Archive for the ‘Cross’ Category

The Cross at the Start of Advent

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

“The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!”

–Charles Wesley, “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending”

HT Charlie Collier, who reminds us that Wesley’s hymn tells us that we begin the new year where it all ends.

I have a beautiful new calendar from Rev. Dr. Ed Searcy, pastor of University Hill Congregation in Vancouver, that begins today and follows the Christian year. I am posting it outside my office.

Bad Friday

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Bad Friday

Good Friday?

I don’t think so.

This is a Friday of failure
of frustration

of betrayal

of denial
of disappointment
of death

of abandonment

of love wasted
of faith shipwrecked
of hope dashed

of evil victorious
of good crushed

This is a bad day
for the disciples
for Jesus
for God
for us.


On Holy Saturday

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Halden Doerge at Inhabitatio Dei has posted a great quote from Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 431.

It is a very different God, and a very different power, that we have discovered in the story of divine self-emptying, God’s capacity for weakness, the ability – without loss of Godness – to suffer and perhaps to die. This is the triune God of Jesus, fulfilled, majestic, glorified through self-expenditure in the lowly ignominy of our farthest country. There is power here, resurrecting, death-destroying, Devil-defeating; but it is the power of love, defying human expectation, which flowers in contradiction and negation, allowing sin its increase and giving death its day of victory, but only the more abundantly to outstrip both in the fecundity of grace and life. To live in the face of death an Easter Saturday existence, trusting in the weak but powerful love of the crucified and buried God, is itself to be objective, turned outward, away from self-reliance and self-preoccupation, away from our own determination to conquer death, which is in fact self-defeating and destructive. Instead, we are invited bravely and with frankness to admit or own defenselessness against the foe and entrust our self and destiny to the love of God which in its defenselessness proves creative and victorious.

Palm/Passion Sunday (reprise)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

First published March 31, 2009:

Not everyone knows that many parts of the Christian tradition have renamed “Palm” Sunday, “Passion” Sunday, referring to the passion, or suffering, of our Lord in the week to come. Some churches and traditions currently use both names (“Palm/Passion Sunday”–a bit odd-looking), perhaps thinking of this time as a transition period between the old name and the new. Most of us probably have an intuitive preference for “Palm” over “Passion.” We like the palm-waving, the acclamations, maybe even a parade with a real donkey. It’s a festive occasion, a chance to celebrate a little Easter and Ascension before the doom and gloom of Holy Week–a brief respite from Lent before Lent hits one last time, hits like a ton of bricks.

That might be part of the problem, and the reason for a need to change the name. The “triumphal entry” is full of paradoxes, some of which are obvious (a king on a donkey), while others are not. It is too easy to forget that this king embodies a countercultural kind of royalty, a kingship not of traditional power and glory but one of self-giving and suffering. It is too easy to separate the Palm-Sunday Jesus from the Good-Friday Jesus and then to conclude that somehow the Good-Friday Jesus is only a temporary figure between the Palm-Sunday Jesus and the Easter Jesus. 

Nothing could be further from the truth about Jesus. He is king and lord, not in spite of Good Friday, but because of Good Friday. He reigns from the cross, as the Gospel-writers each tell us in their own way. We give him “all glory, laud, and honor” as our king and lord because his cross reveals the true nature of his kingship and of God: self-giving, forgiving, powerful-in-powerlessness love. Palm Sunday is Passion Sunday, and vice versa. The “Palm/Passion” people have it right, as odd as it may look.

Crossquotes (3)

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Paul’s mission was to seek to “order the lives of Christian congregations by pulling everything into the tremendous gravitational field of the cross.” (Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul, p. 93)

(During Lent I will be posting some well-known and lesser known quotations about the cross. If their source is not indicated, then the author of this blog post is the source. I invite any reflections or observations about them.)

Crossquotes (2)

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

“Those who bear crosses work with the grain of the universe.” (John Howard Yoder)

“The cross is not only the source, but also the shape, of our salvation.”

(During Lent I will be posting some well-known and lesser known quotations about the cross. If their source is not indicated, then the author of this blog post is the source. I invite any reflections or observations about them.)

Crossquotes (1)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

“The cross is the signature of the Risen One.” (Ernst Käsemann).

“The cross is the signature of the Eternal One.”

(During Lent I will be posting some well-known and lesser known quotations about the cross. If their source is not indicated, then the author of this blog post is the source. I invite any reflections or observations about them.)

