BLOG ARCHIVES

  • WHAT CHRISTIANS MEAN BY TALKING ABOUT THE BLOOD

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

    No Comments

    208118242_05976489d7

    The Christian religion places a huge emphasis on blood.  Specifically, this faith is centered on the blood of One Man (and his sacrificial death) and the temple rituals found in the Old Testament point to this Man.

    What happened on the cross has remarkable implications for us today.  As Ted Olson wrote in an older piece in Christianity Today, Jesus’ blood “justifies, redeems, reconcile, sanctifies, justifies, cleans, frees, ransoms, brings peace, and unites us.”  The New Testament writers connect so many pieces of Christ’s salvific work with his blood.

    For those in Christ, we have joy beyond all measure because what Jesus has done.

    My hope is built on nothing less

    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

    All other ground is sinking sand.

    Photo Credit: mattedesign via Compfight cc

  • WHY GOD ACCEPTED THE BLAME

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

    2 Comments

    2364274256_dfc0eb7f23

    One of the beautiful elements of Christian theology is that injustice and evil do not have a final word.  Justice needs to be satisfied and something needs to be done about the genocides, the murders in major cities, and the young girl who died of cancer this morning.  These things should not get the final word.

    Richard John Neuhaus points out in his breathtakingly poignant devotional work Death on a Friday Afternoon that somebody has to be blamed for the pain and hurt in the world (theodicy).  If somebody has to be blamed, then the finger of humanity is pointed directly at God (if there is a God).

    God is guilty.

    God is to be blamed.

    Neuhaus writes,

    “The word ‘theodicy’ means the judgment of God—not God judging us but our judging God.  The philosophical problem of theodicy is that of trying to square God’s ways with our sense of justice.  The assumes that we know what justice is, but the entire story the Bible tells begins with the error of the presumption.  It is the original error of our wanting to name good and evil.  Right from the start Adam tried to put God in the dock, making God responsible for the fall because, after all, God gave him the woman who tempted him to sin.  From the beginning we see the argument building up to humanity’s cry, ‘God is guilty!’—building up to the derelict nailed to the cross.”

    God accepted the verdict we passed on him He accepted what had to be done about what we had done.

    When we look at the bloody, mess of a man on the cross, we see how far God went for you and me—he abided by a sham of a trial and subsequently gets the final word about injustice.

    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.”

    Jesus gets the final word.  He gets the final word and ensures the final word is rooted in both justice and mercy.  He said, “It is finished” on the cross and in his last words of the Bible (Revelation 22), he said, “Surely I am coming soon.”

    Amen.

    Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

  • REMBRANDT AND THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

    No Comments
    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6
    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt
    “Raising the Cross” by Rembrandt

    ***

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21
    “The Descent from the Cross” by Rembrandt
    ***
    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons
     

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.
    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

    (Repost from the archives)

  • DARKNESS AND THE SON OF GOD

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    1 Comment

    Cross in the fields

    Passion Week has begun.

    In the Church, we move from a time of celebration, hailing the arrival of a Messiah, the one who will right the world and remove the evils that plague it.  We move from Palm Sunday and shouts of joy to the moments of darkness on Good Friday.

    Betrayal.

    Beating.

    Loneliness.

    Crucified naked on a hillside.

    I cannot begin to fathom what that must have felt like.  To be led through the streets in a victory parade a few short days before being led through the streets beaten, stripped, and exhausted.  This Messiah was betrayed by a friend and nearly everyone he loved deserted him as he went through the kangaroo court and was ultimately disposed of in incredible cruelty.

    But why?

    If it is true, why would this man, who claimed to be equal to God, subject himself to brutality?  And if the story is true, he was also forgotten by God.

    If this didn’t happen, then this whole Christian thing is pleasant morality tales at its best and manipulative in its worst.  Yet, if it’s true, then perhaps Jesus knows what it’s like to be misunderstood, lonely, betrayed, and forgotten.  Maybe he can sympathize with our weaknesses and baggage.  If he rose from the grave, as the initial generation of disciples claimed (to the point of their own deaths), then he might be able to do something about it.

