Category : Christology

Kendall Harmon’s recent sermon at Saint Michael’s, Charleston, SC

The sermon starts about 25:30 in.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

Leo The Great for His Feast Day–Concerning the twofold nativity and nature of Christ

Not knowing, therefore, what he was bound to think concerning the incarnation of the Word of God, and not wishing to gain the light of knowledge by researches through the length and breadth of the Holy Scriptures, he might at least have listened attentively to that general and uniform confession, whereby the whole body of the faithful confess that they believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son , our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. By which three statements the devices of almost all heretics are overthrown. For not only is God believed to be both Almighty and the Father, but the Son is shown to be co-eternal with Him, differing in nothing from the Father because He is God from God , Almighty from Almighty, and being born from the Eternal one is co-eternal with Him; not later in point of time, not lower in power, not unlike in glory, not divided in essence: but at the same time the only begotten of the eternal Father was born eternal of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. And this nativity which took place in time took nothing from, and added nothing to that divine and eternal birth, but expended itself wholly on the restoration of man who had been deceived : in order that he might both vanquish death and overthrow by his strength , the Devil who possessed the power of death. For we should not now be able to overcome the author of sin and death unless He took our nature on Him and made it His own, whom neither sin could pollute nor death retain. Doubtless then, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit within the womb of His Virgin Mother, who brought Him forth without the loss of her virginity, even as she conceived Him without its loss.

But if he could not draw a rightful understanding (of the matter) from this pure source of the Christian belief, because he had darkened the brightness of the clear truth by a veil of blindness peculiar to himself, he might have submitted himself to the teaching of the Gospels. And when Matthew speaks of the Book of the Generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham Matthew 1:1, he might have also sought out the instruction afforded by the statements of the Apostles. And reading in the Epistle to the Romans, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, which He had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scripture concerning His son, who was made unto Him of the seed of David after the flesh Romans 1:1-3, he might have bestowed a loyal carefulness upon the pages of the prophets. And finding the promise of God who says to Abraham, In your seed shall all nations be blessed Genesis 12:3, to avoid all doubt as to the reference of this seed, he might have followed the Apostle when He says, To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He says not and to seeds, as if in many, but as it in one, and to your seed which is Christ Galatians 3:16 . Isaiah’s prophecy also he might have grasped by a closer attention to what he says, Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is interpreted God with us. And the same prophet’s words he might have read faithfully. A child is born to us, a Son is given to us, whose power is upon His shoulder, and they shall call His name the Angel of the Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the age to come. And then he would not speak so erroneously as to say that the Word became flesh in such a way that Christ, born of the Virgin’s womb, had the form of man, but had not the reality of His mother’s body. Or is it possible that he thought our Lord Jesus Christ was not of our nature for this reason, that the angel, who was sent to the blessed Mary ever Virgin, says, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you: and therefore that Holy Thing also that shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God Luke 1:35, on the supposition that as the conception of the Virgin was a Divine act, the flesh of the conceived did not partake of the conceiver’s nature? But that birth so uniquely wondrous and so wondrously unique, is not to be understood in such wise that the properties of His kind were removed through the novelty of His creation. For though the Holy Spirit imparted fertility to the Virgin, yet a real body was received from her body; and, Wisdom building her a house Proverbs 9:1, the Word became flesh and dwelt in us , that is, in that flesh which he took from man and which he quickened with the breath of a higher life.

–Letter 28.II

Posted in Christology, Church History, Theology

Richard Hooker on Richard Hooker’s Feast Day

But I am besides my purpose when I fall to bewail the cold affection which we bear towards that whereby we should be saved, my purpose being only to set down what the ground of salvation is. The doctrine of the Gospel proposeth salvation as the end, and doth it not teach the way of attaining thereunto? Yes, the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination spake the truth: “These men are the servants of the most high God who show unto us the way of salvation” [Acts 16:17] — “a new and living way which Christ hath prepared for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,” [Heb 10:20] salvation purchased by the death of Christ.

