Category : Christology

St Silas Church Glasgow takes action as a result of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s departure from Chrsitian theology and standards

The Church has made the following statement:

Recent decisions of the Scottish Episcopal Church have made clear to us that the denomination does not regard the Bible as the authoritative word of God. With deep sadness, we have therefore decided that for reasons of integrity we can no longer continue as part of the Scottish Episcopal Church. We want to leave with goodwill towards those with whom we are parting company, and sincerely pray for God’s blessing for the SEC in the future, and its renewal around God’s word.

Mr [Martin] Ayers, said:

“There are many presenting issues that have caused difficulty within the Scottish Episcopal Church in recent years, but for us this is simply about the central place of Jesus and his words in the life of our church. We feel that the Scottish Episcopal Church has moved away from the message of the Bible, and that we cannot follow them.”

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Scottish Episcopal Church, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Hymn from Ephrem of Edessa on his Feast Day–From God Christ’s Deity Came Forth

From there:

From God Christ’s deity came forth,
his manhood from humanity;
his priesthood from Melchizedek,
his royalty from David’s tree:
praised be his Oneness.

He joined with guests at wedding feast,
yet in the wilderness did fast;
he taught within the temple’s gates;
his people saw him die at last:
praised be his teaching.

The dissolute he did not scorn,
nor turn from those who were in sin;
he for the righteous did rejoice
but bade the fallen to come in:
praised be his mercy.

He did not disregard the sick;
to simple ones his word was given;
and he descended to the earth
and, his work done, went up to heaven:
praised be his coming.

Who then, my Lord, compares to you?
The Watcher slept, the Great was small,
the Pure baptized, the Life who died,
the King abased to honor all:
praised be your glory.

by Ephrem of Edessa, translated by John Howard Rhys, adapted and altered by F Bland Tucker, (Episcopal) Hymnbook 1982.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

(CT) Allen Langham–My journey from the criminal underworld to the foot of the cross

During my stints in prison, I was always drawn to the chapel. I considered it a place of refuge, just as church had offered a safe haven from the tumult of my childhood. Over the years, I experimented with everything: Buddhism, Hinduism, spiritualism, counseling, course after course, medication—but nothing worked. I was still a wreck. Despite my burning desire to change, I couldn’t find any peace or stability.

Eventually, after stabbing a number of fellow inmates, I landed in Belmarsh, a top-security prison in southeast London. I hated who I had become. With my violent outbursts and paranoid behavior, I had pushed away anyone I ever cared for—and put my family through hell. I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually broken. Outwardly, I sought “respect” by lashing out against anyone or anything in my way. But on the inside, I remained a lost little boy in desperate need of love and acceptance.

While awaiting trial in a kidnapping and hostage-taking case, I finally hit rock bottom and decided to commit suicide. With tears streaming down my face, I dropped to my knees and made one final plea to God: “If you’re real and you hear me, put a white dove outside my prison window. Show me you are with me!” At the time, I had no conception of the dove being a symbol for the Holy Spirit. I was only looking for some sign of hope and new beginnings.

The next morning, when a flock of pigeons lifted off the nearby ledge, I saw the dove sitting there. Something inside me jumped, and tears of joy replaced tears of despair.

After transferring to another prison in Leeds, I began praying and studying the Bible in earnest. Reading Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind, I stumbled across a chapter where Meyer describes taking the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, rolling it into a ball, and laying it at Jesus’ feet. I decided to do the same with my rage. Before going to sleep, I closed my eyes, imagined Jesus on the cross, balled up my rage, and surrendered it to him. When I awoke, I felt peace like never before.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Soteriology

(TGC) How Reasserting Anglicans in Canada Found New Life After Their Eviction

In 2002, when his regional synod voted to let its bishop bless same-sex unions, [David] Short stood up and walked out of the room (as did Packer). So did leaders from half a dozen other churches.

The pastors knew they had to form their own organization and to find episcopal supervision. But that didn’t seem hard. Most of the global Anglican church still held to the gospel. The Canadians just had to appeal for alternative episcopal oversight, something already permissible in Canada, and call it a day.

“I thought it would take 10 weeks,” Short said.

It took 10 years. Ten years of accusations and meetings and lawsuits. Ten years of stress and fear and anger. Nearly all the churches would lose their buildings; all did lose congregants and money. Pastors lost sleep. Some nearly lost their sanity.

