Archives For Easter

This weekend is about a monumental moment in time. No matter how hard we try to evade it, it still confronts us with a monumental Word, whose scarred reach, stretches further into the hearts of men and women, than is at times fathomable.

Will all that will be written over the course of this Easter weekend, grasp the weight of the events it represents? Through all the scripted thoughts, edited paragraphs and literary considerations, can any of us really claim to understand the gravitas of those three days?

Can we even truly claim to have a superior insight over against those who not only found themselves swept up in those events, but came to give their lives for them? Can we really afford to discount, detach and de-construct the accounts, seeking to reduce our own responsibility to hear and act, by cheapening theirs? This weekend, what if we were to actually hear and see what and who stands before us? What if we trimmed off the fashionable arrogance and could hear, then see what and who actually stood before them?

That, Word became flesh, testifies to an event. This event both comforts and terrifies us.  By it God speaks. He freely chooses to transform the world; speaking life into deserts and renewing deserted places. By this decision the creature is realigned; reconciled; physically embraced by its creator. It is by this Word that we are taught of how humanities attempts to conquer, mountain, monster and myth, will not succeed if it includes the corrupted primal quest to supersede God. God cannot be devoured or surpassed.

He is free and in His freedom He chooses to act in His Son for us, on behalf of us to be with us. Inviting us to be with Him. We see this thundering throughout history and we hear this resolutely spoken throughout the biblical text:

“I will be your God and you shall be my people.”

 

Cross Easter 25th March 2016

 

As Karl Barth, in 1942, wrote:

‘And God has chosen this man in the election of Jesus Christ. It is the lost son of man who is partner of the electing God in this covenant […] God does not merely give Himself up to the risk and menace, but He exposes Himself to the actual onslaught and grasp of evil.
Man cannot evade his own responsibility by complaining that God required too much of him, for what God required of Himself on man’s behalf is infinitely greater than what He required of man.
The exchange which took place on Golgotha, when God chose as His throne the malefactor’s cross, when the Son of God bore what the son of man ought to have borne, took place once and for all in fulfilment of God’s eternal will, and it can never be reversed. There is no condemnation-literally none-for those that are in Christ Jesus.
For this reason faith in the divine decision (predestination) as such and per se means faith in the non-rejection of man, or disbelief in his rejection. Man is not rejected. In God’s eternal purpose it is God Himself who is rejected in His Son.  The self-giving of God consists, the giving and sending of His Son is fulfilled, in the fact that He is rejected in order that we might not be rejected.
Predestination means that from all eternity God has determined upon man’s acquittal at His own cost. It means that God has ordained that in the place of the one acquitted He Himself should be perishing and abandoned and rejected – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ [i]

 

For the duration of this weekend our attention is held, in remembrance, of the Word which calls us to pull back from devouring each other. The call to repentance and the acknowledgement that we cannot do it alone.

For the duration of this weekend our hearts are held to attention, as the sound of nails slamming through the hands of Jesus Christ, echo down to us through history.

For the duration of this weekend, the world is called to attention. Not just to remember, but to anticipate His answer and challenge, decisively spoken on day three.

He who will be, was. He who was, is.

Maranatha!


[i] Barth, K. 1942 CD.II/2 The Doctrine of God: The Election of Jesus Christ, Hendrickson Publishers, (p.167)

Easter Sunday is an anticipation of Pentecost.

Karl Barth writes of the human response being one of ‘unconditional gratitude…because baptism of the Holy Spirit is the active and actualising grace of God. This is because humanity is now ‘free for decision. A decision that conforms to our liberation’ which has come about in the gift of reorientation handed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Barth, C.D IV.4.1, pp.33-3).

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Out and about today, traversing through back roads.

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We had a solid ride, this time around adding a few extra people.

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Not one of the standard Good Fridays, but it was worth taking the team out to fellowship with those God has brought us alongside.

