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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The same week that Kate Grosmaire visited the hospital where her 18-year-old daughter lay in a coma from a gunshot wound to the head, she visited the jail where the shooter was being held by police.
Even before they took Ann off life support, the Grosmaires knew wanted to forgive her murderer, her high school boyfriend Conor McBride.
“Conor has said that act could not have been anything but from God because people alone can’t do that; it has to be from God,” said Kate, who still talks to McBride on the phone once a week. “That was the start of his salvation.”
Since Ann’s death in 2010, Kate and husband Andy Grosmaire have become advocates for an approach to criminal punishment called restorative justice. In their daughter’s murder case, the Catholic couple learned they could push for lighter charges than life in prison.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
You can listen directly or download--at the link here.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
As the people of a missionary God, we are entrusted to participate in the world the same way He does—by committing to be His ambassadors. Missional is the perspective to see people as God does and to engage in the activity of reaching them. The church on mission is the church as God intended.
Instead, churches have become little more than suppliers of religious goods and services. They are more concerned with crafting a good service (music, preaching, ambience, etc) to keep their clients happy. And as a result, we have a disengaged and an uninvolved church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Scripture
You can listen directly there and and download the mp3 there. The sermon proper starts about 10 seconds in.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
You can find the link at the page here or the MP3 there; listening to Gary Beson's sermon is recommended, it comes at about 31 minutes.
This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
The Christian claim from the beginning was that the question of Jesus's resurrection was a question, not of the internal mental and spiritual states of his followers a few days after his crucifixion, but about something that had happened in the real, public world.
This "something" left, not just an empty tomb, but a broken loaf at Emmaus and footprints in the sand by the lake among its physical mementoes. It also left his followers with a lot of explaining to do, but with a transformed worldview which is only explicable on the assumption that something really did happen, even though it stretched their existing worldviews to breaking point.
What I want to do here is to examine this early Christian claim, to ask what can be said about it historically, and to enquire, more particularly, what sort of "believing" we are talking about when we ask whether we - whether "we" be scientists or historians or mathematicians or theologians - can "believe" that which "the resurrection" actually refers to.
Read it all from ABC Australia.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter * Theology Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
I believe the story. With my head, looking at the evidence and thinking logically as a person who was a research physicist for twenty-five years, I believe it. And after listening to the testimony of people – from beggars to kings -- through all the ages who had concluded that the story is true, I believe it. And at the innermost levels of my heart, where the deepest truths reside but are not easily put into words, I believe it is true.
And that is why I know that I will see my mother again someday. It’s not just wishful thinking, some little tale I’ve fooled myself with because I can’t face the cold hard facts of life. Yes, I will see Della Mae, and I am convinced that it will be a day of great victory and joy. St. Paul says that it will be like putting on a crown, and St. John says that it will be a time when every tear will be wiped away from my eyes. That’s what will happen someday to me. But what Jesus did affects me right here today also -- I know that this Jesus who overcame death and the grave has promised not to leave me here twisting in the wind. He is with me every day, through his Spirit, to guide me, comfort me, embolden me, and use me for his glory and to serve his people, right here, right now.
Read it all.
...particularly when we look at the disciples, the watered-down resurrection doesn’t seem credible at all. Remember that the Gospel of John (whose author had little to gain by making the disciples, future leaders of the early church, look bad) notes that the disciples were so frightened that they barricaded themselves behind locked doors after Jesus’s death. They had good reason to be. “If the authorities dealt that way with Jesus, who had so many people supporting him,” they must have thought, “what will they do to us?” Even before the crucifixion Peter shrank in fear from being identified as a follower of Jesus. Imagine how their fear would have intensified after witnessing the Romans’ brutal execution of their master.
With one exception, all of Jesus’s male followers were so terrified that they shrank from standing at the foot of the cross, unable to accompany Jesus during his final hours. Their reluctance may have stemmed from an inability to watch the agonizing death of their friend, but much was out of fear of being identified as a follower of an enemy of Rome. (The women, showed no such fear, though the situation may have posed less danger for them.)
The disciples were terrified. So does it seem credible that something as simple as sitting around and remembering Jesus would snap them out of their abject fear? Not to me. Something incontrovertible, something undeniable, something visible, something tangible, was necessary to transform them from fearful to fearless.
This is one of the most compelling “proofs” of the Resurrection.
Read it all.
In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us...Yes, verily, it is a pledge,
Of Christ's power to raise us to a spiritual life — The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." And then he says, concerning them, "God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^" Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, " I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again...."
--"Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Eschatology
I can bring it so neare; but onely the worthy hearer, and the worthy receiver, can call this Lord this Jesus, this Christ, Immanuel God with us; onely that virgin soule, devirginated in the blood of Adam but restored in the blood of the Lambe hath this Ecce, this testimony, this assurance, that God is with him; they that have this Ecce, this testimony, in a rectified conscience, are Godfathers to this child Jesus and may call him Immanuel God with us for as no man can deceive God, so God can deceive no man; God cannot live in the darke himself neither can he leave those who are his in the darke: If he be with thee he will make thee see that he is with thee and never goe out of thy sight, till he have brought thee, where thou canst never goe out of his.
--John Donne (1572-1631), Preached at St. Pauls, upon Christmas Day, in the Evening, 1624
In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection. Only a few days after the Crucifixion when two candidates were nominated for the vacancy created by the treachery of Judas, their qualification was that they had known Jesus personally both before and after His death and could offer first-hand evidence of the Resurrection in addressing the outer world (Acts 1:22). A few days later St Peter, preaching the first Christian sermon, makes the same claim—‘God raised Jesus, of which we all (we Christians) are witnesses’ (Acts 2:32). In the first Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul bases his claim to apostleship on the same ground—‘Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?’ (1:9).
As this qualification suggests, to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection. . . . . The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the ‘gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. . . . . The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.
--C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 15, Miracles of the New Creation
And this is where the oddity of today’s celebration touches our lives in challenging ways. If I may speak personally, I find it increasingly difficult to resist the onslaught of information that is directed at me or required from me. My life feels as though it is regulated to the point of near extinction, by Government, by economic responsibility, by social and cultural suspicion, by commercial bureaucracy. And this is before I start on the day job! My space as a human being sometimes feels so thoroughly invaded and occupied that I just want to switch off, cut the wifi, abandon the mobile, stop the emails, and regain some quality of human and spiritual equilibrium.
It is no wonder that so high a percentage of young people in Britain today register anxiety as a dominant emotion. The tank of our potential for human flourishing is cluttered up with too much stuff. It’s as though we’ve filled the empty tomb so full with an unhappy blend of debt, regulation, kitsch memorabilia, and a craving for novelty, that there is no longer any expectation of room for glory, space for mystery, allowance for the confounding of limited expectation.
This is a situation that was recently described by Jonathan Sacks, in his masterly book, Not in God’s name, where he observes that we have attained “unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence….[and] the result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning”.
Which is why the symbol of the empty tomb is so powerful and haunting. Here is the sign of our mortality and death. One day the frame of this body will come to resemble that tomb, when the breath stops and the agency of control and demand is lifted from us. Then, as now when we celebrate the dawn of Easter glory and the glory of life, the very breath of God will be able to fill the space within us, to satisfy our deepest longing, to give freedom to our best and greatest loves, to perfect our every thought and deed that has already expanded the meaning of goodness, truth and justice.
As Easter celebrations begin, those of you who gave up alcohol, sweets, cakes and biscuits, can look forward to your Easter gin and tonic, the glass of remarkable claret, and unbridled pleasure as you accept the offer of a chocolate after lunch. This is your enactment of the reception of divine love in the glory of resurrection; you have made an empty space in your appetites and desires, in order to rehearse what it will be like to receive, all over again, a perfect and eternal gift in the new creation that evokes something you have already known so well. The full to overflowing font is the symbol of that perfect gift and what resurrection means. It is the recovery of our total capacity to expand into the divine life of God, as in baptism we are united with Jesus Christ: “In him the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form, and you have come to fullness in him” – is how St Paul describes it (Col. 2.9) So, happy Easter. Savour the gin, raise a toast to the CofE with the claret, enjoy the chocolate, and expand into the freedom of a bank holiday. But more than these transient celebrations, attend to the eternal fulfilment they betoken. Don’t run away from the empty tomb; it is your destiny. Let its haunting beauty inspire you. Make space for the glory of God to begin its transformative effect in your life now.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology
Thomas the Twin became Thomas the Witness, and that required an integrated intelligence of what had happened, seeing and touching and hearing to establish faith. But Thomas the Witness became Thomas the Apostle and Martyr, and no one can be an apostle and martyr without venturing beyond what is understood through sight and touch and hearing. And so the blessing Jesus pronounces on those who believe without seeing, will apply later on to Thomas, too.