“We asked all the wisest people I knew—all the cleverest theologians,” Short said. “No one had any idea what to do.” So they just did the next thing. And the next.

This June, the Anglican Church in North America—made up of…conservative Anglicans primarily in the United States and Canada, including Short—will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The denomination has 135,000 members in more than 1,000 churches. It’s in “full communion” with the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).

“It was all worth it,” said Ottawa rector—the Anglican term for senior pastor—George Sinclair, whose church left with Short’s. But he would have said that no matter what.

“Even if the church had declined, that wouldn’t be a sign that we had made a mistake,” he said. “Because the Bible is clear on this issue. You need to take a stand on it—without any expectation about how God will bear fruit from your faithfulness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Kingdom Come Day 1 #Jesus – Tom Wright talks about who Jesus really is

Please watch it all and you may find much more information about Thy Kingdom Come there.

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Theology: Scripture

John Piper–I Was Far Too Easily Pleased–the story of my discovery of Christian Hedonism

When I graduated from college in 1968, I had not yet discovered Christian Hedonism. The air was still thick with the tension between the pursuit of God’s glory on the one side and the pursuit of my happiness on the other. That was soon to change.

I walked into my first class at Fuller Seminary with my professor Daniel Fuller (son of the founder) in the fall of 1968 and heard things I had never heard before about the relationship of divine glory and human happiness. Dr. Fuller pointed me to Jonathan Edwards, Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis — and the Bible! Edwards and Pascal made the problem worse before it got better.

Edwards won my trust by exalting the centrality and ultimacy and supremacy and worth of the glory of God beyond all other reality. And he did so in such a thorough, passionate, and biblical way that there was no possibility he was about to smuggle in a man-centered theology.

His book The End for Which God Created the World is perhaps the most thorough and compelling demonstration that the glory of God is the ultimate goal of all things. What was so overpowering about this book was the avalanche of biblical passages used to show God’s passion for his glory.

This was new to me. I knew about my duty to live for the glory of God. But I had never heard that God lives for the glory of God. I had never heard that God’s command that I glorify him was an invitation to join him in his zeal for his own glory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–How shall we understand the Ascension and what is its significance for us?

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ascension, Christology, Eschatology, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Tablet) Erik Varden–Understanding the Ascension

This summer, a half-century will have passed since man first landed on the moon. In mid afternoon on 16 July 1969, a spacecraft named Apollo 11 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, entering earth’s orbit after 12 minutes. Three days later Apollo 11 passed behind the moon and entered the lunar orbit.

On 21 July, at around the time when Cistercians rise for Vigils, the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, opened the spacecraft’s door and set foot, the first man in history to do so, on the surface of the moon. In a thoughtful phrase, he remarked that his small step was “a giant leap for humankind’’.

The mission, which has left its mark on our consciousness, was a scientific triumph. But for our theological imagination, it was a disaster. It especially confused our notion of the Lord’s Ascension. The readings set for the liturgical solemnity culminate in these words: “Now, as he blessed them he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.” For us, who live in the wake of the 1969 lunar mission, it is almost impossible to hear them without seeing before our mind’s eye the Apollo rocket fired off from Camp Kennedy….

Read it all [registration] (quoted in the morning sermon).

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

More NT Wright for Easter 2019–His Easter Sermon at St. Paul’s Hammersmith

The Rev’d Professor N.T Wright is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. He writes about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things and has written over seventy books. He is a guest speaker throughout Easter 2019.

Listen to it all (about 24 1/3 minutes).

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Easter, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon–The Compelling Verbs of Easter

Above all the gospel accounts of Easter compel our attention. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” One version of this wonderful day begins with a voice of negation, a crucial question which many people never answer. Are we looking for love in all the wrong places? Are we clinging to earthly things and forgetting those things which do not pass away?

Then we hear “come and see.” To see with the full eyes of one’s heart is a rare thing indeed. So many times in life we look but do not see, do not perceive as God perceives. The power of the post-resurrection narratives is that each person is met on his or her terms. What wondrous love is that, as the Holy Spirit by his power opens our eyes.

The dynamic does not stop with the question and the call to see, however. If we really see who God is and his power to change lives and transform them into the likeness of his glory, we cannot keep it to ourselves.

Where I served my curacy in South Carolina, we had many Clemson football fans; they root for the Tigers whose color is orange. One day I visited a family devoted to Clemson and, I kid you not, even their toilet seat cover was orange. Bless them, they loved to tell the story of a particular University. One wonders whether an Easter people have a similar passion to share Jesus’ love for the world.