Before we embarked I read out this word from Bonheoffer:

‘Good Friday and Easter – the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgement and grace were revealed to all the world – are just around the corner. Judgement in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross; grace in that hour in which death was swallowed up in victory. It was not human beings who accomplished anything here; no God alone did it. He came to human beings in infinite love. He judged what is human. And he granted grace beyond any merit.’

– (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sermon in Barcelona 11th March 1928. God on is on the cross 2012:87)

 

 

Since summer the idea of reclaiming a small landscape in our backyard, not only to rejuvenate it, but also to plant some food to help my family eat better, has been of huge interest to me.

So for the past three and half months we have been carefully planning the better use of our space.

There are limitations to this that have been beyond our control. So, we’ve walked alongside them to the best of our ability in order to achieve something of value, sustainability and usability. Part of doing this has included implementing ideas which helped to identify and then redefine the use of areas that seemed too small, or were just under organised.

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In truth in a lot of ways it has matured into a homeschool science project. For example: the outcomes of this project, not only directly assists our approach to homeschooling. It also provides an environment where our homeschoolers can study and experience nature, the importance of horticulture and experiment with some of the basic elements within agriculture.

Yesterday we arrived at the final part of that work. Accompanying this was the realisation that, now, it is going to be a matter of letting it grow.

Unfortunately, like most well programmed retail managers I inherited the struggle between active and passive participation i.e: I sometimes wrestle with patience and people pleasing, particularly when positive results are slow to materialise even if an objective has been achieved.

Thankfully, this kind of internal conflict  finds a resolution when I acknowledge the value of stepping back and ‘standing firm’ (Eph.6:13).

Stepping back does not mean losing ground or “letting go” or “taking a back-seat”.

To “let it go” implies “abdicating responsibility” or worse, it suggests dropping any duty of care assigned to me.

Nor does stepping back mean that I “release the garden”, or find some woefully poor excuse “under grace” to ignore my commitment to it.

After all, the garden still needs watering, weeding and pruning.

By taking a step back, I am re-evaluating and observing. This prudently precedes firmly standing on a pre-emptive movement towards, not away from further engagement.

Like transforming a garden and small, apparently unusable areas around our house, transforming space becomes a witness to the process of transformative grace.

If I take a perfectionist stand, the process is compromised; the foundation is weak. If I retain my right to do what I want at the insane pace at which I demand, or am pushed to go, the process is sabotaged; the foundation is weakened further. If I deny grace by refusing to recognise God’s role here then the attempt to reach for the objective ends in utter failure; the foundation is abandoned.

Instead, if I exercise an already present grace by inhaling God’s costly claim on my life, I find myself summoned to ‘stand firm’, only after I have done the best I can with what I have already received.

Out of this flows a response to grace. In other words an actualising of gratitude, and in due course joy, contentment and peace.

A  garden of abundance, tended, loved, redefined, reconciled, redeemed –  life deemed worthy of life, by the giver of life.

‘He knows he must deny himself for the man he needs to be…the burden here is sweet compared to Calvary’

–  (Marie Bellet, via Mrs C )

Preamble to the fall of Empire

I speak into the void.
The sound of my voice echoes back at me;
The reverb of a roosters crow;
Three times reminding me that
I lived and walked beside the precipice.

Here I know the noise of nothingness,
And fear the emptiness of this dawn.
The tyranny of the mob demands solidarity.
We watched as the cloth and metal,

Holding together this rectangular sign of Empire,
its wood, its bark, and their arrogant remarks.
Soon to rise and soon to fall.
Like the crowned and lowering head of its sole occupant;
Like a preamble to the future of the Empire it represents.

I speak into the void and resist what I once feared.
This once victorious nothingness flees.
My eyes strain.
At the sight of this empty tomb the cold emptiness drains
Only anticipation and recollection remain.

Has this strange new kingdom appeared?
Un-expectantly leading without leading,
Exchanging a donkey for a stallion;
I found myself befriended by God’s apocalypse.

Not perceiving, but perceived.
Not asserting about God,
but hearing God assert things about Himself.

This God, alone, become our servant without equal
This man, Jesus, now become, Chief of Kings.
The Christ risen.

