Archive for March, 2013

Today is Good Friday, the day God died for sinful humanity. It should be a day for prayer and meditation solely; but you know as well as I many people will barely notice. So it was also in John Donne’s day: people found themselves, as they have throughout history, driven along by pleasure or business rather than the needs of the soul. Indeed, John Donne himself spent part of Good Friday , 1613, travelling. And while so doing, he wrote this poem.

Listen to me give a reading of the poem, and follow along with the text below.

Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward

Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motions, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey:
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirled by it.

Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends toward the east.
There I should see a sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget;
But that Christ on this Cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.

Yet dare I’ almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees God’s face, that is self life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made his own lieutenant Nature shrink,
It made his footstool crack, and the sun wink.

Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height which is
Zenith to us and to’our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our souls, if not of his,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragged, and torn?

If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnished thus
Half of that sacrifice, which ransomed us?

Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid Thee leave.

O think me worth thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity,
Restore thine image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.


crucifixionYou should believe, and never doubt,” writes Luther, “that you are in fact the one who killed Christ. Your sins did this to Him. When you look at the nails being driven through His hands, firmly believe that it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Those thorns are your wicked thoughts.”

Luther’s point is an important one: If we do not see ourselves as the persecutors of Christ in the passion narratives, then we read them wrongly. As the disciples failed to keep watch with the Lord in Gethsemane, we too in sloth ignore him. As Judas betrayed him with a kiss, so in our thoughts, words, and deeds we betray him daily. We reject him like Peter, wash our hands of him like Pilate, call for his death like the crowds, and lead him out to Golgotha. We crucify him and hurl insults at him as he hangs dying on the cross. We kill God.

Read the rest of my post on “The right way to meditate on Christ’s sufferings” over at First Things.


My recent columns on the “First Thoughts” blog over at First Things:

Thomas Nagel and the Anathema of Questioning Materialism

Necessary for these times: Thomas Cranmer and the Book of Homilies


peter-with-key-webOne of the things that struck me most during my recent trip with the Canadian Church Press to the Holy Land was how visiting this area affirms for us the doctrine of the Incarnation. I discussed that topic—the Incarnation and the Holy Land—recently in an interview on Worldwide KFUO radio for their World Lutheran News Digest program. The interview appeared in two five-minute segments this past Monday and Tuesday.

The first part of the interview introduces how the trip came about, and notes some of the difficulties about trying to see everything in just one week. One definitely needs to take more time than a week to get the most out of the trip! I also begin in this part of the broadcast to discuss the positive impact visiting the Holy Land has on one’s faith, by reminding us the stories of our faith are not myths or mere philosophical musings—they actually happened in real places you can visit.

The second interview features some of my reflections on Peter’s great confession and Jesus’ subsequent promise that “the gates of Hell will not prevail” against the Church. In it, I reflect how Caesarea Philippi (the area in which the great confession is made) was actually a Pagan centre in Jesus’ day, a place devoted to the god Pan—facts which help us understand the significance of Jesus making that promise in that place. I also discuss the two proposed sites for Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem, focusing on the Gospel-focused ministry taking place at the Garden Tomb. (Listeners will also note I misspeak in this second interview when I refer to the “church of the Garden Tomb.” I should have said “site”; there is no church built in that area.)

Watch for my feature story on the Holy Land and Incarnation in the upcoming issue of The Canadian Lutheran. You can read more about the trip and my thoughts on the Holy Land in these earlier posts on

Lutherans among Canadian Church Press tour of Holy Land (a news-story)

Travels in the Holy Land (reflections made while still in Israel)

The tomb is empty (reflections made just after returning from Israel)



That’s the title of my column for the January-February issue of The Canadian Lutheran.  A selection follows below:

Faith comes by hearing, St. Paul tells us—specifically, by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). And “hearing” isn’t a one-time act. We constantly need to be listening to the Word of God. We need it to survive. As Moses explained, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

It’s continual feeding on the Word that enlivens faith. We constantly need to hear the Law expose our sin. We constantly need to hear the Good News that Jesus died to take away that sin. We constantly need to hear that, through His resurrection, we are raised with Him to new life, now and forevermore.

This isn’t a passive listening either. Once the Holy Spirit has called us and opened our hearts to believe, He then moves us to act. St. James encourages: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22).

Read the whole article here.

A few articles of mine went up at “First Thoughts” over the past week. Here are the links in case you’d like to check them out.

– Chesterton on the small screen

Pope Francis and the Lutherans

Silencing religious voices in Canada



I’ve recently been invited to join First Things as a regular blogger with their “First Thoughts” column, so it’s feasible a few new visitors might be making their way here at some point soon. A word of introduction is therefore in order. My name is Mathew Block and I’m Communications Manager for Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). I’m also editor of LCC’s national, bi-monthly magazine The Canadian Lutheran, for which I write a regular column entitled “Table Talk.”

I’ve written two “On the Square” articles for First Things, the most recent being a report on emerging dialogue between confessional Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Outside of First Things and The Canadian Lutheran, I’ve also written for Canadian publications like Converge magazine and The National Post’s “Holy Post” blog. My most recent article for the “Holy Post” (entitled “Disagree with Christians? That’s fine. But do not silence them”) focused on growing intolerance to religion in Canada, and caused a bit of a stir here north of the border.

As I write elsewhere on this blog, I believe that “God has called us to think critically about both Church and Culture.” That means learning to think Christianly about every aspect of human experience. My degrees are in literature and linguistics, so those (in addition to theology in general) tend to be subjects about which I particularly enjoy “thinking Christianly.” But they’re hardly all, as you can see below.

Here are a few links to some interesting articles I’ve written on this blog or elsewhere in the past year or two. They give a good introduction to the type of writing and thinking I enjoy:

1)      “John Donne’s ‘Mere Christianity.’” Captain Thin.

2)      “Martin Luther: Sinner/Saint.” The Canadian Lutheran.

3)      “The Man God hasn’t called you to be.” Converge Magazine. (p. 32-33).

4)      “A key named ‘Promise.’” The Canadian Lutheran.

5)      “Hercule Poirot and our itching ears.” A Christian Thing.

6)      Christianity and Literature Series. Captain Thin

Part 1 – “Contra Litterās: Augustine and the English Majors”
Part 2 – “What Good is Literature? Bunyan and Losing Ourselves to Find Ourselves”
Part 3 – “Judging the Literary Experience – Embracing Truth, Rejecting Error”
Part 4 – “Beauty in Literature and the Christian Reader”
Part 5 – “Literature and the Limits of Language”

That should be more than enough to serve as an introduction. My first post at “First Thoughts” will be going up later today.