He is risen. Why? Come. See. Go. Tell. Alleluia.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is the host of this blog

Posted in * By Kendall, Christology, Easter, Eschatology

Gregory Soderberg reviews John Tyson’s new book “The Great Athanasius: An Introduction to His Life and Work”

Why read Athanasius? Besides his importance for our understanding of the Christian faith, his life reads like a thriller at times, full of intrigue, last-minute escapes, and determination to follow the truth, no matter the cost. Furthermore, Athanasius (who was called the “black dwarf”) reminds us of the eminent role Africa has played in Christian history. In How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind, the late Thomas Oden argued that we need to rediscover the early African church, for our sake, and for Africa’s sake. In a time of increasing racial and national tension, we need to remember the foundational contributions of early African Christians like Athanasius.

Beyond the reasons offered here, C.S. Lewis wrote a wonderful introduction to an earlier edition of Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, which has become a classic essay in itself. In the essay, C.S. Lewis defends the “reading of old books” in a masterful way, the old book in this case being Athanasius’s On the Incarnation. We often forget that masters of writing like Lewis and Tolkien were themselves inspired by the great spiritual masters of the past, like the “Great Athanasius.” The church today desperately needs to remember its past, so that we may not lose our way in the future.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Christology, Church History

Athanasius on the Incarnation for his Feast Day

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us [Acts 17:27] before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery–lest the creature should perish, and His Father’s handiwork in men be spent for nought–He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father-doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

–Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

Posted in Christology, Church History

One Way Out of the Cul de Sac – Bishop Mark Lawrence offers more Thoughts for Easter

It is easy for us to forget that that is where the first disciples were on Easter morning—in the cul de sac. They had no place to go. Peter and Andrew, James and John, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James and the other women. The enterprise was based on Jesus of Nazareth. This movement which they had given themselves to—this God thing—it was all dependent upon him. The healing of the sick, delivering people from dark drives and obsessions, loosening the grip of loss, the teaching about how God works in peoples’ lives, (not just religious practices), but having the ability to bring people into God’s presence, into an experience with the living God by his words and presence. When Jesus was around, God came to them; forgiveness flowed; broken lives were mended. All this seemed to happen around him. You can see the problem I suppose—Jesus was the franchise. There was no way to posture or pretend about these things. Without him it would be futile to carry on.

To further illustrate my point, remember the disciples didn’t have any of these. The Pharisees and the scribes had the Hebrew scriptures; the priests in the temple had the altar of sacrifice, the altar of incense, the candelabra, the shew bread, the robes, the Holy of Holies—all that the disciples had was Jesus. Frankly, if he had not been raised we would never have heard of him. And just to have heard of him is hardly enough anyway. Without Jesus they were clearly in the cul de sac of death, which Karl Barth once called “the hopeless cul de sac.” That’s what those who stumble over Jesus’ seemingly exclusive statement that he is “the way, the truth and the life” too often forget. The Easter message is quite clear here—there’s one way out of the cul de sac and Jesus pioneered it.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

Stephen Noll for Easter 2019–The Half-Empty Tomb

Why is it important for us to hold fast to the remembrance of the empty tomb? Some people, beginning with the Jewish opponents, have always been tempted to believe too little about God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, and usually that temptation begins with scoffing disregard for the moments in which he entered and then transcended history.

It is commonly heard from Episcopal pulpits, on Easter morning no less, that the empty tomb is only a metaphor for the reality of the living Christ, or that Christ rose, not from the tomb but in the hearts of the women at the tomb or among the disciples when they celebrated their first Easter Eucharist. But this is the same mindset that makes Christ’s birth a metaphor and his death an inspiring example of commitment to a cause. And in the end, Jesus Christ himself becomes only a metaphor of how you can “be all that you can be.”

To such thinking, I can only suggest a strong dose of John Updike. In a semi-autobiographical story, “Pigeon Feathers,” Updike describes the formative experience of a rather sickly, sensitive young boy named David who had just read H. G. Wells’ version of the “swoon theory,” that Jesus had survived the cross, staggered out of the tomb, and died elsewhere, thus making Christianity a freakish mistake at best. Fortunately, it seems, David finds consolation from Pastor Dobson, who says: “Beware smiling affirmations of the ‘meaning’ of the resurrection. It is the monstrosity of the empty tomb we want.”

