The resurrection effectively reversed the charges against Jesus and confirmed his mission. We thus see that if he had saved his life at the cost of his proclaiming the divine lordship, he would have actually made himself independent of God and put himself in equality with him. ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it’ (Mark 8:35 par.). This was true of Jesus himself. He could not be the Son of God by an unlimited duration of his finite existence. No finite being can be one with God in infinite reality. Only as he let his creaturely existence be consumed in service to his mission could Jesus as a creature be one with God. As he did not cling to his life but chose to accept the ambivalence that his mission meant for his person, with all its consequences, he showed himself, from the standpoint of he Easter event, to be obedient to his mission (Rom. 5:19, Heb. 5:8). This obedience led him into the situation of extreme separation from God and His immortality, into the dereliction of the cross. The remoteness from God on the cross was the climax of his self-distinction from the Father. Rightly then, we may say that the crucifixion was integral to his earthly existence.
— Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, Volume 2. (1991) pp. 374, 375.
The Ministerial Association had one program which was very successful and that was the Annual Community Good Friday Service. Because the local Roman Catholic Church had the largest sanctuary of all the churches in town, it was always the location of the service. Years before I came to town, one of the Roman Catholic priests who had been there had written a liturgy for this service. It involved recruiting young people to carry in certain symbols associated with the crucifixion. There was a large wooden cross standing at the end of the center aisle, for all the people to see. The young people would carry the symbols of the crucifixion story up the center aisle, past the cross and place them in the chancel area. Then, there was a reading of the passion story, in which several of us pastors took part. There was a message (the newest pastor in town always got that). Then, there was something called The Veneration of the Cross. (more…)
So, the question Psalm 15 raises for us is this: Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day? We are invited into a life in the presence of God. And, by the grace of God we are enabled to live lives pleasing to God. What are we told about this kind of life? It is a life of wholehearted devotion and a life of inner integrity.
I am reminded of a verse from the New Testament: “…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NRSV). Walking with God means continually walking in the light of God. There is a kind of honesty and openness and transparency to it. Our hearts are open to God and to others — insofar as that is possible for us.
Now, notice the qualities of the person who walks with God in this wholehearted devotion. (more…)
1. O Love divine, what has thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s co-eternal Son
bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’ immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!
2. Is crucified for me and you,
to bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.
Pardon for all flows from his side:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified! (more…)
Here is a nice quote from Scot McKnight’s book A Community Called Atonement. This appears on page 69, at the end of Chapter 9 on the Crucifixion theme in the New Testament account of atonement. I changed the formatting so that the first part appears as a list.
I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions:
- Jesus dies “with us” — entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way;
- Jesus dies “instead of us” — he enters into our sin, our wrath, our death; and
- Jesus dies “for us” — his death forgives our sin, “declares us right,” absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates a new life where there once was only death.
Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped, as Luther said of theology and life, by the cross. A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world. And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who follow Jesus. The cross reshapes all of life.
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two eons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” — Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)
There is something mysterious about Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was a depth of suffering there that is impossible to imagine. In the gospel of Luke we are told that while he prayed “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 N1V). It is hard to conceive how one we know of as the Son of God could be in such emotional torment. He says to his closest followers: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” There is something incomprehensible about the sorrow of the Savior. Like the disciples, we observe the scene of Gethsemane, as it were, at a distance. There is something here into which we cannot enter. It is beyond us. (more…)
Before his last earthly Passover, Jesus has a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. We are told “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:15). And, during the meal, something amazing and unexpected (actually embarrassing) happens: Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then wipes his feet with her hair. A word of rebuke arises. And Jesus replies with these words:
John 12:7 —
εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό·
“Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”
Mary is the one who understands.
The way John sets the scene we understand as well. He says (verse 1): “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Jesus is with his close friends, but it is “six days before the Passover.” As readers, we know where the story is going even if some of the characters in the drama do not. The shadow of the Cross hangs over Jesus. Passover this year will mean betrayal, rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion. (more…)
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I am impressed by my own spiritual insights. I probably know more about prayer, meditation and contemplation than most Christians do. I have ready many books about the Christian life, and have even written a few myself. Still, as impressed as I am, I am more impressed by the enormous abyss between my insights and my life.
It seems as if I am standing on one side of a huge canyon and see how I should grow toward you, live in your presence and serve you, but cannot reach the other side … where you are. I can speak and write, preach and argue about the beauty and goodness of the life I see on the other side, but how, O Lord, can I get there? Sometimes I even have the painful feeling that the clearer the vision, the more aware I am of the depth of the canyon.
Am I doomed to die on the wrong side of the abyss? Am I destined to excite others to reach the promised land while remaining unable to enter there myself? sometimes I feel imprisoned by my own insights and “spiritual competence.” You alone, Lord, can reach out to me and save me. You alone.
I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I feel faithless most of the time. What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel dark; to keep writing about you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I feel alone. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.
— Henri Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy (1985).
“Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 2, ch. 12.
“Love feels no burden, regards not labors, strives toward more than it attains, argues not of impossibility, since it believes that it may and can do all things. Therefore it avails for all things, and fulfills and accomplishes much where one not a lover falls and lies helpless.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 3, ch. 6.
“It is much safer to obey, than to govern.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 9.
“An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 3.
By G. K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” — Zechariah 9:9 NRSV.
Lord our God,
You are the Faithful One
You have spoken to your people
through lawgivers and prophets and priests.
You have revealed Yourself to us and to all the world in Jesus Christ.
We come before you in prayer.
We recognize Jesus as rightful King.
We rejoice that in Christ,
you come to us in humility:
a King, and yet, “humble and riding on a donkey.”
When we look at our world we are often discouraged.
We see evil and injustice around us.
It often seems a dark and evil time
when whole nations groan and lament.
Help us, Lord our God!
Help us not to give up.
Help us to see You working.
It is our desire that Your will may be done in all things
and that your kingdom may come on earth.
Come, O Lord God,
Come in Jesus Christ,
the Lord and Savior of all the world!
For in all the world,
among all nations,
Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
Jesus Christ is King.
Praise to Your name that you have given us this Lord. Amen.
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that thy will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by thee. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen.
— François Fénelon
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 15:1 this way:
“GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?”
Or we might state it this way:
Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day?
Verse 2 gives us the response to this question: (more…)
No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.
— Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ Book 1, Chapter 20.
Jokes and plays are words and gestures that are not instructive but merely seek to give lively pleasure. We should enjoy them. They are governed by the virtue of witty gaiety to which Aristotle refers (Ethics 1128aI) and which we call pleasantness. A ready-witted man is quick with repartee and turns speech and action to light relief.
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 148, Article 2. (Thomas Gilby translation.)
It is against reason to be burdensome to others, showing no amusement and acting as a wet blanket. Those without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do, are called grumpy and rude.
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 148, Article 4. (Thomas Gilby translation.)
Actions done jestingly are not directed to any external end; but merely to the good of the jester, in so far as they afford him pleasure or relaxation.
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Question 1, Article 6, Reply to Objection 1. (Standard translation.)
Unfortunately, the Wesleyan tradition (beginning with dear old Mr. Wesley himself) has not taken such an approving stance toward levity.
This is truly unfortunate, since humor and laughter are, in themselves, psychologically healthy and good.
This is clearly one of several places where the Holiness tradition needs to be corrected.