From Death to Life

The sermon I preached at King of Grace Church (Haverhill, MA) on August 4th, 2013.

“We were once dead, but God, by his grace, makes us alive in Christ.” LISTEN

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

A Tribute to Geoffrey Quinn

This past week, I lost a dear friend of mine. I found out on Monday that Geoff Quinn passed away last Friday on June 21st, 2013. He had been battling cancer since 2011.

We graduated from the same college. We were seminary students together. We worked at the same high school. We were baptized together. We had traveled to Thailand, Myanmar, and South Africa together for various missions activities. I loved Geoff.

Geoff was a humble man of God who exemplified Christian joy. In his valiant fight against cancer, he showed me what it’s like to trust in the sovereignty and love of God through fiery trials. He taught me what it means to live in light of eternity. Like Job, he cried, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Though he would never finish the last two classes of his Master of Divinity… Though he would never fulfill his dream of serving God in pastoral ministry… Though he would never get married to form a family as he so desired… He firmly held onto his faith that “[his] Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

It turns out that God was preparing me for this dreaded news. The very day I found out, I had been reading from Psalm 115, which says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15), and from Revelation 21, which promises that, in the end, “[God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more.” Oh how I long for that day to come soon!

As a tribute to Geoff, I have composed a song about loss, suffering, hope, and future glory based on Romans 8:18-25. Oh Lord, let me never forget Geoff’s witness and encouragement to me!

“Glory After All”

Verse:
From South of the vineyard, leaks
Three drops (oh~)
Pressed from our dear and precious grapes
That never felt the touch of a
Swa-ddling cloth

Chorus:
Hope that is seen is no hope at all
Grace that is earned is no grace at all
Love that is bought is no love at all
So I say, it’s for Your glory after all

Verse 2:
From East of the garden, wilts
Three years (a~)
Budding shoot under the Pyrrhic heat
Blighted by the curse of
Can-cer

Verse 3:
From West of the city, bleeds
Three days (He~)
Crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath
Groaning in the pangs of
Chi-ld birth

—–

Where do I turn? This question resonates with me because it’s a question that I wrestle with daily. Right now, this is the question of my life. The most important lesson that I’m learning is that I gain peace in my trials when I see the nail-pierced hands that control them. I’m able to embrace God’s control over my life to the extent that I see His passionate love for me, to the extent that I see His extravagant love for me, to the extent that I see His costly love for me, I’m able to embrace His control over my trials.

I don’t know how much time I have, but I do know that if I must die, Jesus’ nail-pierced hands have me covered. One day, all the marks of my suffering will be gone…

My hope is in the resurrection–a resurrection that’s been purchased and ensured by Jesus’ own suffering, death and resurrection. This is my hope. One day, I’ll see Jesus face to face and I’ll be able to touch the hands, I’ll be able to touch the wounds that healed me. I’ll be able to touch the wounds that saved me.

… Each of us, sooner or later, we’re going to hit the wall. Where are you going to turn? Whether it’s with raised hands, or a raised fist, I implore you to turn to God, only take the time to behold the One you’re addressing. Take the time to look at the One you’re speaking to. Those wounds were taken for your healing. The Father’s arms are open wide and you’re welcome to come in…”

-Geoffrey Stuart Quinn
November 27, 2011
Park Street Church

Scarlet Yarn

During the time of Moses, priests were instructed to dip scarlet yarn into animal blood and use it to sprinkle, and thus purify, the ritually impure (Leviticus 14:6-7, 49-51). But why scarlet yarn? Why not blue or purple, like the yarns used to weave the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1)? After all, blue and purple yarns were the most expensive yarns of the ancient world, symbolizing royalty and nobility… The “scarlet yarn” is a translation from the Hebrew ‏שְׁנִי הַתּוֹלַעַת, which literally means “scarlet worm.” According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (BDB), the etymology of the word “scarlet” suggests the coccus ilicis, a scale insect that attaches itself to oak trees native to the western Mediterranean in order to feed (§8144). So what does this bug have to do with scarlet? When a female attaches itself to an oak and dies, its dried body yields scarlet dye. Its death produces the means of purification–a process that undoubtedly foreshadows Christ, whose death on a tree (Acts 5:30; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) poured forth the blood that cleanses us from our sins (Hebrews 9:11-28). May every post on this blog, from now ’til its cyber termination, point people to Christ!

While this symbolism is not made explicit in the immediate Biblical context, the use of scarlet yarn in Old Testament purification rites is noted by the author of Hebrews, who argues that the blood of the covenant was fulfilled by Christ with his own blood.

Moreover, scarlet (or red) as a symbol for blood is widely attested throughout the Bible. A red heifer (Num. 19:1-10) is used in the Old Testament for a purification sacrifice, Israel’s “sins … like scarlet” are likened to the bloodstained hands of murderers (Isa. 1:15, 18), and the dragon (Rev. 12:3) and beast (Rev. 17:3) of Revelation are described as “red” to represent the shedding of innocent blood (Rev. 16:6). The moon turns into “blood” to symbolize divine retribution (Joel 2:31; Rev. 6:12), the “red horse” of warfare inflicts God’s judgment upon evil men (Zech. 6:2; Rev. 6:4), and God’s avenging wrath is demonstrated by his “crimsoned garments” with “lifeblood spattered” on them due to his treading in the winepress of wrath (Isa 63:1-6).

Finally, Christ’s atonement is powerfully expressed through the paradoxical image of believers’ robes that are washed “white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. :14), which fulfills Isaiah’s prophesy: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” A yarn (wool) dyed in scarlet invokes these themes of guilt, atoning bloodshed, and innocence.

Scarlet Yarn

Twined linen, dripping scarlet red
And curtaining his face (Ex. 26:1)
Embroidered on the ephod donned
To enter holy place (Ex. 28:6-8; 39:1-5)

The scarlet yarn unspooled and spilled
To dye the skeins of sin
Flows freely from his naked wounds
To cover my chagrin

With hyssop dipped in gurgling blood
To sprinkle lepers clean (Lev. 14:1-7; Heb. 9:18-22)
Red heifer’s blood, consuming fire
To purify and glean (Num. 19:1-6)

The scarlet yarn unspooled and spilled
To dye the skeins of sin
Flows freely from his naked wounds
To cover my chagrin

Cascading down the Jer’cho wall
To wipe a harlot’s slate (Josh. 2:18-21)
Red robe adorns his bloodied back
It’s my Redeemer’s fate (Mt. 27:27-28)

The scarlet yarn unspooled and spilled
To dye the skeins of sin
Flows freely from his naked wounds
To cover my chagrin