Read it all.

[Photo: St John’s, Johns Island SC]

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Tom Wright–The Uncomfortable Truth of Easter

The Easter stories are full of people getting the wrong end of the stick. Mary thinks Jesus’ body has been stolen. Peter sees the linen wrappings and can’t work out what it’s all about. The disciples didn’t understand the scriptures. The angels question Mary and she still doesn’t know what’s going on. Then she thinks Jesus is the gardener. Then, it seems, she reaches out to cling on to him, and he tells her she mustn’t. You could hardly get more misunderstandings into a couple of paragraphs if you tried.

And the point is, of course: Easter has burst into our world, the world of space, time and matter, the world of real history and real people and real life, but our minds and imaginations are too small to contain it, so we do our best to put the sea into a bottle and fit the explosive fact of the resurrection into the possibilities we already know about.

At one level, of course, the continued puzzlement of the disciples is a mark of the story’s authenticity. If someone had been making it all up a generation later, as many have suggested, they would hardly have had such a muddle going on. More particularly, nobody would have made up the remarkable detail of the cloth around Jesus’ head, folded up in a place by itself, or the even more extraordinary fact that Jesus is not immediately recognised, either here, or in the evening on the road to Emmaus, or the later time, cooking breakfast by the shore. The first Christians weren’t prepared for what actually happened. Nobody could have been. As one leading agnostic scholar has put it, it looks as though they were struggling to describe something for which they didn’t have adequate language.

But this problem isn’t confined to the first century. Ever since then, people have tried to squash the Easter message into conventional boxes that it just won’t fit.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Jim Trainor on Easter–I believe the story and that is why I know that I will see my mother again

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.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon for Easter–Cry Freedom

How shall we understand freedom? Perhaps because I am in a state, South Carolina, where candidates….[not long ago] were running around saying “you are free so vote for me!” this has been much in mind.

There is a lot of sloppy thinking about freedom these days. For too many it only means the ability to choose a candidate or a product. Or it is understood to be the removal of external constraints, as in I need the government out of my—then fill in the blank: my business, my body, and on and on.

Christian thinking about freedom is a totally different animal.

For one thing, in the Scriptures, freedom has an interesting relationship to time. Freedom is something which was present in creation, and which will be fully present again at the end of history when God brings it to its conclusion. But what about the present? The people Jesus spends time with—say, for example, the woman at the well (John 4), or Zaccheus (Luke 19) are not free but constrained, imprisoned, and encased. When Jesus rescues them, freedom begins, but even then it is lived out in the tension between the already of new life in Christ and the not yet of the fullness of the eschaton.

So apart from Christ people who think they are free need to hear the bad news that their perceived freedom is an illusion. One would like to hear more from preachers these days on this score, since they are addressing parishioners who are workaholics or poweraholics or sexaholics and/or addicts to heaven knows what else. Why is it that a group like AA seems to know more about real freedom than so many churches? Because they begin with the premise which says their members are enslaved—that is the first of the twelve steps.

And there is so much more to freedom then even this. In the Bible, real freedom moves in not one or two but three directions.

Freedom from is one piece of the puzzle—freedom from sin, from the demands of the law, from the tyranny of the urgent, from whatever constricts us from being the people God intended us to be.

Equally important, however, is freedom for, freedom for Christ, for service, for God’s justice, for ministry. Paul wonderfully describes himself as a bondservant of Christ Jesus, and the Prayer Book has it right when it says God’s service is “perfect freedom.”

Freedom with should not be missed, however. For Paul in Galatians Christian freedom is not the Christian by herself changed by the gospel. This has too much in common with the individual shopper in Walmart deciding exactly what kind of popcorn or yogurt she wants. No, real freedom is to be liberated to live for Christ with the new pilgrim people of God who reflect back a little of heaven’s light on earth. A real church is one where people enjoy koinonia, fellowship, the richness of God’s life shared into them which they then share out in Christ’s name by the power of the Holy Spirit to the world.