    But before we jump to the majesty of Easter, we wait in the dark week when the Son of God was marred beyond recognition.

    For now, we wait in darkness.

    Photo: Pavel P. via Compfight

  • FINDING FORGIVENESS AT THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

    No Comments

    The Three Crosses

    At my church a couple of weeks ago we sang the below hymn from Charles Wesley and I wanted to share it with you all accompanied by this sketch from Rembrandt van Rijn.

    Arise My Soul, Arise

    Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
    The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
    Before the throne my surety stands,
    Before the throne my surety stands,
    My name is written on His hands.

    He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
    His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
    His blood atoned for all our race,
    His blood atoned for all our race,
    And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

    Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
    They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
    “Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
    “Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
    “Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

    The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
    He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
    His Spirit answers to the blood,
    His Spirit answers to the blood,
    And tells me I am born of God.

    My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
    He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
    With confidence I now draw nigh,
    With confidence I now draw nigh,
    And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

     

  • WHEN I YELLED “CRUCIFY HIM!”

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Liturgy, Theology

    1 Comment

    My wife and I were at our church on Palm Sunday when we encountered something new.  I’ve read the four Passion Week accounts of the Gospels many times in my life.  Whether reading them aloud, or in my head, I never came across a certain dramatization of it.  But this past week, this time, it was different.

    We read through the Scripture readings for that morning, working our way through the triumphant Palm Sunday narrative.  In the Anglican tradition, worship is more of a whole body tradition and is not a pure spectator sport as some church services have been set up as.  On Palm Sunday you are given a branch, to wave in the air.  The palms are there to help draw you into the story, to place you on the road to Jerusalem, seeing the Messiah ride up into the city.  Palm Sunday is a triumphant day, as the Messiah finally arrives on the scene to set up his Kingdom.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

    A few short days later in Jerusalem, shouts would come from the crowd again.  While the congregation at my church cried out similarly in joy when Jesus came to the city, the congregation would flip a few minutes later.  

    The reading from Luke 23 was read with several voices.  A narrator, Pilate, and Jesus all were voiced by three different people, yet the part of the crowds were played by, well, the crowd.  It was here that I was placed among the people who shouted “Crucify him!”  

    How often does that happen though?  How often do I flip from praises to curses?  How do you line up?

    I don’t like being put in that spot.  Admitting that I would be in the crowd, chanting “Crucify him!”  Wanting a murderer to be set free, and this Jesus guy to be put in his place.  I know if I was in the crowd, I probably would have joined the others.  I know if I was put in the sandals of Peter, I too would have fled from my faith.  

    I readily admit my weakness to you, because I know while my weakness is great, the strength of the Risen Lord is far greater.  Where I am strong, he is stronger still.  The Risen Lord that we celebrated on Easter ascended to the right hand of his Father, and one day he will return again and put the world to rights.  Even when I yelled “Crucify Him!”, this gracious God would let me come back into his fold.  For the crucified Christ is also a forgiving Lord.

    Amen.

  • REMBRANDT AND GOOD FRIDAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

    No Comments

    As you read this, I hope you might take a few minutes this Good Friday to read and chew on the words below.  Place yourself at the sites of each biblical scene, and try to picture yourself there.  Here is a piece of music that I hope you turn on in the background as you do this, give it a shot and really get into the God’s story of redemption.  Be blessed my friends through the work of Edvard Grieg, Rembrandt, and most importantly Jesus, our crucified Lord.

     

    ————————————————————

    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6

    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt

     

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21

    “The Descent from the Cross” Rembrandt

    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

     

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.

    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

     

  • WHEN GOD DIED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Liturgy, Theology

    No Comments

    If there is one thing you need to know about the Roman Empire, it’s that the dominant ancient power knew how to kill people and to keep them under their thumb.