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." What we are to do, what we are to suffer, is not shown to us in advance when we are sent out on our mission. If it were, it would not be a mission. There is none of us, however assured and convinced of the truth of the resurrection faith, who will not at some point have to live without knowing.
The blessing is for all of us, for we are all sent to engage with a world of which we have no foreknowledge. Neither the risks nor the possible achievements have been explained to us in advance.
Faith may look for a well-grounded confidence, but when it has won its confidence, it ventures upon it. That is why faith is active and potent, a force for the condemnation of sin and the liberation of bound souls. It is for that that the Holy Spirit is given.
Read it all.
Today that question, that debate—Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?—is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.
Behind those two different kinds of unbelief—the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day—is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.
But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.
Read it all.
Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28, 10 - "Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me." These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.
The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.
These are words full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology
[Easter]...is the proclamation of a war already won. The war is at an end – even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind – and truly it is burning – but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear.--Karl Barth Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), p. 123
“If to be warmed,” T.S. Eliot reminds us in Four Quartets, “then I must freeze / And quake in frigid purgatorial fires / Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.”
In short, it is only by our willingness to pass through the dark night of a cross that cannot be circumvented that we may find ourselves looking without shame upon the face of God. “For love to be real,” Blessed Mother Teresa warns, “it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.” And it is never too soon to get started. Nor, come to think of it, too late—unless one is already dead. (“It is too late!” cries Longfellow, the poet, lamenting the swift passage of time. But then adds: “Ah, nothing is too late / Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.”) And since, as Leon Bloy reminds us, “Christ will remain in agony until the end of time,” there may yet be time.
And so, as always, it will require the mindset of a servant; one who in looking to be first must search out the last. That at least is how Jesus sets about explaining the hidden peripeties of the gospel, showing us by his life and death how “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mt 20:28).
Read it all.
But reality is more powerful, deep and penetrating.
How much Jesus loves me is a better story than how much I'm trying to love myself.
The greatness of the creator is a better story than the reflected greatness of the creation.
Grace is a better story than success.
The cross is a better story than recovery.
The resurrection is a better story than anything.
And – one more thing – it's true.
Read it all.
“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”
Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.
“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”
Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.
“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”
Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.
“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.
Read it all.
Without a doubt, at the center of the New Testament there stands the Cross, which receives its interpretation from the Resurrection.
The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which "destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand", which "is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles". But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).
Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith.
–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen
..the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.
By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.
Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.
Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.
Read it all from the WSJ.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Theology Apologetics Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he's gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.
The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn't defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon - He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.
Let's be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn't mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God's life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect - and in the whole world.
Read it all.
Question 45: What does the "resurrection" of Christ profit us?
Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Footnotes: [For "first"] 1 Cor.15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: Rom.4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1 Pet.1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [for "secondly'] Rom.6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col.3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Eph.2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph.2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [for "lastly"] 1 Cor.15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Cor.15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Cor.15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. Rom.8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body. For them, resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’ day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know women are hysterical. And many of Celsus’ readers agreed: For them, that was a major problem. In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.
Do you see what that means? If Mark and the Christians were making up these stories to get their movement off the ground, they would never have written women into the story as the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb. The only possible reason for the presence of women in these accounts is that they really were present and reported what they saw. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty and an angel declares that Jesus is risen.
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Sam believes that Gandalph has fallen a catastrophic distance and has died. But in the end of the story, with Sam having been asleep for a long while and then beginning to regain consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:
"Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?"-- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), The Return of the King
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?"
"A great shadow has departed," said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed... "How do I feel?" he cried." Well, I don't know how to say it. I feel, I feel" --he waved his arms in the air-- "I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!"
The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation — This story begins and ends in joy.
-- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
This is the real meaning of Easter...
No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem. Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship. Thank God, we have an empty tomb.
The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door. And eternal life which may be ours now, by faith in Christ, is not interrupted when the soul leaves the body, for we live on...and on.
There is no death to those who have entered into fellowship with him who emerged from the tomb. Because the resurrection is true it is the most significant thing in our world today. Bringing the resurrected Christ into our lives, individual and national, is the only hope we have for making a better world.
"Because I live ye shall live also."
That is the real meaning of Easter.
--Peter Marshall (1902-1949), The First Easter
On Holy Saturday we enter into the mystery. Today we contemplate Jesus, there in the tomb, dead. In that tomb, he is dead, exactly the way each of us will be dead. We don't easily contemplate dying, but we rarely contemplate being dead. I have had the blessed experience of being with a number of people who have died, of arriving at a hospital shortly after someone has died, of attending an autopsy, and of praying with health sciences students over donated bodies in gross anatomy class. These were powerful experiences because they all brought me face-to-face with the mystery of death itself. With death, life ends. Breathing stops, and in an instant, the life of this person has ended. And, in a matter of hours, the body becomes quite cold and life-less - dramatic evidence, to our senses, that this person no longer exists. All that is left is this decaying shell that once held his or her life.
Death is our ultimate fear. Everything else we fear, every struggle we have, is some taste of, some chilling approach to, the experience of losing our life. This fear is responsible for so much of our lust and greed, so much of our denial and arrogance, so much of our silly clinging to power, so much of our hectic and anxiety-driven activity. It is the one, inevitable reality we all will face. There is not enough time, money, joy, fulfillment, success. Our physical beauty and strength, our mental competency and agility, all that we have and use to define ourselves, slip away from us with time. Our lives are limited. Our existence, in every way we can comprehand it, comes to an end. We will all die. In a matter of time, all that will be left of any of us is a decomposing body.
Today is a day to soberly put aside the blinders we have about the mystery of death and our fear of it. Death is very real and its approach holds great power in our lives. The "good news" we are about to celebrate has no real power in our lives unless we have faced the reality of death. To contemplate Jesus' body, there in that tomb, is to look our death in the face, and it is preparation for hearing the Gospel with incredible joy. That we are saved from the ultimate power of sin and of death itself comes to us as a great relief, as a tremendous liberation. If Jesus lives, you and I will live! The mystery of death, which we contemplate today, will be overcome - we will live forever!
This ultimate solidarity is the final point and the goal of that first 'descent,' so clearly described in the Scriptures, into a 'lower world' which, with Augustine, can already be characterised, by way of contrast with heaven, as infernum. Thomas Aquinas will echo Augustine here. For him, the necessity whereby Christ had to go down to Hades lies not in some insufficiency of the suffering endured on the Cross but in the fact that Christ has assumed all the defectus of sinners...Now the penalty which the sin of man brought on was not only the death of the body. It was also a penalty affected the soul, for sinning was also the soul's work, and the soul paid the price in being deprived of the vision of God. As yet unexpiated, it followed that all human beings who lived before the coming of Christ, even the holy ancestors, descended into the infernum. And so, in order to assume the entire penalty imposed upon sinners, Christ willed not only to die, but to go down, in his soul, ad infernum. As early as the Fathers of the second century, this act of sharing constituted the term and aim of the Incarnation. The 'terrors of death' into which Jesus himself falls are only dispelled when the Father raises him again...He insists on his own grounding principle, namely, that only what has been endured is healed and saved.
That the Redeemer is solidarity with the dead, or, better, with this death which makes of the dead, for the first time, dead human beings in all reality- this is the final consequence of the redemptive mission he has received from the Father. His being with the dead is an existence at the utmost pitch of obedience, and because the One thus obedient is the dead Christ, it constitutes the 'obedience of a corpse' (the phrase is Francis of Assisi's) of a theologically unique kind. By it Christ takes the existential measure of everything that is sheerly contrary to God, of the entire object of the divine eschatological judgment, which here is grasped in that event in which it is 'cast down' (hormemati blethesetai, Apocalypse 18, 21; John 12; Matthew 22, 13). But at the same time, this happening gives the measure of the Father's mission in all its amplitude: the 'exploration' of Hell is an event of the (economic) Trinity...This vision of chaos by the God-man has become for us the condition of our vision of Divinity. His exploration of the ultimate depths has transformed what was a prison into a way.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter [emphasis mine]
In this empty hallway, there’s nothing expected of us at this moment. The work is out of our hands, and all we can do is wait, breathe, look around. People sometimes feel like this when they’ve been up all night with someone who’s seriously ill or dying, or when they’ve been through a non-stop series of enormously demanding tasks. A sort of peace, but more a sort of ‘limbo’, an in-between moment. For now, nothing more to do; tired, empty, slightly numbed, we rest for a bit, knowing that what matters is now happening somewhere else.
–Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Yet, there was one large omission that set all other truth dangerously at risk: the omission of holy rest. The refusal to be silent. The obsessive avoidance of emptiness. The denial of any experience and any people in the least bit suggestive of godforsakenness.
It was far more than an annual ignorance on Holy Saturday; it was religiously fueled, weekly arrogance. Not only was the Good Friday crucifixion bridged to the Easter resurrection by this day furious with energy and lucrative with reward, but all the gospel truths were likewise set as either introductions or conclusions to the human action that displayed our prowess and our virtue every week of the year. God was background to our business. Every gospel truth was maintained intact and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were all wrong, the proportions wildly skewed. Desolation—and with it companionship with the desolate, from first-century Semites to twentieth-century Indians—was all but wiped from consciousness.
But there came a point at which I was convinced that it was critically important to pay more attention to what God does than what I do; to find daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get that awareness into my bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then, times to visit people in despair, and learn their names, and wait for resurrection.
Embedded in my memory now is this most poignant irony: those seven or eight Indians, with the Thunderbird empties lying around, drunk in the alley behind the Pastime Baron Saturday afternoon, while we Scandinavian Christians worked diligently late into the night, oblivious to the holiness of the day. The Indians were in despair, religious despair, something very much like the Holy Saturday despair narrated in the Gospels. Their way of life had come to nothing, the only buffalo left to them engraved on nickels, a couple of which one of their squaws had paid out that morning for four bony ham hocks. The early sacredness of their lives was a wasteland; and they, godforsaken as they supposed, drugged their despair with Thunderbird and buried their dead visions and dreams in the alley behind the Pastime, ignorant of the God at work beneath their emptiness.
Take the time to read it all.
"By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one". In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only "die for our sins" but should also "taste death", experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God's great sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man's salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.
--The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, para. 624
…Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.
The world is dead.
Love is dead.
God is dead.
Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.
Was that lightning?
Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?
Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?
Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.
Is that God?
God died on the Cross.
Is that death?
No dead are to be seen.
Is it the end?
Nothing that ends is any longer there.
Is it the beginning?
The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.
A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.
Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning - of what?
Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.
It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.
It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.
It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.
It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it - in the beginning - also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?
The magic of Holy Saturday.
The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?
Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?
The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.
What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded–no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.
Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world - still unborn, still caught up in its first rising - will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.
In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.
High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.
–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
The craftiness of Christ in taking the cross is of a piece with the hiddenness of God. The means he employed to secure the end he had in view left God hidden to all. His end was to bring out of human history a world-wide, non-ethnic community of human beings who have the character of God, expressed in Jesus himself and in agape love: a character spelled out in a many-sided way by the contents of the New Testament and the lives of the best of Christ-followers throughout the ages. Jesus accomplishes this objective by showing us how to return good for evil in a power beyond ourselves. That has to be something we freely want, however, and something we choose to develop the character for. The wisdom of the cross makes this possible.
Read it all.
‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ Paul’s classic challenge to the wisdom of the world echoes down the centuries and confronts us once more as we come face to face once more with the great events which not only stand at the heart of our faith but are etched into our geography and architecture, as this great building makes clear. One of the paradoxical signs of the continuing and urgent relevance of the message and meaning of the cross is that it is once more under attack from several directions; and we who today declare that we will be true to our ordination vows, and who will this evening and tomorrow commemorate those high and holy, disturbing and decisive events in the story of Jesus himself, must take a deep breath, summon up our courage, and learn again what it means to discover the wisdom of God in what the world counts foolishness, the power of God in what the world counts weakness.Read it all.
The first challenge comes from within, in the temptation to water down the message of the cross so that it becomes less offensive, more palatable to the ordinary sensible mind. We must of course acknowledge that many, alas, have offered caricatures of the biblical theology of the cross. It is all too possible to take elements from the biblical witness and present them within a controlling narrative gleaned from somewhere else, like a child doing a follow-the-dots puzzle without paying attention to the numbers and producing a dog instead of a rabbit. This is what happens when people present over-simple stories, as the mediaeval church often did, followed by many since, with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent. You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’, and I commend that alteration to those of you who sing that song, which is in other respects one of the very few really solid recent additions to our repertoire.
But once we’ve got rid of the caricature, we are ready to face the reality, the reality of the foolishness and weakness, but in fact the wisdom and the power, of the cross of Jesus Christ.
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St. Bernard was so terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings that he said: I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed upon me in heaven, until I saw the eternal Son of God took mercy upon me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment. Ah, it does not become me still to play and remain secure when such earnestness is behind those sufferings. Hence he commanded the women: “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” Lk 23, 28; and gives in the 31st verse the reason: “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” As if to say: Learn from my martyrdom what you have merited and how you should be rewarded. For here it is true that a little dog was slain in order to terrorize a big one. Likewise the prophet also said: “All generations shall lament and bewail themselves more than him”; it is not said they shall lament him, but themselves rather than him. Likewise were also the apostles terror-stricken in Acts 2, 37, as mentioned before, so that they said to the apostles: “0, brethren, what shall we do?” So the church also sings: I will diligently meditate thereon, and thus my soul in me will exhaust itself.–Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, 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 whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His 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 Gods 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 our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re 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.
–John Donne (1572-1631)
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Think of Jesus. His words are few. He is exhausted and in pain. Two words however remain: a word of mercy to the criminal who repents; a word of fidelity, handing himself to his Father, his mission completed.
Lord we live in a world filled with words. Perhaps never in history have there been so many words: spoken, printed, electronically stored or moving invisibly. Help us to realise that few words are necessary. Empty words foster empty hearts. There are realities which do not need words. Give us Lord the words to ask for forgiveness, the words which touch those things in our hearts we would not want anyone to hear, but things that keep us entrapped in sinfulness and isolation. Give us words to forgive, to be generous and loving.Open our heart in mercy to those who long for freedom. Keep us faithful like Jesus to what we are called to, to what is most noble and good in our lives.
In a world where everything has a shelf-life and what we dislike can be quickly discarded, help us to learn that singular characteristic of God: being faithful. The events of Good Friday realise something that has been spoken of throughout the history of God’s encounter with his people. God remains faithful to his people, even when his people generation after generation fail him and fail him and betray him and betray him[.]
True goodness is not a passing emotion. It is not about feeling good. It is about being faithful to goodness when it is easy, when it is challenging, and even when it leads to our annihilation in the eyes of those who seek their only own interest.
Jesus dies. He breathes his last and that last is the same as the first words recorded about Jesus: “I must be about my Father’s business”; “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.
Jesus humbles himself, he empties himself, and his love is so great that he empties himself even unto death, death on the Cross. But the Cross triumphs. His self-giving love is so complete that it brings new life, true live.
Lord help us to reject everything that is trivial and superficial. Give us the love that Jesus showed on the Cross: love that endures and that saves.
Read it all.
Through Mary he received his humanity, and in receiving his humanity received humanity itself. Which is to say, through Mary he received us. In response to the angel’s strange announcement, Mary said yes. But only God knew that it would end up here at Golgotha, that it had to end up here. For here, in darkness and in death, were to be found the prodigal children who had said no, the prodigal children whom Jesus came to take home to the Father.
Read it all.
[Shusaku] Endo locates the point of contact between Japanese life and the Gospel in what he observes, and has experienced personally, to be the essence of Japanese religious awareness. This he sees as the sense of failure in life and the subsequent shame and guilt that leave a lasting impact upon a person's life. Such theological notions as love, grace, trust, and truth are intelligible only in the experience of their opposites. Endo sees them incarnate in the person of Jesus through his own experience of failure, rejection, and, most of all, ineffectualness. Only rarely has modern Christianity presented the story of Jesus as the one to whom those who had failed, were rejected, lonely, and alienated could turn and find understanding and compassion. Endo argues that it is our universal human experience of failure in life that provides us with an understanding of Christian faith in its depth.