–Learned Discourse on Justification (my emphasis)

Posted in Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Soteriology, Theology

Jeff Miller’s recent Sermon at St Philip’s, Charleston, SC–Render to God the Things that are God’s (Romans 12:1-2)

You may download it there or listen to it directly there. Listen carefully for an important reference to the late Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Program.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Sunday Food for Thought–Dallas Willard on Discipleship and Living Forever

When Mickey Mantle was dying of diseases brought on by a life of heavy drinking, he said that he would have taken better care of himself had he only known how long he was going to live. He gives us a profound lesson. How should we “take care of ourselves” when we are never to cease? Jesus shows his apprentices how to live in the light of the fact that they will never stop living. This is what his students are learning from him.

–Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper, 1998), p. 86, quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(SA) Jesus made “a sinner and a killer” in Chinese textbook

Disturbing reports from China say Communist Party officials have rewritten the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, claiming Jesus stoned the woman to death.

The incident in John 8:3–11 is a powerful testament to Jesus’ forgiveness and his divinity. The account says a mob had surrounded a woman accused of adultery. After facing down the crowd seeking to stone her, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v7).

After the crowd leaves, Jesus stands up and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v10-11).

Reports from Roman Catholic sources and carried by the religious liberty group Bitter Winter say this event in the gospel has been drastically changed in a textbook published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press. The book is reportedly used in ethics and law courses in Chinese secondary vocational schools.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, China, Christology, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon: Up, Down and the Staggering love of God (Phil 2:5-11)

The sermon starts about 19:50 in.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings

C H Spurgeon on God’s Condescension in Philippians 2

What will not Christ do for us who have been given to him by his Father? There is no measure to his love; you cannot comprehend his grace. Oh, how we ought to love him, and serve him! The lower he stoops to save us, the higher we ought to lift him in our adoring reverence. Blessed be his name, he stoops, and stoops, and stoops, and, when he reaches our level, and becomes man, he still stoops, and stoops, and stoops lower and deeper yet: “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself.”

–C H. Spurgeon from a sermon on June 05, 1890 quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon here in the parish in which I serve

Posted in Christology, Church History, Preaching / Homiletics

(CT) Dennis Edwards–The Revolution Will Not Be Videoed: What Paul and Silas might have said about George Floyd and…

For years, black and brown people have been doing the same as Paul in calling out injustice. The apostle Paul’s demands to the magistrates foreshadows Mamie Till’s bold move to have the body of her lynched son, Emmett, open for viewing. She wanted America to see what was allowed to happen to her son. White Christians have blamed victims of violence, waiting for some dirt on the victim to be dug up. White Christians have minimized the actions of the perpetrators by imagining there must be “another side to the story.” Perhaps even worse is the relegation of injustice to the actions of a few bad characters rather than the failings of an entire system and a worldview that vilifies non-whiteness.

The Revolution Is Really About Love

In that Acts 16 story, the magistrates apologize. They also ask Paul and Silas to leave the city. But before the apostles leave, they meet with the newly forming Christian community in Lydia’s house to encourage and admonish them. Surely this church, which now included a jailer, understood how power worked in Philippi and began their own revolution. Judging from what Paul wrote to that church sometime later (from prison!) they were to learn that the revolution means being like Jesus, considering others as more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3–4). The revolution means laying aside privilege in service to others (Phil. 2:5–11). Perhaps white Christian America can be motivated by that.

It is possible to be, like Jesus, angry at injustice while demonstrating and calling for love. In the many times over the years that I’ve been asked to speak about racial injustice, people expect me to end the message with hope. For some reason, those most vulnerable to oppression are the same ones who are supposed to give white people hope. Yet I do think about what moving forward means, especially since my wife and I have adult children and three grandsons. We think about a revolution for them. A revolution of love.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

N.T. Wright on the Ascension and Second Coming of Jesus

Additionally, early Christians were not, as is commonly assumed, bound to a three-tier vision of the universe, i.e., heaven, hell, and earth.

[W]hen the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.

So heaven and earth, understood in this way, are two dimensions of the same reality. They “interlock and intersect in a whole variety of ways even while they retain, for the moment at least, their separate identities and roles.” Combine this with the doctrine of the ascension and we do not have a Jesus who floats up into a heaven “up there” but disappears into a reality we cannot yet see. Because heaven and earth are not yet joined Jesus is physically absent from us. At the same time he is present with us through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, linkages where the two realities meet in the present age.

