movement to celebrate and provide reasons to give rather than consume. This effort harnesses the collective power of unique partnerships—nonprofits, businesses and corporations as well as families and individuals—to transform how people think about and participate in the giving season. People are inspired to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better ways to the causes they celebrate and help create a healthier society.  Finally, it harnesses the power of social media to create a movement dedicated to giving in every community, city and country around the world.

Thank you for considering 3e Restoration Inc.

Grace and peace to you,

Fred
President of 3e Restoration, Inc.
On Behalf of the Board of Directors

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Reordered Lives, a Disordered Society and Eucharistic Living

10505272_10154290548015508_8732401184129308556_nIf this election season has accomplished anything, it has been the disordering of many relationships. Political ideologies mixed in with a commitment to a particular set of values, virtues or fears have put friend against friend. Sadly, the Church is no exception. There are many reasons for this, for which I will not attempt to unpack here. I am only interested in the way forward because November 9th is coming. Jesus will still be Lord, neighbors will still be present to love, and the Church will still be called by God participate in his work in the world by the Spirit. If the church is stay oriented to this invitation, we will need to reorder what has become (sadly) disordered–lives, relationships, ethics, politics; we will need a renewed invitation to the eucharistic Table.¹

In my church family, we have a eucharistic orientation to our weekly worship gathering, which moves us directly from the proclamation of the Word (sermon, teaching or open conversation) to the Table. We no longer offer an “altar call” (in my tradition we call this an “invitation,” usually to repentance and baptism). We invite people to tend to the presence of Christ among us by coming forward in two lines side-by-side to the Table. Now, I do not believe there is anything wrong with the former and I do not mean to shun or devalue different liturgical impulses. Each church has it’s tradition based upon theological commitments. But for us, it is a renewed theological (and missiological) commitment that has necessitated our shift from Word to Altar, to Word to Table (Sacrament or Eucharist).

We have found that coming together to the Lord’s table after the Word has been proclaimed reorders our lives. It calls us to submit all ideologies to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The way to guard ourselves from allowing our ideologies to overshadow the truth and cultivate eucharistic living—the way of gratefulness, hospitality, the culmination of the common life rooted in our true identity, and in preparation for mission–is our weekly practice of Word to Table.

Rehearsing the Gospel

Coming together to the Lord’s table serves as a rehearsal of the gospel as we practice receiving the welcome of Christ. Through the Word we reflect upon the dramatic unfolding of God’s redemptive work in and for the world. At the Table we prayerfully submit to it’s authority and participate in what God has done for the sake of the world as we discern his presence among us. The Lord’s table becomes the embodiment of submission and participation both to and with Jesus as Lord, and to and with one another as his Church. The inseparability of Word to Eucharist reorders our lives and reinforces our identity in the presence of Christ: we are the children of God delivered from the reign of sin and death and transferred into the reign of grace as citizens of his kingdom.

Cultivating a Grateful Community

As we come forward together to receive the bread and wine with an attitude of faith and self-examination, we remember and proclaim the death of Christ, receive nourishment for our souls, and signify our unity with Christ and one another. At the Lord’s table we remember our need and God’s provision, which becomes our training for grateful living. All we are and have is a gift of grace, no matter how mundane or seemingly ordinary. God uses the ordinariness of the bread and wine to help us remember the nourishment he provides to us in Christ. Just as eating and drinking is basic to life and captivates all our senses, the presence of Christ in the midst of his people leads to human flourishing and captivates all aspects of life. Our hope is to leave the Table with gratefulness as the disposition of our lives so we may resist the disposition of selfishness.

Cultivating a Common Life in Community

At the Lord’s table we acknowledge both our need for one another and common belonging, which becomes our training for cultivating a common life. In the Eucharist we remember the announcement that all wrongs have been forgiven by God, so we must become a forgiving community. In the Eucharist we remember that God shares all he has in Christ, so we must be willing to share all we have with one another. In the Eucharist we remember that the walls of hostility which once separated us from God and one another have been torn down, so we must become a peace-making, reconciling community. At the Lord’s table the ideologies and antagonisms that drive wedges between us are placed in submission to the presence Christ as he draws us toward each other. The fear-driven, death-dealing narratives of party-politics and society’s “-isms” at work among us are exposed and placed in submission to the lordship of Christ. The permission we give ourselves to choose who sits at our daily tables is called into question as we acknowledge that we do not get to choose who sits at the Lord’s table. As our gracious Host, the Lord alone determines who is welcomed and he has made it clear that any one can come.

The Table as Training for Hospitality and Homemaking in a Inhospitable Society of Displacement

Therefore, the Table becomes our training for hospitality in a inhospitable society. The same kind of welcome extended to us by Christ becomes the same kind of welcome we extend to others. In the bread and wine we remember that we have made our home with God and are summoned to become homemakers in society. We have received his hospitality and are summoned to live hospitably before the world. If we understand the Eucharist this way, our personal tables become an extension of the Lord’s table. Our lunch tables become extensions of the Lord’s table. Our cubicles become extensions of the Lord’s table, because we remember that we are to be as welcoming to the person who cleans our trash as to the person who signs our paychecks. The Table forms us a people, a family, on mission with God in our society.


  1. Eucharist means thanksgiving [eucharistēsas]. The word is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Scholars believe it is used by Paul to point back to the Last Supper in Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:14-20. I tend to agree.
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