--Fumitaka Matsuoka, The Christology of Shusaku Endo, Theology Today (October 1982) [emphasis mine]
Read it all.
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And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.
Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."
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Isn’t it curious that the Son of God would die in this particular way? Even Paul was permitted a nice, neat slice of the sword. Why did the Son of God die in the worst possible way? That’s the point here. Crucifixion was specifically designed to be the worst of the worst. It was so bad, good Roman citizens didn’t discuss it in public. It’s very much like the way we avoid talking about death and sin. The Romans avoided talking about crucifixion because it was so horrible, so disgusting, so obscene—they used that word to describe it.--Fleming Rutledge in a recent Christianity Today interview (emphasis mine)
Why this method and not another? Because it corresponds to the depth of depravity caused by human rebellion against God. It shows us just how bad things really are with us. No wonder we don’t want to look at it. Yet again, the African American church has never been afraid to look at it. It gives them hope. It gives them strength. It gives them comfort.
As for the blood: It is important because it’s mentioned so much in Scripture. It’s a synecdoche, a word that stands for the whole thing. When you say “the blood of Christ,” you mean his self-offering, his death, the horror of it, the pouring out of it. It sums up the whole thing.
And it’s not just a metaphor; he really did shed blood when he was scourged. He was a bloody mess. I remember one line from an article by a secular journalist. Concerning the crucifixion of Jesus, he wrote, “He must have been ghastly to behold.” That’s a great sentence.
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!
--John Newton (1725-1807)
The ancient and saintly fathers and theologians have contrasted the living wood with dead and have allegorized that contrast this way: From the living wood came sin and death; from the dead wood, righteousness and life. They conclude: do not eat from that living tree, or you will die, but eat of the dead tree; otherwise you will remain in death.
You do indeed desire to eat and enjoy [the fruit] of some tree. I will direct you to a tree so full you can never eat it bare. But just as it was difficult to stay away from that living tree, so it is difficult to enjoy eating from the dead tree. The first was the image of life, delight, and goodness, while the other is the image of death, suffering and sorrow because one tree is living, the other dead. There is in man's heart the deeply rooted desire to seek life where there is certain death and to flee from death where one has the sure source of life.
--Martin Luther, "That a Christian Should Bear his Cross With Patience," 1530
It so happened that in this man Jesus God himself came into the world, which he had created and against all odds still loved. He took human nature upon himself and became man, like the rest of us, in order to put an end to the world's fight against him and also against itself, and to replace man's disorder by God's design. In Jesus God hallowed his name, made his kingdom come, his will done on earth as it is in heaven, as we say in the Lord's Prayer. In him he made manifest his glory and, amazingly enough, he made it manifest for our salvation. To accomplish this, he not only bandaged, but healed the wounds of the world he helped mankind not only in part and temporarily but radically and for good in the person of his beloved Son; he delivered us from evil and took us to his heart as his children Thereby we are all permitted to live, and to live eternally.
It happened through this man on the cross that God cancelled out and swept away all our human wickedness, our pride, our anxiety, our greed and our false pretences, whereby we had continually offended him and made life difficult, if not impossible, for ourselves and for others. He crossed out what had made our life fundamentally terrifying, dark and distressing - the life of health and of sickness, of happiness and of unhappiness, of the highborn and of the lowborn, of the rich and of the poor, of the free and of the captive. He did away with it. It is no longer part of us, it is behind us. In Jesus God made the day break after the long night and spring come after the long winter.
All these things happened in that one man. In Jesus, God took upon himself the full load of evil; he made our wickedness his own; he gave himself in his dear Son to be defamed as a criminal, to be accused, condemned, delivered from life unto death, as though he himself, the Holy God, had done all the evil we human beings did and do. In giving himself in Jesus Christ, he reconciled the world unto himself; he saved us and made us free to live in his everlasting kingdom; he removed the burden and took it upon himself He the innocent took the place of us the guilty. He the mighty took the place of us the weak. He the living One took the place of us the dying.
This, my dear friends, is the invisible event that took place in the suffering and death of the man hanging on the middle cross on Golgotha. This is reconciliation: his damnation our liberation, his defeat our victory, his mortal pain the beginning of our joy, his death the birth of our life. We do well to remember that this is what those who put him to death really accomplished. They did not know what they did. These deluded men and women accomplished by their evil will and deed that good which God had willed and done with the world and for the world, including the crowd of Jerusalem.
--Karl Barth (1886-1968) from a sermon in 1957
O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?
Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?
Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?
Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.
Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.
Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:
That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.
Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
--George Herbert (1593-1633)
Because the newly public message which is the good news of Easter is at one and the same time so obvious – the message of new creation, which answers the deepest longings of the whole cosmos – and so utterly unexpected that if we are to announce God in public in these terms, as Paul did so spectacularly at Athens, we need the preceding private stillness to rinse our minds out of preconceived notions and make ready for God’s startling new world. Note, by the way, that it is the public truth of Easter – the dangerous, strikingly political truth that the living God is remaking the world and claiming full sovereignty over it – that has been for two hundred years the real objection, in western thinking, to the notion that Jesus rose bodily from the tomb. Western thought has wanted to keep Christianity as private truth only, to turn the Lion of Judah into a tame #####-cat, an elegant and inoffensive, if occasionally mysterious, addition to the family circle.
And part of the point of where we are today, culturally, socially, politically and religiously, is that we don’t have that option any more. We face a dangerous and deeply challenging future in the next few years, as the demons we’ve unleashed in the Middle East are not going to go back into their bag, as the ecological nightmares we’ve created take their toll, as the people who make money by looking after our money have now lost their own money and perhaps ours as well, as our cultural and artistic worlds flail around trying to catch the beauty and sorrow of the world and often turning them into ugliness and trivia. And we whose lives and thinking and praying and preaching are rooted in and shaped by these great four days – we who stand up dangerously before God and one another and say we are ready to hear and obey his call once more – we have to learn what it means to announce the public truth of Easter, consequent upon the public truth of Good Friday and itself shaped by it (as the mark of the nails bear witness), as the good news of God for all the world, not just for those who meet behind locked doors. Every eye shall see him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn as they realise the public truth of his Easter victory. But we can only learn that in the quiet privacy around the Lord’s Table, and the humble stillness where we lay aside our own agendas, our own temperamental preferences, in the darkness of Holy Saturday. When we say Yes to the questions we shall be asked in a few minutes’ time, we are saying Yes to this rhythm, this shaping, of our private devotion to our Lord, our private waiting on him in the silence, in order to say Yes as well to this rhythm, this shaping, of our public ministry, our living out of the gospel before the principalities and powers, our working with the grain of the world where we can and against the grain of the world where we must.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
From Rod Whitacre here:
In the story of the footwashing, then, we have the most profound revelation of the heart of God apart from the crucifixion itself. We also learn more of the relation between Jesus and his disciples, the relation of the disciples with one another in humble service and the mission of the disciples to the world. These themes are similar to those of the Eucharist developed earlier (see comments on 6:52-59). The community that Jesus has been forming here takes more definite shape, revealing more clearly "the law of its being" (Bultmann 1971:479), which is humble, self-sacrificing love.
The only path to the hope of Easter is through the struggle of Holy Week. Like the assurance offered in the 23rd Psalm, we’re not given a shortcut around the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
The only way out is through.
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As we celebrate Palm Sunday, Andy Crouch looks at four snapshots from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Through the stories of the king, the image, the pennies and the jar, we learn lessons about worship, power, and what it means to bear the image of God.
Listen to it all by podcast or download.
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The Church of England has today released its film marking Easter 2016 featuring a passion play which features individuals who have struggled with drug addiction, crime and homelessness on their journey to faith.
The film is based on Psalm 22 and contains the lines "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" words spoken by Jesus on the Cross.
The striking imagery in the film includes a re-enactment of a passion play with Christ's Crown of Thorns being replaced with a crown of syringes to reflect the struggles of addiction faced by those who have recently come to faith in a Halifax Church called "The Saturday Gathering".
Read it all and follow the links.