Read it all.

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

John Stott on the Ascension for Ascension Day

The remedy for unprofitable spiritual stargazing lies in a Christian theology of history, an understanding of the order of events in the divine programme. First, Jesus returned to heaven (Ascension). Secondly, the Holy Spirit came (Pentecost). Thirdly, the church goes out to witness (Mission). Fourthly, Jesus will come back (Parousia). Whenever we forget one of these events, or put them in the wrong sequence, confusion reigns. We need especially to remember that between the ascension and the Parousia, the disappearance and the reappearance of Jesus, there stretches a period of unknown length which is to be filled with the church’s world-wide, Spirit-empowered witness to him. We need to hear the implied message of the angels: ‘You have seen him go. You will see him come. But between that going and coming there must be another. The Spirit must come, and you must go—into the world for Christ.’

–John R W Stott, The Message of Acts:To the ends of the earth (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Academic, 1990), p.23

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Missions, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Kamesh Sankaran–The Humbling of a Proud Hindu: How God got my attention when I thought I was too good for grace

My experience of becoming a Christian wasn’t like flipping a switch. Believing the gospel didn’t automatically lead me to conformity to Jesus Christ or produce the immediate fruit of righteousness in me. While I desperately desired the gift of forgiveness, I was reluctant to change anything else about my life or worldview. Given the enormous differences between Christianity and my earlier Hindu beliefs, my new life had to be nurtured before spiritual growth could occur.

Intellectually, I wrestled with three fundamental questions: Who is God? Who am I? What is my relationship with God? The more I pondered these questions, the clearer it became that the answers offered by Hinduism and Christianity are utterly incompatible. I had to reject the former to receive the latter. Functionally, I had to rethink all of life from a clean slate because I simply did not have a framework or vocabulary to make sense of my new identity.

Paul needed an Ananias to spark his conversion, but he also needed a Barnabas to accompany him in his new journey of faith. God similarly ordained the support I needed to grow as a disciple. While Hinduism ties one’s religious standing to one’s birth status, Christianity teaches that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. My new Christian community cared not about my first birth but about my new birth: my confession of faith, my commitment to fellowship, and my desire to live wholly for Christ.

Every genuine Christian conversion is a miracle—a transition from spiritual death to eternal life, from enmity with God to adoption into his family. Yet God seems to take special delight in seemingly impossible cases—like Paul, a former persecutor—so that the riches of his grace might shine all the brighter. When I consider the chasm between my old outlook on life and my new life in Christ, I can only marvel at God’s work of redemption—and fall down at his feet in praise.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Hinduism, Other Faiths, Theology: Scripture

Frederick Buechner for Easter–‘It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth’

from there:

It is not a major production at all, and the minor attractions we have created around it—the bunnies and baskets and bonnets, the dyed eggs—have so little to do with what it’s all about that they neither add much nor subtract much. It’s not really even much of a story when you come right down to it, and that is of course the power of it. It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth. If the Gospel writers had wanted to tell it in a way to convince the world that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, they would presumably have done it with all the skill and fanfare they could muster. Here there is no skill, no fanfare. They seem to be telling it simply the way it was. The narrative is as fragmented, shadowy, incomplete as life itself. When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty. That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.

The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness. You can’t make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn’t move people to give presents to each other or sing old songs. It ebbs and flows all around us, the Eastertide. Even the great choruses of Handel’s Messiah sound a little like a handful of crickets chirping under the moon.

He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death. What is left now is the emptiness. There are those who, like Magdalen, will never stop searching it till they find his face.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

Scot McKnight–The Gospel and its Benefits

You may now see what I’m doing there: those who turn the gospel into its benefits and then construct the gospel for the sake of personal benefits (salvation, redemption, justification, transformation, meaning in life, going to heaven) are glory-makers like the selfish athlete. As sport is about the city and its team, so the gospel is about God and his Son Jesus. Yes, for sure, the gospel brings benefits but it is first about Jesus – the gospel story is the story of Israel that finds its climax in the story of Jesus – and then about us. (See King Jesus Gospel)

Look at the gospel summary passages in the New Testament and you will see the point (1 Cor 15:1-28). Where’s the focus?