The firstborn of the dead; of New Creation;
restoration, reconciliation
Announcing and proclaiming:
Momentum awaiting movement;
movement engaged by loving motivation.

Joy and hope beaming from anticipation fulfilled.

©RL2014: Inspired by Simon Peter of the Gospels and Karl Barth’s discussion on Christology in CD.1.2:  The Mystery of Revelation, 1938

Advent days 20-22:

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Christmas Day 1915.

‘By Christmas there was a widespread popular sense for a thoroughgoing reconciliation in no-man’s land. What had happened at Christmas in 1914 was the needful precedent. It was a sort of playful legend in the army. On Christmas Day there would be a going over and a shaking of hands and exchange of souvenirs and drinks. Both sides looked forward to it.

But the authorities evidently thought it dangerous. Orders to the effect that there should be no fraternisation were sent out, and a staff-officer here and there spent Christmas Eve in the trenches to see that the orders were carried out. He could not however effect very much…At dawn therefore parties went over, and whole battalions might have followed them had not the artillery at once set up a barrage. It was found also that sentries on both sides had been ordered to fire. Some obeyed, some did not. Meanwhile the troops about Neuve Chapelle and Aubers got across in large bodies. Even on the Guards’ front men risked their lives to shake hands. Did not one thus lose his life that morning!

There is a little old cemetery by the side of the road a mile or so from Laventie, and there lie prominently side by side two corporals of the Sixth Black Watch (Newell and Willis) and behind their graves is that of a certain Sergeant Oliver[i] who perished on Christmas Day…On all graves are weeds except on that of the man who gave his life to shake hands on Christmas Day’[ii].

There are some parallels here that meet with the Christ story. For instance light dawns on a dark day and is quickly extinguished.

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Source: Paul Fussell 1974:138 Oxford Uni Press, Schweizer illustriete Zeitung; The “Comrade in White”.

Similar to the authorities attempts to extinguish Jesus, soldiers on both sides of the trenches in World War One rose to match hope with peace, and experienced attempts by earthly authorities to extinguish their efforts.

They rose out of the trenches in spite of direct opposition and gifted us with a bewildering example of faith, courage and humanity.

We are told by Matthew that Joseph is warned in a dream about the possible act of infanticide. Carried out by a ruler who, after speaking with ‘wise men from the East’, feared the possibility of prophetic fulfilment. Fearing that a boy in Bethlehem ‘had been born’ (Mt.2:2, ESV) and that He would be a challenge to Herod’s authority. In a violent act of suppression, Herod, like Pilot not only becomes a key historical character, his actions also indicate how serious the socio-political nature of the event was perceived. The point is that the prophetic fulfilment was so intensely anticipated, that a ruler would eventually go to great lengths in order to undermine and eliminate a child:

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Mt.2:13, ESV)

In 1945 C.S Lewis, himself a World War One survivor,  preached these words:

Christ has risen, and so we shall rise[iii]… To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that…The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that a corner has been turned…It remains for us to follow or not, to die in this cosmic winter, or to go into that spring and that summer… I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders.’[iv]

The difference between the soldiers in those trenches and Jesus Christ, is that in Him, God reaches out to us for more than just a moment of peace.

God’s eternal handshake with humanity is the gift given in the incarnation of His son Jesus the Christ. The effort he made marks the landscape of Christmas.

In Jesus Christ  God reveals Himself as God for us; His Word become flesh.

This event is the advent. That God became man and dwelt among us, is present with us in the Holy Spirit, and will be physically present with us at a future time determined by God.

He seeks a dwelling place with humanity. We read that:

“He will dwell with them, they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…I am making all things new” (Rev.21:3-4).

Resurrection is God’s doing, God’s empowering. In reflections during advent we discover that rise, rising, and being risen are key theological concepts within a holistic advent reflection. In what theologians call Christology, we encounter the anticipation of the future-event based on the past-event. Christ becomes the fulfilment of promise. The end is established in order to begin. Since resurrection is a gospel proclamation of liberation, the word rise is a  theme not to be isolated or boxed into Easter reflections alone.