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You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there. Please note that the sermon proper begins after an introduction and a reading from John 17 by parish members. Also, there reference to the "rise of the nones" is the "none" as is no religious affiliation in some recent American religious surveys.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics Spirituality/Prayer * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
There is no other place to be in prayer, but in the throes of this spiritual warfare, and it is the place we are called by the Spirit to be, however uncomfortably, with and in the space of Jesus. For Jesus does not promise us a quiet life, but rather his mysterious peace and presence in the eye of the storm.
Here we learn that forgiveness is humanly impossible, because only God can do it in us; here we learn that our own fights with temptation are humanly hopeless, unless also handed over to God: yet in God, the donut problem, the sex problem, and even finally - God help us - the pride and vainglory problem, find their denouement and their resolution. It is all a matter of the great "asking of asking" which is prayer itself. We only have to turn, again and again, into the space of Jesus, and pray "Our Father ..."
So when we pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," we sum up the whole prayer of Jesus, in all its simplicity and power, and stand with him afresh in that ecstasy of understanding that is the space of forgiven sinners before the God who is Abba.
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Years ago, in a diocese far, far away, a colleague surprised me one day by saying how much he disliked the reading of the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday, particularly when members of the congregation were assigned the various dramatic parts (in precisely the way that over the past forty years or so has become fairly common in churches of all sorts). What he found objectionable was the role assigned to the congregation, the part of the crowd, calling out “Crucify him, crucify him!” in the midst of the solemn liturgy of the day. He was scandalized by the suggestion that his congregation, good Christian people, might be identified with Jesus’ killers.
Just telling this story reminds me of the joys of theological conversation at a certain age, of the thrust and parry over great ideas that can take place in an informal setting. My sense is that theology is often best done in such a setting. I have the sense that much of this give and take happens on social media these days, but that’s another story.
At first I believed my friend was just kidding, or perhaps being provocative, and maybe that was the case. I certainly hope so. At the time I was dumbstruck.
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If we try to follow Jesus in faith and hope and love on his journey to the cross, we will find that the hurricane of love which we tremblingly call God will sweep in from a fresh angle, fulfilling our dreams by first shattering them, bringing something new out of the dangerous combination of personal hopes and cultural pressures. We mustn't be surprised if in this process there are moments when it feels as though we are being sucked down to the depths, five hundred miles from shore amid hundred-foot waves, weeping for the dream that has had to die, for the kingdom that isn't coming the way we wanted. That is what it's like when we are caught up in Jesus's perfect storm.
But be sure, when that happens, when you say with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, "We had hoped ... but now it's all gone wrong," that you are on the verge of hearing the fresh word - the word that comes when the storm is stilled, and in the new great calm we see a way forward we had never imagined. "Foolish ones," said Jesus, "and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and so enter into his glory?"
Who knows what might happen if each of us were to approach Holy Week and Good Friday praying humbly for the powerful fresh wind of God to blow into that combination of cultural pressure and personal aspiration, so that we each might share in the sufferings of the Messiah and come through into the new life he longs to give us.
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Goodson Muleya originally hails from a village in the Mazabuka District in Zambia’s southern province. His parents died when he was seven and he was taken in by his uncle, but not treated well. Eventually, Mr Muleya ran away from home and spent time living on the streets while also trying to complete his studies and find work.
It was during his time on the streets that someone shared the gospel with him. Although like many in Zambia Mr Muleya had grown up going to church, he did not truly know and follow Jesus. It was after this chance encounter that he thought hard about whether he was truly a Christian and he decided he needed to change.
“After this confession my life was transformed,” he says. “I felt the need to forgive my uncle and everyone else who harmed me, as I was living in bitterness all these years after the death of my parents. Also, it dawned to me that not everyone who goes to church is Christian.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * International News & Commentary Africa Zambia * Theology Christology Soteriology
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will spend Holy Week visiting community projects, groups, schools and Christians in Canterbury diocese.
The Archbishop will be assisting the Sittingbourne deanery in its outreach, mission and evangelism from 20–26 March, encouraging Christians in sharing faith through worship, service and evangelism.
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Why is there so little preaching and teaching on the Crucifixion today?
It’s complex, but I identify two reasons. The first is an almost wholesale retreat from the penal substitution theory, which was an unfortunate development in late 18th- and early 19th-century Protestantism. It held the field for a while, especially in evangelical circles. It was overwrought and overly rationalized and taught in a way that sabotaged the unity of the Trinity [as if the Son were placating the wrath of the Father]. It is not in the spirit of the Passion narratives.
Second, people don’t want to hear about sin, suffering, evil, or judgment. The African American church has something to teach us here. They’re not afraid to talk about judgment. People who have suffered under tyrannical, cruel, brutal regimes understand the need for judgment.
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Quite bluntly, Presiding Bishop Curry is resurrecting a 20 year old term to further dilute the teaching of the Anglican Communion. The message from TEC is that if it’s not part of the “Core Doctrine” of the Christian faith everyone should agree to disagree and just move on. You see, “core doctrine” is yet another attempt by TEC to refashion Anglicanism into something that is entirely other than Biblically faithful.
This is the problem with the term “core doctrine” and how Presiding Bishop Curry is using it. It can mean anything you want it to mean, or need it to mean, for your purposes. It has no objective standard or rule against which it can be measured—other than the thin gruel the Righter Court stated in its bullet points.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Michael Curry * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Let me give a wonderful testimony that I received from an older Christian last week - I want to share how I'm beginning to see the might and majesty of Jesus. I've longed for this all my life. The first part of Colossians vibrates and pulsates as never before. I am beginning to see Jesus as never before. Why has it taken so very long? A benefit of old age? I am now beginning to understand why He is your Magnificent Obsession and of so many others. Now He lives in a wonderful new way. The Bible is coming alive. I thought I loved it, but this is new! Praise Him!
Do you not think that this lady will be a far more vibrant and effective witness to Jesus because of what she is experiencing in and through his Church? We testify to what (who) we have seen and heard.
People need to see the beauty of Christ. They don't need a course, or Christian values, or Christian tradition or even the Church, valuable and useful though all of those may be. They need Christ – and then along with Him, they graciously get all things. How strange that we so often present the 'all things,' and so rarely present Christ.
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Jim Sides listened to the NPR story in his car in Jacksonville, N.C.
"When I heard he carried a burden of guilt for 30 years, it broke my heart," Sides, an engineer, says. "And I just sat there in the car in the parking lot and cried."
Like many engineers who responded to Ebeling's story, Sides knows what it's like to present data and face resistance. He's also certain about who bears responsibility for the decisions that result.
"He and his colleagues stated it very plainly. It was a dangerous day for the launch," Sides says. "But [Ebeling] was not the decision-maker. He did his job as an engineer. He should not have to carry any guilt."
Read (or listen to) it all NPR.
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I've been reading a Czech theologian, Tomáš Halík. In one of his books, Patience with God, he takes that parable of the mustard seed, where Jesus says, "If you have faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains." We always read that parable as saying that if you have a mustard seed of faith, just a tiny bit, it can grow into a large faith, something more substantial, something able to move mountains. Halík, though, argues against that interpretation. He says, no—what the parable means is that faith is only really living when it's crushed, when it becomes this tiny, tiny thing and therefore hard and volatile and vital and powerful. And he makes this point as someone who feels a great solidarity with the kind of atheism that he witnesses all around him, especially in Eastern Europe, where he couldn't even disclose the fact that he was a priest. He had to be a priest in secret. He says what is happening in the private lives of many people—their faith existing only under siege—is happening culturally too. And he says maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe what we are seeing, Halík suggests, is faith being crushed to the size of a mustard seed, where it's a more powerful, stranger force. It's a very moving idea, I think, and a brilliant reading of that passage.
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To be blunt: The last thing this funeral Mass was about was "spirituality." So search the [New York] Times story and look for the role that terms such as "Christian" and "Catholic" played in its contents. What about "Jesus," you ask? Forget about it.
The strongest religious language in the [New York] Times piece linked a kind of vague, Americanized faith with a nod to current fights over religious liberty.
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People came from many directions to see Jesus because he represented a compassionate and empowering response to life’s suffering. “All in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them” (Luke 6:19). When Jesus laid his hands on a crippled, bent-over woman who had not been able to stand up straight for 18 years, she immediately stood up straight. When he met a naked, demon-possessed man, he commanded the demons to depart, and the man returned to his right mind. When a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years touched the fringe of Jesus’ clothes, her bleeding stopped.