Paul says it wonderfully in Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Do not settle for anything less than this real freedom, freedom from bondage, freedom with our fellow pilgrims, and freedom for the God who made the heavens and the earth.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon is the convenor of this blog

Posted in * By Kendall, Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Edith Humphrey–Seeing is Believing: Sunday of St. Thomas

Here, in their very midst was the author of Life, bringing to them the word of his peace. And that is not all: not just a mending, but something greater than they could ever think or imagine was about to happen. He gives to them a new commission. Adam and Eve had been told to govern and protect the created order as God’s custodians. But this one true human being, this Jesus, this One who is truly God, truly the Son of Man, calls a new family into his service: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” From now on the job would be not simply to care for creation, not just a work of maintenance. Rather, his disciples are enfolded, made part of the Father’s work of restoration. They are to go, to heal, to restore what has been lost, to seek those who have been lost.

Such a role may seem too great for humankind. After all, it is God himself who is the shepherd of the sheep. But here we are at the dawn of a new creation, a new era in which God’s people are being called no longer simply servants—though servants we are—but FRIENDS. Who is up for this task? The answer is, of course, not one of us. That is why Jesus does not simply give his disciples instructions. He also gives them his very life.

Think again about the Narnia chronicles. What is it that Aslan does as soon as he has won, with the stone table cracked, the bonds broken and the deep magic accomplished? Why, he visits the dungeon of the White Witch, and begins to breathe upon those who have been petrified, frozen by her evil. He breathes, and they are restored back to life. What Jesus does here on that first Easter evening is even greater: not only does he breathe to restore the disciples back to life. No, he does more. He says to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Back at Eden, God gave to humankind the breath of life. Now God the Son hands over to his disciples the One who is in Himself the Breath of new life, the very Spirit of God. Not merely a life force, but the Lord of Life comes to be with these frightened disciples: and they will never be the same. It is as though Aslan had breathed upon a stone cat and made him not merely a living creature but a little lion, bursting with the same vigor of the great Aslan himself, ready to do the work of freeing and bringing joy to those in darkness and in prison.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

An Easter Message from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence

As a parish priest I remember telling parishioners, on more than one occasion, “When death comes into your home he brings a lot of unwanted relatives with him.” I do not mean relatives or in-laws who may come from out of town for the funeral. The relatives of death to which I refer are grief, fear, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, depression, even anxiety. Once these come under the roof of your house it is difficult to show them the door. They tend to take up residence, over staying their welcome. Just this morning I read the story of Clint Hill, the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy during the days some refer to as Camelot. With poignant grief he recalled her words that day almost fifty years ago as the President’s wounded head lay in her lap like a modern Pieta, “They shot his head off. Oh Jack, what have they done?”

I’ve been listening to Dr. Billy Graham’s recent book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. He is no stranger to moments of national grief, like the one Clint Hill witnessed so painfully. At age 93 he has seen firsthand more than a little of our country’s sorrow. Yet grief when it is personal strikes even deeper. In recounting the death of his beloved wife and best friend for almost sixty-four years, Ruth Bell Graham, he writes, “Although I rejoice that her struggles with weakness and pain have all come to an end, I still feel as if a part of me has been ripped out, and I miss her far more than I ever could have imagined.” “Death”, he goes on to say, quite accurately, “is always an intruder even when it is expected.” Frankly, if there is no answer to death there is no answer to our most abiding enemy and all those blood relatives he brings with him. This, as you might imagine, brings me to Easter. I am happy to recall it. The apostle affirms, “Our Saviour Jesus Christ has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10 NEB)

Easter unflinchingly confronts our enemies, death and sin that would lock us in a self-justifying bondage, and plague our lives from start to finish. Christ’s death, however, is God’s No to sin. In the cross God reveals his hatred of sin as Christ dies to destroy it; and shows his love for sinners as he dies to free us of it. In Christ’s resurrection God speaks his Yes to life and human freedom, breaking the power of death. Donald Coggan, a former Archbishop of Canterbury put it well: “You may not like it. You may ignore it. You may deny it. But this is it. Take away the Cross and Resurrection from Christianity and you have a poor lifeless and maimed thing left…” And we must also say a dead religion dreadfully inadequate for our needs. Archbishop Coggan was right. We need to keep the Cross and Resurrection central. They tell us of God’s No, to death, and the fear that is death’s power; No, to sin and its tyranny of our lives; No, to fear that cripples us from living the dance of life freely; No, to the shame we don’t deserve and grace for the shame we do; No, to the loneliness that dogs our steps for the Risen One is with us always. Let me say again. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Great Yes of God. It has left us an empty tomb and an open door. It will in God’s good time and grace sweep our lives clean of death and the unwanted relatives it brings into our homes. Even this Sunday as we say the words, “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” the joy of Easter may escort some these out the door. We can then live our lives in Christ, with Christ and for Christ freely, and for his sake for a hurting and broken world.