“What’s in it for us?,” is the question asked by the one who turns the gospel around into a benefit-package. Benefits themselves can be distorted and benefits can distort the gospel.

Evangelism that focuses on Jesus and tells people about Jesus and draws people to the glory who is Jesus have it right; those who entice people into the benefits that come from the gospel are turning it around. Robert Jenson in his Systematic Theology, says this: “gospel messengers,” are ones who say “We are not here to entice you into our religion by benefits allegedly found only in it. We are here to introduce you to the true god, for whatever he can do with you – which may well be suffering and oppression” (1.51). That’s right.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–God’s Grace to the Slow of Heart to Believe (Luke 24:13-35)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.You may also suffer through the video version there (the sermon starts at about 23:15 in).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

Read it all.

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

(Christian History) For His Feast Day–Anselm on the Incarnation

BOOK 1. 11. What it is to sin, and to make satisfaction for sin.
Anselm.We must ask how God gets rid of men’s sins, but first what is sin itself means.

Boso. You explain and I will listen.

Anselm. If a man or angel always gave to God what is due to him, he would never sin.

Boso. I cannot deny that.

Anselm. So sin is simply not giving God what we owe.

Boso. What debt do we owe to God?

Anselm. To subject every wish to his will.

Boso. That’s perfectly true.

Anselm. No one who pays this debt commits sin. Everyone who does not pay it does sin. This is the righteousness of the heart, of the will, and it is the sole and complete debt which we owe to God, and which God requires of us. If someone sins, he has to restore what he has taken away, before he can be clear of fault . So then, every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God. This is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God.

Boso. This is somewhat alarming, but I cannot make any rational objection to it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Church History, Theology

Karl Barth for Easter-‘the proclamation of a war already won’

[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

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Tom Wright–The Church must stop trivialising Easter

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.

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

At the Center

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

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

–John Updike (1932-2009)

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Poetry & Literature

The only hope we have for making a better world

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

Posted in Christology, Easter

Easter and the Coronavirus–An Interview with South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence by Joy Hunter

Bishop, for many of us this will be the first time in our lives we won’t be in church on Easter morning. No Easter lilies; No packed crowd singing “Welcome Happy Morning;” No flowering of the cross. No big Easter dinner with extended family. The feeling of malaise is giving way to something darker. How are we to approach Easter this year?

There’s some remarkable irony there. Just think about that first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb on the first day of the week just as the sun was rising. They were not going in the way you and I go to the Easter morning service with a great deal of expectation and hope, waiting to say, “Alleluia, the Lord is risen,” and hear one another say, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” They were going with spices to anoint the buried body of Jesus. They were hardly in a mood of expectation, of joy, of hope. They were going there overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed with what they had lost, what they did not have, who they could not see, the one they could not hold.

If we go through all of the Easter stories, one after another it is of Jesus appearing to a relatively small group of people. Not in a religious setting. Not in a synagogue, not in a temple, but in a home. It may be that we need to rediscover the power of the resurrection to lift us in the midst of our gloom, in the midst of our daily lives. It’s not something we have to go to to experience him, but whenever we gather in his name, he can be among us. That’s one aspect we need to cultivate and, perhaps, rediscover.

To be honest, I will miss it too—Easter morning at church. I will miss singing, “Welcome happy morning.” “The Day of Resurrection,” all of those great Easter hymns. I think I can play them here at home. In fact, I think I will!

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

‘Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man’

Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.

And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”

Read it all from Benedict XVI.

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

An In-between Moment

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.

–Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week

The Transition

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.

–Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)

Posted in Christology, Holy Week

Joel Garver on the 20th century’s greatest Theologian of Holy Saturday

From here:

Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.

In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin. As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):

[Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.

We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:

Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead…Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.

According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness—that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.

–S. Joel Garver on Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Holy Week

Jesus Christ was Buried

“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

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Theology

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 Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Soteriology