It is right to speak of these events as miracles. People were surprised and astounded by Jesus’ ability to transform sickness and death into new life. We should be clear, however, that a miracle is not simply an interruption or an abrogation of the laws of nature. Our bodies get sick and die because their physiology demands it. Many people believe that if sickness and death are overcome at a word or touch from Jesus, then Jesus has reversed or canceled something that otherwise would have happened.
But Jesus’ miracles are not interruptions. They’re focal moments in which Jesus shows us creatures as they are meant to be: physically healthy, well fed, of right mind, and in right relationship with each other. Miracles are God making right what has gone wrong. They are not interruptions but acts of liberation that allow creatures to move into the lives that God desires for them.
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On Friday, I drove from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit my parents. Somewhere along Interstate 35 south of the Red River, I flipped the FM dial to a Dallas sports talk station.
I hoped to hear discussion of my favorite team, the Texas Rangers, arriving at spring training and the outlook for the upcoming season.
Instead, I found myself mesmerized by two sports talk hosts focused on faith and forgiveness — and the rousing eulogy that Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams gave for his wife, Ingrid, on Thursday.
"I'm jealous of someone with that kind of faith," said one of the hosts, as questions of life and death suddenly trumped draft picks, trade deadlines and even the Dallas Cowboys.
Read it all; the main thing to do is to watch the video which was have posted earlier.
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A former homeless addict has revealed how he would be dead if it was not for his faith in an interview to accompany the second teaser film released by the Church of England today for the justpray.uk website.
In a blog and podcast released to accompany the film, the 46-year-old admits he had to harden his heart to survive living rough and addiction before feeling resurrected through his faith and the love he found at the Saturday Gathering Place in Halifax, West Yorkshire. "If a human being can get resurrected after dying, He's done it to me. I haven't died but I feel like I've been resurrected away from a life of crime and trouble to peace, love, understanding, calmness."
Rob's story "I am poured out like water" is the second in a series of films based on Psalm 22 for Lent and Easter launched by the Church of England featuring men and women who all came to faith through a Homeless and Food Drop In Centre in Halifax and most have experienced crime, alcohol, drug addiction, homelessness or violence in their lives.
Read it all and follow the links.
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In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted—though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.
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Monty Williams urged forgiveness in an emotional eulogy at the funeral of his wife Ingrid on Thursday in Oklahoma City, where a contingent of NBA coaches and players attended in support.
Williams' wife died Feb. 10 from injuries sustained a day earlier in an accident when her car was struck head-on by an SUV that crossed the center line after losing control. The other driver, 52-year-old Susannah Donaldson, also died.
Williams said that while everybody is praying for him and his family, "let's not forget there were two people in this situation, and that family needs prayer as well. ... We hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family."
Read it all and watch the whole video.
But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.
This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious--as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ's mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.
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In Uganda, during the eight years in the 1970's when Idi Amin and his men slaughtered probably half a million Ugandans, "We live today and are gone tomorrow" was the common phrase.--Festo Kivengere, Revolutionary Love, Chapter Nine
We learned that living in danger, when the Lord Jesus is the focus of your life, can be liberating. For one thing, you are no longer imprisoned by your own security, because there is none. So the important security that people sought was to be anchored in God.
As we testified to the safe place we had in Jesus, many people who had been pagan, or were on the fringes of Christianity, flocked to the church or to individuals, asking earnestly, "How do you prepare yourself for death?" Churches all over the country were packed both with members and seekers. This was no comfort to President Amin, who was making wild promises to Libya and other Arab nations that Uganda would soon be a Muslim country. (It is actually 80 per cent Christian)....
It became clear to us through the Scriptures that our resistance was to be that of overcoming evil with good. This included refusing to cooperate with anything that dehumanizes people, but we reaffirmed that we can never be involved in using force or weapons.
...we knew, of course, that the accusation against our beloved brother, Archbishop Janani Luwum, that he was hiding weapons for an armed rebellion, was untrue, a frame-up to justify his murder.
The archbishop's arrest, and the news of his death, was a blow from the Enemy calculated to send us reeling. That was on February 16, 1977. The truth of the matter is that it boomeranged on Idi Amin himself. Through it he lost respect in the world and, as we see it now, it was the beginning of the end for him.
For us, the effect can best be expressed in the words of the little lady who came to arrange flowers, as she walked through the cathedral with several despondent bishops who were preparing for Archbishop Luwum's Memorial Service. She said, "This is going to put us twenty times forward, isn't it?" And as a matter of fact, it did.
More than four thousand people walked, unintimidated, past Idi Amin's guards to pack St. Paul's Cathedral in Kampala on February 20. They repeatedly sang the "Martyr's Song," which had been sung by the young Ugandan martyrs in 1885. Those young lads had only recently come to know the Lord, but they loved Him so much that they could refuse the evil thing demanded of them by King Mwanga. They died in the flames singing, "Oh that I had wings such as angels have, I would fly away and be with the Lord." They were given wings, and the singing of those thousands at the Memorial Service had wings too.
[See here for further information, and, through the wonders of the modern world, you may also find a copy online there].
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The famous radio personality and early pioneer of television, Arthur Godfrey, grew up in an era very different from today. It was a time when a boy could wander down to the blacksmith shop on a lazy afternoon and watch the smithy work at his anvil and forge. It was a favorite past time of the young Godfrey. Sometimes he would watch the blacksmith sorting the scrap metal. The man would pick up a piece of metal from a holding bin, turn it this way and that in his large hands, then either toss it into the fire to be softened and hammered into some useful tool, or thrown into a junk heap to be discarded. From this experience Arthur forged a simple prayer which he used all his life. Whenever seized by his own sense of sin or some personal moral failure he would pray—“The fire, Lord, not the junk-heap.” It is a prayer that captures two essential dimensions of Ash Wednesday and Lent— a prayer for pardon and a prayer for purity.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The idea of national repentance seems at first sight to provide such an edifying contrast to that national self-righteousness of which England is so often accused and with which she entered (or is said to have entered) the last war, that a Christian naturally turns to it with hope. Young Christians especially-last-year undergraduates and first-year curates- are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England. What that share is, I do not find it easy to determine. Most of these young men were children, and none of them had a vote or the experience which would enable them to use a vote wisely, when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?
If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England's actions we mean the actions of the British government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England's foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing-but, first, of denouncing-the conduct of others.
--C.S. Lewis, "Dangers of national repentance"
"Confess your faults one to another" (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. "My son, give me thine heart" (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.
You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
"Is-is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tellyou he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
--The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, also cited by yours truly in the morning sermon
The Transfiguration of Jesus has to be a moment of revelation that extends and exists beyond the mountaintop experience. Otherwise, it will only justify glory, power, and privilege. And so, our call to preach this Sunday has to be grounded in the ways in which God grounds God’s very self in transfiguration. God has chosen to reveal God’s self in ways that are breathtaking, miraculous, wondrous. Why? Because we have a tendency to tame God, to think that God will adjust to our many needs, to think that God will conform to our ideals.
When the Transfiguration becomes a sort of embarrassment for the church, an example of the ways in which the church hopes for glory, an argument for Jesus’ divine identity, a chance to wax nostalgic about mountaintop experiences, well then, it will cease to matter. Make it matter by preaching what it is -- no ordinary mountaintop experience.
Read it all; quoted by yours truly in the early morning sermon (my emphasis)
Susan Howatch, whose books have sold more than 20 million copies, is financing the Starbridge Lectureship in Theology and Natural Science. She wants to ''strike a blow for theology to show that religion is not dead, but complements scientific discovery''.
Ms Howatch, 52, believes God has been guiding her. Although she made her first fortune writing blockbusters such as Penmarric, success and its trappings left her spiritually empty. She had houses in several countries, drove a Porsche and a Mercedes and after the break-up of her marriage had too many ''facile, transient liaisons''. In the early Eighties she told her editor she would be late with a novel and he said: ''What will I tell the accountants?''
''I was not interested in fame and fortune any more - I'd had it all since I was 30 and it hadn't satisfied me. So I thought, 'If I'm not in it for that and I'm not in it to keep my publishers in the black, what the hell am I doing it for?'
''God seized me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me against the nearest wall and shook me until my teeth rattled. I thought: 'Okay, what does God actually require of me?'"