May the events of Christmas 1914 & 1915 be a strong reminder to us that even in the grip of tragedy; wisdom, reconciliation, mercy and justice are themes with deep roots in the significance of the Christ-mass – traces of the Saviour’s influence.

May they not be forgotten.

Sources:


[i] Fussel, P. 1974 The Great War and Modern Memory Oxford University Press, p.309
[ii] Graham, S. 1921 The Challenge of the Dead Cassell and Company, Ltd London sourced 22nd December 2013 from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40507/40507-h/40507-h.htm
[iii] 1 Cor. 15:20
[iv] Lewis, C.S, 27 April 1945 Sermon: The Grand Miracle in Lewis, C.S. 2000 Essay Collection HarperCollins Publishers, p.9

RL2013

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‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely he has borne our grief 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’. (Is.53:3-6 ESV)

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T.F Torrance wrote that ‘sinful existence is a will to isolation from God and a refusal of His grace’ (‘Incarnation’ 2008, pg 52).Within this statement we can see an idea that is stimulated by Paul in Romans 5:12-21. This is that humanity is plagued by an uncertain primal aversion to God brought on by a distortion in humanities relationship with God. This theme of primal-atheism has in impact on how the world deals with the depth and relevance of Easter. Easter disturbs us because it reminds us that our ‘elevation into union and communion with God exists because of the humiliation of Christ the Son’ (‘Incarnation’ 2008, pg 57). It does not exist because of any human effort to prove ourselves right before God.

This can be connected to something Paul writes about in Romans 5:12-21. ImageHere he points to a counter disturbance whereby ‘grace does not leave humans unaffected in their consciousness and behaviour’ (Schreiner ‘Romans’ 1998, p.292; Moltmann‘The Spirit of Life’ 1992, p.113). This provides the framework for understanding how the ‘grace of Christ conquers and subdues’ (Schreiner 1998, p.285) sin and death. The Christ-event is an act of interceding grace (Rm.5:20) from which God fulfils His promise (Rm.8:26) and brings life out of death (Rm.4:17); light out of darkness. This counter disturbance summons every human to a response of gratitude (Barth) for what has been done on our behalf. This dynamic invitation ruffles our feathers as the tradition of the Church, along with the Spirit of God calls us to remember that in Christ humanity is found, rescued and offered new Life.

ImageBarth asserts this when he states that ‘the theme of the Gospel is the death of death’ (R2 1933, p.166). His emphasis here fits the literary context of Rm.5:12-21 because it points to Paul’s main theological point in Romans. This is that in Christ, God calls humanity into a newness of life. This means that in Jesus the Christ, God wills human existence (Barth C.D IV/III.1 p.362). In order to actualise this God addresses our unrighteous, ‘bleak, lifeless and unrelated existence’ (Barth 1933, p.170).Consequently righteousness becomes connected to life because ‘the victory over sin…rests in the entire accomplishment of the course of Christ’s existence’ (Pannenberg ‘Jesus-God and Man 1968, p.362). In other words Christ’s existence becomes our existence. For the biannual pilgrims of Christmas and Easter these words are a reminder that God not only gives permission for them to breathe, but that God also empowers them to do so.

Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome is about a ‘restoration that is outside our competence’(Barth ‘R2’ 1933, p.168). The good news of Romans 5:12-21 is that through Christ, God recalls us to a life transformed. He takes the initiative and through his act of reconciliation ‘invades the being of man and woman, making them his saints’ (Barth C.D IV/II 1958, p.523).This is a remedy established by the free gift of grace, which is given through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Despite primal-atheism, a product of a distorted relationship God does not desire to be without humanity (Barth). Consequently humanity is delivered from the abyss (Barth 1933, p.240) bringing us to a point where we can joyfully say ‘’I know who did it’’.

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Artistic process: I put together a display and photographed it at different angles. I then choose three to four of the best and used instagram to frame them. I put the collage together with the standard photo editor for windows 7. The hand print was done by using a print out, a glove and red food dye. (2013)