May the Peace of the Risen Christ be always with you,

-–(The Rt Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Exploring two Great Easter Themes: Forgiveness and Hope

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there. Listen carefully for a famous Henry Allen “Harry” Ironside (1876-1951) story about forgiveness of sins from the life of czar Nicholas I of Russia.

Posted in * South Carolina, Christology, Easter, Eschatology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Russia, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Ajith Fernando–Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord

In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). When wrong is done, something in us says, “That deserves to be punished.” That is a biblical sentiment. God has given government officials the authority to be agents of his wrath by punishing wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3–4). We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment.

The doctrine of judgment on earth and at the end of time is one of the factors influencing our response to the evil that occurs on earth. God gives us the freedom to take our hands off the revenge cycle. Instead we are told to do what we can do: We are to love our enemies and bless them (Rom. 12:17–21). Without a doctrine of judgment, we would be too bitter to forgive and show love to those who hurt us. Freed from bitterness, we can be agents of healing and reconciliation. This is especially true in a situation like Sri Lanka’s attacks which are being touted as revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks. We can choose to stop the downward spiral of revenge where violence begets violence and huge destruction results.

Revenge is often considered the honorable response to harm in Sri Lankan culture. It comes out of the correct notion that sin must be punished, but misapplied to personal revenge. We must teach our people that personal revenge does not solve problems. We leave it to the state and to God to handle that. That is a hard lesson for our people to learn. But I believe that when it springs from the doctrine of God, there is a convincing base for people to latch onto. How important to teach these aspects of God’s nature to Christians before tragedy strikes!

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Posted in Christology, Evangelicals, Sri Lanka, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Martin Luther for Easter–A Sermon on the Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection

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.

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Posted in Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

The 2019 Easter Sermon from the Bishop of Sheffield

This takes us to the heart of John’s extraordinary Easter message. The thing John celebrates in the resurrection and imminent ascension of the Lord Jesus is the restoration, and the transformation, of relationships. In this case, it’s his relationship with Mary: as he speaks her name and she replies, ‘Dear Rabbi’, their relationship is restored; as he then commissions her to be what the Orthodox Church calls the apostle to the apostles, taking the good news of the resurrection to the other disciples, their relationship is transformed.

And it’s clear from the errand entrusted to Mary that Jesus’ relationships with those other disciples are also about to be restored and transformed. The Lord tells her, ‘Go to my brothers’. Do you know that’s the first time in John’s Gospel that Jesus has referred to them that way? Previously, Jesus has called them his servants, and even his friends. But his death and resurrection have so restored and transformed relationships that he now refers to his disciples as his brothers. Again, Jesus has spoken often in this gospel of ‘the Father’ and even of ‘my Father’. ‘My Father and I are one’ he said, ‘My Father is still working and I am working’. ‘I have come in my Father’s name’. But right here is the first time in John’s Gospel that Jesus has referred to God as ‘your Father’. Again, until this moment Jesus has never spoken of the Father as ‘your God’. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, relationships are not just restored, but transformed: Jesus’ God becomes ‘our God’, his Father becomes ‘our Father’.

And sure enough in the rest of the gospel we will see Jesus’ relationships with his brothers restored and transformed: restored, as he invites sceptical Thomas to see and even to touch his wounds; and transformed as he then commissions him, with the other disciples, in those words ‘As the Father sent me so I send you’; restored, as he gently asks Peter, three times over, ‘Do you love me?’ (once for each denial); and transformed as he then commissions him, equally gently, to feed his sheep (once for each denial).

I must stop. You know, if it wasn’t for the first Easter Day, no one would ever have dreamed of celebrating the Christmas. If it wasn’t for the Lord’s resurrection, there’s no way we’d celebrate his nativity.

So why celebrate the resurrection? According to John, it’s because in and it through it, we become brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus; in it and through it, we find that Jesus’ God is our God, his Father is our Father. In it and through it, our relationships with the Living God are first restored and then transformed, as we first hear the Risen Lord calling us by name, and then hear him commissioning us to share the good news with others.

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Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) George Weigel–Air Turbulence and the Resurrection

If there’s anything Catholics in the United States should have learned over the past two decades, it’s that order—in the world, the republic, and the Church—is a fragile thing. And by “order,” I don’t mean the same old same old. Rather, I mean the dynamic development of world politics, our national life, and the Church within stable reference points that guide us into the future.