    If people ever stepped out of line, or if there were ever any hints of rebellion, the Roman authorities would take drastic measure.  They would take an individual, a rebel leader or criminal, and do a really horrible thing to them.  They would take the person and hang them on a cross outside of a major city with a sign next to them stating why they were slowly dying on that piece of wood.  During the infamous Spartacus slave/gladiator revolt in the First Century BC, the Roman authorities fought a massive insurrection.  They were finally able to put it down through the use of force, capturing a large number of former slaves.  

    What did they do to the six thousand people they captured?  They crucified them ALL to crosses along a major road.  6,000 people, lining the Appian Way in Italy.  6,000!  

    Thousands of executed people would have sent one message, “Don’t mess with Rome!”  (Unless you wanted to end up hanging naked, suffocating to death)

    When you hear nonsense that Jesus was not killed on Friday, don’t listen to it.  The Romans knew how to kill people.  Jesus would not have “swooned” on the cross, he would not have been spared the ultimate punishment through passing out on the cross.  While certain scholars and religions (namely Islam) deny the historical death of Jesus, according to ancient non-Christian sources, there was a man named Jesus and he was executed.

    But his death is not the end of the story!  Just wait for a few more days, and dawn will break.  But for now, it’s OK to feel sorrowful.  I encourage you to attend a Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday service at your church (or a nearby RCC, Anglican, or Presbyterian should have one).

    Isaiah 53:4-9
     
    4 Surely he has borne our griefs
       and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
       smitten by God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
       and with his wounds we are healed.
    6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
       we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
       yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
       and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
       so he opened not his mouth.
    8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
       and as for his generation, who considered
    that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
       stricken for the transgression of my people?
    9 And they made his grave with the wicked
       and with a rich man in his death,
    although he had done no violence,
       and there was no deceit in his mouth.
     
  • DEATH SHALL DIE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Celtic Christianity, Wisdom Wednesday

    No Comments
    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ;
    For those, whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be,
    Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
    Thou’rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
    And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
    And better than thy stroke ;  why swell’st thou then ?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
    And Death shall be no more ;  Death, thou shalt die.
     
    Holy Sonnets X
    John Donne
     

    One day, death shall slip away into the sunset.

    One day, death shall die.  

    This week certainly holds a paradox.  Tomorrow night, the Church throughout the world will remember the night when Jesus was betrayed.  The Church will remember the Last Supper and subsequent betrayal.  This feast that Jesus took part in would have been rooted in the Passover narrative.  His disciples heard the story for years when God acted to bring his people out of bondage in Egypt.  He brought them out, guiding them with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.  He led them and protected them even when they wanted to rebel.  Even when they wanted to go back to the land of chains.Last Supper Wide

    There was a new chapter being written in this book of redemption though.  There was another meal being used to reinterpret the story of Egypt.  There was another feast meant to point his friends towards another act of redemption.  God had indeed come down to lead his people, this time it would be to defang death and to offer life to the community of the redeemed.  

    One day death will die, but that promise only comes through one man’s death.  While sin and death came through Adam’s disobedience a long time ago, this “new Adam” (as one New Testament writer puts it) would bring in new life through an act of obedience.  While Adam’s act of eating something (a natural part of life) brought on death, Jesus’ crucifixion would clear a pathway for life.  This paradox makes my head spin sometimes, but you know what?  We don’t have to fully understand this to be a part of the community of the redeemed.  

    Death shall die, my friends.  For those who are in Christ, the sting of death has been removed.  I hope you join this family, all you need to do is trust in the words of Christ and believe that God raised him from the dead.  Through one man’s death, all men and women are offered life.  

    Aren’t you grateful for that paradox?

  • REMBRANDT AND THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Lent

    No Comments

     

    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    Isaiah 53:4-6

    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,

    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    II Corinthians 5:21

    “The Descent from the Cross” Rembrandt

    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.

    -Irenaeus of Lyons

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.

    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]