Daily Archives: April 3, 2015

His Damnation our Liberation, His Defeat our Victory

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

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Soteriology, Theology

Charles Spurgeon on the Dying Thief

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of his abundant willingness to receive all that come to him, in whatever plight they may be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident. So I shall use it at this time. May the Holy Spirit speak through it to the encouragement of those who are ready to despair!

Remember, beloved friends, that our Lord Jesus, at the time he saved this malefactor, was at his lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark.
Stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was he “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscouring of all things. Yet, while in that condition, he achieved this marvellous deed of grace. Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all his glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it it that he can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that he has returned unto his glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light! “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon one who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to his kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King. If the apostle Paul were here, and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to him as to one whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain, and bound to die. It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that he was surrounded by scoffers. It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests, in their pride, ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour, and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn. His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits. He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor, and defend his Lord. His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession. I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour””that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

”“From a sermon of C.H. Spurgeon preached on April 7, 1889

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology

Remembering the Eyam Plague: A BBC Radio Four Good Friday Meditation for 2015

From the BBC blurb:

To lay down your life for others; we’re told there is no greater love than this, and that’s the subject of the Good Friday Meditation. 350 years ago, when the Plague tore through the community of Eyam in Derbyshire, the villagers’ first instinct was to flee – but their agreement with their local clergy’s brave decision that all should stay – keeping the plague within the village – probably saved thousands of lives throughout the North of England…

Just last year, self-imposed isolation was also the choice of British doctor, Dr Nathalie MacDermott. She was unsure whether she was incubating the deadly Ebola virus already contracted by two close medical colleagues in Liberia. Emerging from a lonely confinement, at least safe in the knowledge that she did not have the virus – this time – she returned to Liberia for a third tour of duty, struggling to bring care and comfort to communities that have lost thousands to this modern-day plague. Guided by the present Rector of Eyam, the Revd Mike Gilbert, and local school pupils, she hears heart-rending stories of this historic sacrifice at locations around the village; but also how genetic research on descendants of Eyam’s plague survivors is bringing hope to fight both plague and HIV in the world today. With music and readings illustrating the timeless story of Good Friday, presenter Dr Nathalie McDermott shares her own Christian perspective of why she, too, is still prepared to risk her life for strangers. Reader: Robert Lindsay. Producer: Rowan Morton-Gledhill.

Listen to it all at this link (just under 28 minutes).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Theology

George Herbert–The Agony

Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathomed the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walked with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things
The which to measure it doth more behoove:
Yet few there are that sound them: Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, that forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Fernando Ortega–O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

Johnny Cash & The Carter Family–Were you There When They Crucified my Lord? (1960)

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

Failure, Rejection, and Ineffectualness

[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]

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Japan, Theology

The Way of The Cross as led by Pope Francis in 2015

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

And so we come to Good Friday

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).”

Benedict XVI

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

St Pauls Cathedral Choir: God So Loved The World (John Stainer)

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Theology

Good Friday Statement from the Primate of Kenya

”˜Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother’
John 19:25

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Good Friday we gather in our churches across Kenya in the shadow of a great and terrible evil. People who deal in death have slaughtered 147 people in Garissa, most of them students, and brought wrenching anguish to their families and a deep sadness to our nation.

These young people died because they were Kenyans and they were Christians. This attack was a calculated manifestation of evil designed to destroy our nation and our faith, but on this Good Friday we are reminded that the very worst evil can do is not the last word.

Through spite and blatant miscarriage of justice, Jesus dies the agonising death of the cross, but his last words are ”˜it is finished’. The cross was not a tragic accident, but the fulfilment of God’s purpose to reconcile men and women to himself through the atoning death of his Son, a reality gloriously confirmed by his resurrection from the dead.

But we must not rush on to Easter Day too quickly. Today we stand at the cross with Mary and the other women, heartbroken by loss and suffering and despite the horror before their eyes, not running away.

Horror is fresh in our minds too and let us not run away or deny it, but stay by the cross. We stay with Jesus, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we share in the grief of Mary and we share in the grief of those who have been so shockingly bereaved, but as Mary was to discover, we know that this is not the end of the story.

Jesus death upon the cross was not in vain. By his death, death has been destroyed. The stone rolled away and the empty tomb of Jesus assures us that death does not have the last word. As we think of those dear ones who died at Garissa because they were Christians, let us remember the promise of the Lord Jesus that nothing can separate them and us from his love.

Read it all

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya

A Prayer for Good Friday (II)

O Christ, who by the thorns pressed upon thy head hast drawn the thorns from the sorrows of this world, and given us a crown of joy and peace: Make us so bold as never to fear suffering, nor to suffer without cheerfulness in thy service; to the glory of thy holy name.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

John Donne–Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward

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)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature, Theology

George Herbert–The Sacrifice

O all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread:
Was ever grief like mine?

Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
Was ever grief like mine?

Take the time for careful prayer, rumination and meditation over it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature, Soteriology, Theology

Richard John Neuhaus on Good Friday

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.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Soteriology, Theology