Many of those reference points seem to have come unstuck, and that’s why we’re experiencing an unusual amount of air turbulence these days….Those who don’t remember the two decades immediately after Vatican II and haven’t taken the trouble to learn that history are understandably upset by the fragility of order in the Church today. But they should also understand that this is not 1968, or 1978, or even 1988, and that a lot of ballast was put into the Barque of Peter during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For all the challenges it faces, and despite the determination of some to revisit what they regard as the glorious Seventies, the Church in the U.S. is in far, far better condition to withstand the air turbulence of the moment than it was forty years ago. And that’s because truth, spoken winsomely and in charity, but without fudging, has proven a powerful instrument of evangelization and spiritual growth in a culture wallowing in various confusions.

At the bottom of the bottom line is the Resurrection. It’s entirely possible to hold fast to the truth that Jesus of Nazareth was raised by God to a new form of bodily life after his crucifixion and be deeply concerned about the state of the Church today. But it’s not possible to know the Risen Lord and to indulge in despair. Despair died on the cross and unshakeable hope was born at Easter. That’s why Easter faith is the surest anchor for all of us in turbulent times.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

John Piper for Easter–I Have Seen the Lord

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.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Kate Bowler–Living into Easter Joy

We are an Easter people living in the story that started under the bright stars in a stable at Bethlehem, moved into the darkness that shrouded Christ on the cross, and now stands breathless before biggest occasion to crash into our history. Fleming Rutledge calls it “the transhistorical event,” where the true nature of God was revealed in Christ.

Rutledge says:

The resurrection is not a set piece. It is not an isolated demonstration of divine dazzlement… Since the resurrection is God’s mighty transhistorical Yes to the historically crucified Son, we can assert that the crucifixion is the most important historical event that has ever happened. …The resurrection ratifies the cross as the way “until He comes.” The Crucifixion (44)

We live in the now and the ‘not yet.’ And in the meantime, which is what we have—the ‘meantime’—our songs are like those in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings on the Fields of Cormallen, where the minstrel sang to all the host “until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together, and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! Alleluia!

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Albert Mohler–A Tale of Two Worldviews: Liberal Theology Without Illusions

From the outset, Jones just dismisses the Bible’s consistent truth claim of the bodily, physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and its centrality to the gospel. The empty tomb in Mark’s gospel clearly suggests that the dead man who once resided in the tomb is now alive—furthermore, the other three gospels and the entire testimony of the New Testament is filled with the resurrection’s importance to the Christian faith and community.

None of this matters to Dr. Jones. She said that the empty tomb merely symbolizes that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.” Jones reduces the death and resurrection of Christ to an emotive experience, recasting the empty tomb not as Jesus’ triumph over sin and death but a symbolic expression of unquenchable love.

Kristof then asks, “But without a physical resurrection, isn’t there a risk that we are left with just the crucifixion?” The apostle Paul had this question on his mind in 1 Corinthians 15, when he wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The apostle teaches that without Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Christians worship a dead man, cursed on a cross—and there is no hope because mankind remains under the pangs of sin.

Jones, however, views the situation quite different from the apostle. She answered, “Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?”

Let’s be clear. She is teaching a religion here – but that religion is not Christianity.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

“[God] humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and godforsaken, so that all the godless and godforsaken can experience communion with him”

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Theology

We need “more emphasis on the blood of Christ, as well as the brutal method of his death”

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.

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.

Fleming Rutledge in a Christianity Today interview (emphasis mine)

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Theology: Scripture

“Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on him still”

“MY GOD, MY GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?” As Christ speaks those words, he too is in the wilderness. He speaks them when all is lost. He speaks them when there is nothing even he can hear except for the croak of his own voice and when as far as even he can see there is no God to hear him. And in a way his words are a love song, the greatest love song of them all. In a way his words are the words we all of us must speak before we know what it means to love God as we are commanded to love him.

“My God, my God.” Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on him still because he can do no other. Not even the cross, not even death, not even life, can destroy his love for God. Not even God can destroy his love for God because the love he loves God with is God’s love empowering him to love in return with all his heart even when his heart is all but broken.

–Frederick Buechner A Room Called Remember (HarperOne:New York, 1992 paperback ed. of 1984 original), Chapter 4

Posted in Christology, Holy Week