Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Wrath of God (5)

last part
Jesus said that He was going to abolish the temple and create it again in three days. The empty tomb now corresponds to the Holy of Holies: God has come out from the place of sacrifice and we are sprinkled clean, but instead of the goat’s blood, we have Christ’s blood, which makes us clean and reconciled with God. The two angels at the empty tomb correspond to the two cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant which was placed in the Holy of Holies. The site of the resurrection is the new mercy seat, and so, if you accept the resurrection then you have received reconciliation with God. It is the revealing of this truth through the story of crucifixion and resurrection that sets us free from being trapped in the process of natural and human wrath. This isn’t separable from either the crucifixion or the Last Supper, the three things together, hang together and cannot be separated out. “This is my blood of the New Covenant shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This is the sacrifice which we are called to share in. We are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.

Jesus is the second Adam, for in Adam humanity goes off the right path and disorder follows, whereas in Christ, humanity is put back on the right path. In so far as we share in and participate in Christ's life, then we are on the right path, and we are taking part in the restoration of the world. What goes wrong is put right: as in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive. This is the New Covenant: it is written on people's hearts, it is not simply about a passive obedience, it is actually about being wholly committed to it. God will take away the hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. The right relationship with God, the right relationship with each other. What this process is about is aligning ourselves with Christ. Christ is the one through whom the world was created and in so far as we are aligned with Christ we thereby keep the law. If we pursue the New Covenant, if we share the New Covenant then we have right relationships with the world, so the creation is put right.

The Eucharistic liturgy begins with the exchange of peace, and that is very important because that is what stops the scapegoating, the human wrath, that you are at peace with your neighbour. We are not at peace because we are both righteous, we come to it as sinners, as people in need of forgiveness. We cannot get that forgiveness by our own merit, we are relying on that benign God coming out to us, and therefore because we don’t have any righteousness of our own, we are not expelling anyone else who is unrighteous, because we are none of us righteous. This is a core element of sharing the bread and wine, that we don’t expel beforehand. This is what Jesus is accomplishing, this new Covenant. It begins with the exchange of peace and so we receive the forgiveness and we give thanks for it.

So what is the wrath that is to come? We are in a situation where we have been profoundly transgressing both the natural laws and the revealed laws. Because we have been transgressing those laws, breaching the limits, then wrath is descending upon us. In Rwanda for example, the slaughter was worse where the population was most dense. They weren’t able to feed themselves and they slaughtered each other and whilst there was much scapegoating (human wrath) between the Hutus and Tutsis a major factor was simply where the population was most dense. That was wrath, and it was a foretaste of what is to come.

So are we entering into the apocalypse? No. Our imaginations, how we understand God, who we understand God to be, whether we picture in our hearts and minds God as someone angry, seeking to punish and chastise, or whether we see God as someone loving and merciful, seeking to bring us into life – this is where our real spiritual work needs to be done. Our imaginations need to be renewed in the light of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so all this started with this post, "Rob Bell's hell and the seriousness of life". Where does the concept of hell fit into the dialogue of wrath?

    BTW, I really enjoyed how you drew this out. Very interesting.

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