--The Independent, March 18, 1993, page 7 and quote in this morning's sermon (my emphasis)
We live in a world so weary of violence and strife, so hardened against rhetoric and marketing, and so soporific from our long dark night that we are tempted to conclude that there is nothing left but boredom and silliness.
But if we can get our own act together, this can be the church’s finest hour.
Read it all.
In summary, said Dr. Anis, Christians who witness to Muslims must depend entirely on the Holy Spirit, and should be authentic, humble and generous in all their dealings. Muslims who convert frequently must pay a heavy price in loss of family relationships and everything they had held dear; the Christian community must be prepared to do all that it can to mitigate those losses. He closed his talk with a short film that showed the various kinds of Christian outreach his own diocese is sponsoring, with an emphasis on providing the best possible loving care to Egyptians from all walks of life in Christian-run hospitals, and offering testimonies from those whose lives had changed in consequence. God's love, shown to Muslims and others through freely given medical and other care, brings results on God's timetable. "Our job is to witness to Christ's love, to pay the price when asked, and to involve the local community of believers."
Another perspective on witnessing to Muslims was offered by Fouad Masri, a Lebanese-born, third-generation pastor who trained in the United States, and then in 1993 founded the Crescent Project, based in Indianapolis, through which he has taught more than 21,000 Christians how to share their faith sensitively and caringly with Muslims. He stressed that Muslims generally do not know what Christians believe, that they never read the Bible for themselves, and have repeatedly been told that it is unreliable (its text is, e.g., hopelessly corrupt in comparison with the Qu'ran that was dictated directly from Allah).
"Because you have been at this conference," he predicted, "God will put a Muslim in your path. Be an ambassador for your faith: represent it truly, humbly, and without apology or evasion. Be friendly -- don't criticize Muslim beliefs; build bridges, biblical bridges, from your faith to theirs, with which you can reach them. Invite them to your home, and share what you have. Remember that God, not us, makes people Christians; we are God's humble servants, and our involvement is His involvement with the world."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The theme of this year's Mere Anglicanism Conference in Charleston, South Carolina was "The Cross and the Crescent: the Gospel and the Challenge of Islam." Over the course of four sessions, seven speakers gave the sold-out audience a comprehensive view of Islamic ideology and history, along with the understanding and tools which Christians need in their personal dealings with Muslims.
The Conference was carefully balanced. Two of the speakers analyzed the tenets of Islam and their contrasts with those of Christianity; two of the speakers spoke to the historical and present-day conflicts between Islamic countries and Western ones; two offered insights and approaches to discussing religion with followers of Mohammed, garnered from their years of experience in dealing with Muslims from all walks of life; and the seventh speaker offered a moving personal testimony to his own conversion from Islam to Christianity -- a decision which cost him his closest ties to his own family. In order to keep my report easier to follow, I shall divide it into two parts. I will first discuss those speakers who gave analytical and historical critiques of Islam, and then cover those who offered pragmatic advice in the second part.
Dr. William Lane Craig, a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, California), and also a Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptists University, opened the Conference on Thursday evening with a talk on "The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity." He explained that he had been interacting with Islam, both academically and in debates with leading Muslim advocates, for over thirty years. In that time, he learned how to address the issue of the God that each religion worships. We should not ask: "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?", because that approach gets tied up in differences over terminology and semantics. A more useful inquiry is: "What is the concept of 'God' in Islam, and in Christianity? Are they the same? And if not, which one is true?"
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Dr. William Lane Craig of Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, opened the conference speaking about the concept of God in Islam and Christianity. Noting that the question “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” had recently been in the news, Craig instead sought to examine what each faith understood about who God is. The God of Islam, Craig determined, was deficient in the Christian view because he lacked the ability to love those who did not love him in return. Effectively, a God who loves sinners and a God incapable of loving sinners – indeed, even declared their enemy in verses of the Qur’an – were at their core sharply different.
Speakers encouraged participants to be relational in their interactions with Muslims, seeing them not as adversaries in an argument, but as people who might consider Christ by witnessing genuine love in the church.
“We have our own opportunities but we stay in our own clubs,” observed Lebanese-born pastor Fouad Masri about how few Muslims in the U.S. are invited into Christian homes. “Our job is to share — God makes people Christians, not us.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Apologetics Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
I write this article after having completed the first week of the Institute. If possible, it has already exceeded my expectations. Several things have especially stood out to me this first week.
First, the Beauty of Christ’s Global Body. Upon meeting my fellow participants the first day, I was surprised to discover that we had many mutual friends from places like India, South Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that as a young priest I haven’t lived very long, haven’t traveled very far, and haven’t had a whole lot of life experience. In short, this instant connectedness was not about me but was simply a beautiful testament to how Christ’s body has grown—from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth—and to how the spiritual unity we have in Christ is being made visible by advances in modern technology.
Stemming from this unity, the fellowship has been both rich and challenging. With regards to the richness, one cannot hear eyewitness stories of martyrdom and persecution without being touched in the deep places of one’s soul and inspired to follow Christ more faithfully in one’s own walk (Heb. 11). Many of the participants have tread the path of persecution, and as a Westerner, their stories put my own ministry challenges in healthy and humbling perspective.
On the other hand, the diversity of the fellowship has challenged us to wrestle honestly with the unique cultural lenses we bring to ministry. Whether we’re asking questions after a lecture, breaking down a passage of scripture in a small-group preaching exercise, or analyzing a case study from mission field, it has been eye-opening to see just how pervasively our cultures influence our perspectives. Fortunately, as we wrestle honestly with these issues, our blinders begin to fall away, and we are able to more clearly see the pure and undiluted Gospel, in all of its glory.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
One of the greatest challenges for Christians at the dawn of the 21st century is the power and influence of Islam. As the world’s two great missionary religions, Christianity and Islam are often at odds with one another, and the tension can at times feel palpable. How are we as Christians to respond to the threat and challenge of this growing and energetic religion? What should be the Church’s reaction in light of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all men? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he reminds believers that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”? Join us this year at Mere Anglicanism as we explore “The Cross and the Crescent: The Gospel and the Challenge of Islam.”
You may find the schedule here and a list of speakers there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics Christology Seminary / Theological Education The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Founded in 2004, in 2010 the diocese of Zonkwa had 81 congregations served by 31 priests and 12 catechists. Yesterday at Adult Sunday School I was able to ask Bishop Jacob Kwashi about the current numbers, which now are: 95 congregations served by 54 priests and 27 evangelists.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Christology Soteriology
Last week the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury for a week of prayer and discussion. You might well have been following the events in the media. I want to share some thoughts of my own here about what took place last week – which was without doubt one of the most extraordinary weeks I have ever experienced.
The first thing to say is that the week was completely rooted in prayer. The Community of St Anselm – the international young Christian community based at Lambeth Palace – took up residence in Canterbury Cathedral and prayed all day every day for the Primates as we talked together. As Primates we joined with all who gathered for Morning Prayer, Eucharist and Evensong in the Cathedral each day. And meanwhile thousands – perhaps millions – of Anglicans and others in the Christian family around the world prayed in churches and posted prayers on social media. I want to thank everyone who prayed last week. We felt it and we appreciated it deeply.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Theology Christology Ecclesiology
Many media reports at the time of Archbishop Welby’s announcement suggested that his intention was to replace the communion relationship of the provinces with a much looser federal relationship in which member churches relate to Canterbury, but not necessarily to one another. The various provinces, these reports claimed, would keep the name “Anglican” but without any attempt to maintain common discipline or doctrine. Such a radical reorientation of Anglican ecclesiology would be a considerable blow to Anglican-Catholic ecumenical relations which have been predicated on the basis of a shared communion ecclesiology. However, Lambeth Palace has strongly rebutted such claims, insisting that no such abandonment of its Communion structures is intended, but rather the aim is to strengthen those structures by reappraising them and encouraging those who are currently disenfranchised to find their voice and be unafraid to offer critique.
At time of writing, the Primates’ Meeting has not yet concluded, however it is possible to make a few observations about the meeting. Firstly, Archbishop Welby has always maintained that he wants the Primates as a group to call the next Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly meeting of all Anglican Bishops from around the world. All the indications are that the next Lambeth Conference will be announced, though mostly likely scheduled for 2020 rather than 2018, and this announcement in itself will be a strong signal of the primates’ continued desire to work for the unity of the Communion.