A Good, “Storied” Lent to All

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I am back from a wonderful trip to Turkey and Greece, about which I will blog in the near future. Our Turkish guide with whom I have worked for years, is a kind and sensitive man who has a deep respect for Christians. He had never before been with me and a group on Ash Wednesday, so he asked me at breakfast how he should greet everyone. “Happy Ash Wednesday?” he asked. “Happy Lent?” I was a bit surprised by both the question and his suggested greetings, but quickly and rather unreflectively responded that the greeting felts a bit oxymoronic (or some similar term) and explained why, while also noting that in my experience no greetings were used at the beginning of Lent. So I suggested either to say nothing or to wish people a “Good Lent.”

So what might a good Lent look like?

Having had no time to blog for 10 days, I was happy to find Daniel Kirk’s post called “A Storied Lent” upon returning this morning. By “storied,” Daniel means recalling and re-living the story of the cross. I will have more to say about this subject, too.

Wishing all a good, storied Lent.

Paul and the Incarnation

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

We students of Paul tend to be rather myopic about the role of the cross in his theology and spirituality. Some of us have begun to broaden a bit to grant the resurrection a more significant role. But few of us have sufficiently listened to Paul on the subject of incarnation.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me, at least, that for Paul incarnation is as inseparable from the cross as is resurrection. A few texts to keep in mind:

Phil 2:5-8

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Note here that there are no fewer than four phrases that express incarnation—(1) emptied himself, (2) taking the form of a slave, (3) being born in human likeness, (4) being found in human form—to anticipate and complement the subsequent stress on the cross. To have the mind of Christ is to be incarnational as well as cruciform, and the two realities, both Christologically and practically, are mutually interpreting.

2 Corinthians 8:9

9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Here Paul grounds his plea for generosity on the part of the Corinthians in the incarnation. This is one of Paul’s “interchange” texts that connects his Christology to his soteriology: Christ became what we are so that we might become what he is, as the early Fathers put it. But also, as in Philippians 2, this text is not only about Christology and incarnation, but also about the mind of Christ and ethics.

Romans 8:3-4

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is another kind of “interchange” text, with the emphasis on God’s initiative (rather than Christ’s), but again with a combination of soteriology and ethics. There is also a very evident Trinitarian theology here. (2 Corinthians 9:15 is also more theocentric, balancing 2 Corinthians 8:9: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 5:21 is similar in structure to Romans 8:3-4, but its emphasis is on the cross.)

Galatians 4:4-6

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

This is perhaps the first text people think of when they say “incarnation” and “Paul” in the same breath. Like Romans 8:3-4, here there is a Trinitarian theology expressed in the parallelism between God’s sending of the Son and God’s sending of the Spirit. The soteriology is expressed as redemption and adoption (see also Romans 3:21-26, with emphasis on the cross, and Romans 8:1-17, with similar emphasis on the experience of adoption and knowing God as Father).

With these texts in mind, we can draw five very significant conclusions:

1. Incarnation and cross are inseparable.
2. Both incarnation and cross are necessary for our salvation.
3. Both incarnation and cross express the self-giving love of God in Christ.
4. Both incarnation and cross should narratively shape the Christian believer and community into the image of Christ, decisively affecting Christian praxis in multiple ways and in all areas of life.
5. A Pauline theology/spirituality of theosis (becoming like God, in Christ, by the Spirit) is able to hold incarnation and cross together. And with that link, incarnation, cross, and resurrection/exaltation are all tied together in Paul.

(In addition, at least implicitly, the parousia may be parallel to the incarnation. But that’s for another day. Now we only need to discern how aspects of the “life of Christ”—or at least his teachings—fit into Paul’s narrative theology from incarnation to exaltation. Not enough work has been done here, either.)

“Cruciformity” Resources?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I am writing a brief (750 words) dictionary article on “cruciformity.” I have space for three additional bibliographical items besides my own book. Does anyone have any suggestions? I have three in mind, but I am open to ideas.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the article, which defines the term:

“Cruciformity”—from “cruciform” (cross-shaped) and “conformity”—means conformity to the cross, to Christ crucified. Cruciformity is the ethical dimension of the theology of the cross found throughout the NT and the Christian tradition. Paradoxically, because the living Christ remains the crucified one, cruciformity is Spirit-enabled conformity to the indwelling crucified and resurrected Christ. It is the ministry of the living Christ, who re-shapes all relationships and responsibilities to express the self-giving, life-giving love of God that was displayed on the cross. Although cruciformity often includes suffering, at its heart cruciformity—like the cross—is about faithfulness and love.

I then go on to discuss cruciform existence in the gospels, Paul, and 1 Pet and Rev before mentioning and responding to some objections to a cruciform ethic.

There’s the context. Any suggestions?