Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why it's a GOOD Friday

I wasn't sure I was going to post this, but... the notes for my Good Friday sermon are below the fold; they might be of some interest, if you can make head or tail of them

20070406 Good Friday

I would like to explore with you today the meaning of Good Friday - why did Jesus die, and why is today of all days a good day? what i want to say can be summed up quite simply - i believe that today of all days god is revealed as a god of love, a god who opens up his arms to us and wants to embrace us, and that with this god there is no place for fear or punishment

spend time exploring what I think is a very bad theory explaining what is going on, so before I continue, some sensible words from CS Lewis:
"We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself... "

that seems sane to me - i would not wish anything i say today to take away from that

prior question - who is it who kills jesus, who wants him dead?
religious authorities
political authorities
disciples - judas, but what about peter?
crowd
you and me
not jesus - gethsemane

not god
might sound strange - popular theory called 'penal substitution', derived primarily from Calvin counts as 'doctrine of men' - specifically calvin, via the american theologian charles hodge

- bear in mind that Calvin was a lawyer - goes something like this...
example used in alpha (miracle on river kwai)
question - who is the father in this scenario - the father is the lunatic japanese guard who can't count
pagan understanding - king kong

bizarre reversal of story of Abraham and Isaac - yes I do want you to kill your son!

punishment in this life interpreted as god's judgement
cursed be he that hangs on a tree
prosperity gospel - psalm 'never saw a righteous man begging for bread'
change in understanding over time within scripture - not monolithic

bible is thoroughly opposed; jesus consistently opposes that
tower of siloam
beatitudes - blessed are the poor
isaiah and post-exile - 'the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief'

so what does the language mean?
1 Peter 2:24 - "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness."
christ bore our sins - by his wounds we are healed
i take it literally - jesus is crucified by our sin, when he is on the cross he is bearing the burden of our sin, not in a metaphysical or metaphorical sense, not in any sort of theoretical way - but really, and truly, and physically, and painfully - it is our sin that pounds the nails through his hands and feet

what of the language about sacrifice (hebrews)?
what is sacrifice? originally kopher - thank you - never about punishment
it is about giving back to god the things which are gods - the sacrifice of christians is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise
'i desire mercy not sacrifice' - jesus repeats this text twice in the gospels, surely many more times in reality, a core text for him
LC attendees will have heard me talk about the sacrificial rites of the day of atonement in the first temple period - don't need to go into detail again now (but do come to the first session of the next LC sequence if you are interested) - the core emphasis to bring out is that the sacrifice in the temple is god taking the initiative to save us, because he loves us, not because he is angry - what most upsets god is not the transgression of a law but the suffering of his children - with god justice is about restoration, not punishment

crucial texts from the Johannine epistles 1 John 4 16-19, where God is identified with love, and living in love is seen as the core christian pattern - and this love is then opposed to fear and punishment - what the doctrine of penal substitution does is reestablish that fear and punishment at the centre of the trinity (and awful things follow)
whoever sees jesus sees the father - god is christ-like and in him is no un-christ-likeness at all - Rev 13 - lamb slain since the foundation of the world

god is love - in our god there is no place for fear or punishment
but what does the language of 'fear of god' mean then? shouldn't think that we can put our concepts of fear and god together to get an adequate understanding of 'fear-of-god' - contrast between chased by tiger and standing on edge of grand canyon - fear of god is the latter - it is about awe and reverence - and yes the overwhelming sense of holiness which cannot be in the same place as sin, so if we sin we experience god as wrath - but that wrath is not of the essence of god

god is for us, not against us
as jesus says 'life in abundance' - what destroys that is our sin and our wrath
we want to be punished - we cannot conceive of a world without punishment - because we cannot accept forgiveness - we cannot bear the light of the living god - men turned away from the light for their deeds were evil - they are condemned because they do not believe in a forgiving god - 'condemned out of their own mouths' - compare with the parable of the talents
jesus is not reconciling an angry god to humanity - he is reconciling god to an angry humanity - by revealing the truth about god and man

ancient understanding
focussed on the overcoming of principalities and powers - the realm of this world - on this day the world speaks - the world kills - the world appears to triumph
the cross is not a divine punishment - it is a human punishment
resurrection is god's answer - it is an invitation - the resurrection is above all god's offer of loving forgiveness to all who will accept it - that we have executed him and strung him up on a cross - and yet god remains the same - offering the same love to us - he sends his rain on to the just and the unjust - will we repent of our just vengeance, our own lust for punishment and be reconciled with god?

on the cross judgement is judged, condemnation is condemned
god does not overpower us - he woos us - and he woos us through the cross

today is good
because our god wants us to be human - it is about transforming our relationship with him - not mechanical - not a theory - but a passionate embrace - arms reaching out to us all

today is good because our god is revealed as not a pagan god, of whom we must be terrified, but as a merciful and reconciling god, who calls us into a new relationship with him,

today is good because god is love, and there is no place for fear and punishment with him

so
let us give thanks to the lord for he is good
and his mercy endureth for ever

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