Secondly, while the Archbishop cannot sanction the North American provinces, he will be working strenuously to deepen the bonds of communion with those provinces which have been most scandalised by their recent decisions. The strongest protest to the North American provinces comes from those affiliated to GAFCon, a grouping that takes its name from the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem immediately before the last Lambeth Conference in 2008. A number of the primates who will attend the January 2016 meeting are members of GAFCon, and claim to represent the majority of the world’s Anglicans. One GAFCon primate, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda has already warned that he will not continue to participate in the meetings unless “godly order” is restored. GAFCon claims not to be in communion with the Anglican provinces of North America, supporting instead a breakaway group called the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). In a strong indication of Archbishop Welby’s intention to reach out to GAFCon, he has invited ACNA’s Archbishop, the Rt Rev Foley Beach, to attend some of the Primates’ Meeting as an observer. Moreover, the Archbishop has worked hard at establishing strong personal relationships with many of these primates, which he hopes will help to avoid a rift.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
[Michael] Gilbreath (a CT editor at large) hearkens back to the 1963 Birmingham civil rights campaign, to the world of Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and other heroic Christian leaders. Today, we idolize these figures for leading a beleaguered people to the Promised Land. But as Birmingham Revolution makes clear, the civil rights movement was no slam dunk. Uncertainty, scarce resources, and outside hostility could have ground its progress to a halt.
The Birmingham campaign was pivotal. On the heels of defeat in Albany, Georgia, victory in Birmingham restored the movement's momentum. Failure could have crippled it, by drying up funding, discrediting the nonviolent method, and validating fears that the leaders were—take your pick—extremists, rabble-rousers, too Christian, not Christian enough, too Southern, or insufficiently urban.
How—amid the noise and ambiguity, the internal struggles and self-doubts, the bone-deep weariness and constant fear of death—did the Birmingham leaders maintain their focus? And how might their example instruct the church today? Gilbreath gives four answers.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology
Listen to it all and ponder well the words.
Heal us, Emmanuel, here we are
We long to feel Thy touch
Deep wounded souls to Thee we fly
O Savior hear our cry
1. Our faith is feeble, we confess
We faintly trust Thy word
But will You pity us the less?
Be that far from You Lord!
2. Remember him who once applied
With trembling for relief
“Lord, I believe,” with tears he cried
“O help my unbelief!"
3. She, too, who touched you in the press
And healing virtue stole
Was answered, “Daughter, go in peace
Thy faith has made thee whole.”
4. Like her, with hopes and fears we come
To touch You if we may
O send us not despairing home
Send none unhealed away
We have clearly fallen on the evil times prophesied by the Apostle; for nowadays teachers are sought after who preach not God but a creature And men are more zealous for what they themselves desire, than for what the sound faith teaches. So far have their itching ears stirred them to listen to what they desire, that for the moment that preaching alone rules among their crowd of doctors which estranges the Only-begotten God from the power and nature of God the Father, and makes Him in our faith either a God of the second order, or not a God at all; in either case a damning profession of impiety, whether one profess two Gods by making different grades of divinity; or else deny divinity altogether to Him Who drew His nature by birth from God. Such doctrines please those whose ears are estranged from the hearing of the truth and turned to fables, while the hearing of this our sound faith is not endured, and is driven bodily into exile with its preachers.--Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, X
But though many may heap up teachers according to their desires, and banish sound doctrine, yet from the company of the Saints the preaching of truth can never be exiled. From our exile we shall speak by these our writings, and the Word of God which cannot be bound will run unhindered, warning us of this time which the Apostle prophesied. For when men shew themselves impatient of the true message, and heap up teachers according to their own human desires, we can no longer doubt about the times, but know that while the preachers of sound doctrine are banished truth is banished too. We do not complain of the times: we rejoice rather, that iniquity has revealed itself in this our exile, when, unable to endure the truth, it banishes the preachers of sound doctrine, that it may heap up for itself teachers after its own desires. We glory in our exile, and rejoice in the Lord that in our person the Apostle’s prophecy should be fulfilled.
You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.
Filed under: * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Epiphany Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst sit lowly in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions: Give unto thy servants that humility of heart, and willingness to learn, without which no man can find wisdom; to the glory of thy holy Name.
Let us now return to the exposition of the Gospel, where we previously left it. The astronomers went into the place where the child was staying, and found him with his mother. Then with prostrate bodies they worshipped Christ, and opened their coffers, and offered to him threefold gifts, gold, and incense, and myrrh. Gold is fitting for a king; incense belongs to God's service; with myrrh the bodies of the dead are prepared that they may not soon rot. These three astronomers worshipped Christ, and offered to him symbolic gifts. The gold betokened that he is true King; the incense that he is true God; the myrrh that he was then mortal, though now he continues immortal in eternity...
My brothers, let us offer to our Lord gold, for we confess that he is true King, and rules everywhere. Let us offer to him incense, for we believe that he was always God, who at that time appeared as a man. Let us bring him myrrh, for we believe that he was mortal in our flesh, who is incapable of suffering in his divine nature. He was mortal in human nature before his Passion, but he is henceforth immortal, as we all shall be after the universal resurrection.
We have spoken of these threefold gifts, how they apply to Christ. We also wish to say how they apply to us in a figurative sense. Truly gold betokens wisdom; as Solomon said, "A goldhoard much to be desired lies in the mouth of a wise man." Incense represents holy prayer, of which the psalmist sang, "Lord, let my prayer be sent forth like burning incense in thy sight." By myrrh is shown the mortality of our flesh, of which Holy Church says, "My hands dropped myrrh." To the born King we bring gold, if we are shining in his sight with the brightness of heavenly wisdom. Incense we bring him, if we set fire to our thoughts on the altar of our heart with the eagerness of holy prayers, so that through heavenly desire we may give forth something of a sweet smell. Myrrh we offer him if we quell the lusts of the flesh by self-restraint.
Read it all (and note the link to the full sermon text).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Epiphany Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
...that this star was not of the common sort, or rather not a star at all, as it seems at least to me, but some invisible power transformed into this appearance, is in the first place evident from its very course. For there is not, there is not any star that moves by this way, but whether it be the sun you mention, or the moon, or all the other stars, we see them going from east to west; but this was wafted from north to south; for so is Palestine situated with respect to Persia.
In the second place, one may see this from the time also. For it appears not in the night, but in mid-day, while the sun is shining; and this is not within the power of a star, nay not of the moon; for the moon that so much surpasses all, when the beams of the sun appear, straightway hides herself, and vanishes away. But this by the excess of its own splendor overcame even the beams of the sun, appearing brighter than they, and in so much light shining out more illustriously.
...[Later in the narrative] it did not, remaining on high, point out the place; it not being possible for them so to ascertain it, but it came down and performed this office. For ye know that a spot of so small dimensions, being only as much as a shed would occupy, or rather as much as the body of a little infant would take up, could not possibly be marked out by a star. For by reason of its immense height, it could not sufficiently distinguish so confined a spot, and discover it to them that were desiring to see it. And this any one may see by the moon, which being so far superior to the stars, seems to all that dwell in the world, and are scattered over so great an extent of earth,—seems, I say, near to them every one. How then, tell me, did the star point out a spot so confined, just the space of a manger and shed, unless it left that height and came down, and stood over the very head of the young child? And at this the evangelist was hinting when he said, “Lo, the star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.”
Read it all.
Listen to and ponder it all.
Sickness relieved is a beautiful thing. A heart attack treated takes the elephant off the chest and leaves a smile. A child made well, a broken bone splinted, a wound closed, a tooth numbed, an abscess opened are among the reasons that physicians, at least at first, decide to walk among the sick.
However, we poor doctors, with our paltry degrees and bags of tricks, can only do a little. We merely treat the symptoms. He treated the disease. He brought an end to it all with his birth, death and resurrection. No more sin, no more death. He offered every patient the cure, free of charge, with no need for insurance or cash.
How it must feel to be him! Not to cure the broken bones, but to offer healing to the broken hearts. Not to excise the tumor, but to remove the guilt. Not to bypass the heart, but to replace it with a new one.
At Christmas, we celebrate the child. How blessed we are that he walked among us, knew our every disease, then grew up to become the only physician qualified to heal us.
Read it all.
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