Friday, July 26, 2002

From Confessio Augustana

Here's Melanchthon:

From Augustana XXIV:

Augsburg Confession cover...At the same time the abominable error was condemned according to which is was taught that our Lord Christ has by his death made satisfaction only for original sin, and had instituted the Mass as a sacrifice for other sins. This transformed the Mass into a sacrifice for the living and the dead, a sacrifice by means of which sin was taken away and God was reconciled ... the Scriptures show in many places that there is no sacrifice for original sin, or for any other sin, except the one death of Christ. For it is written in the Epistle to the Hebrews that Christ offered himself once and by this offering made satisfaction for all sin. It is an unprecedented novelty in church doctrine that Christ's death should have made satisfaction only for original sin and not for other sins as well ... In the second place, St. Paul taught that we obtain grace before God through faith and not through works ... In the third place, the holy sacrament was not instituted to make provision as a sacrifice for sin –for the sacrifice had already taken place ... but to awaken our faith and comfort our consciences when we perceive that through the sacrament grace and forgiveness of sin are promised us by Christ...

Response

Let me try responding to one of the Saturday morning comments:

"Christ is about getting us re-connected to our physical as well as spiritual nature!"

In a single word, again – YES!!!!! Once again I'll say it's all about the outrage of a Holy God who condescends to live and die as one of us, living and dying in the total pain and vulnerability of human flesh! It's about a Transcendent, Holy Other revealed and revealed again in water, bread and wine. Revealed and revealed again and again in the common, ordinary everyday 'stuff' of creation and of our common, ordinary everyday lives; nothing is too ordinary nor is anything too transitory to remind us of God's love and faithfulness, to remind us of God's nearness and ever-presence! Revealed at the 9th hour, the hour of Jesus' death, when the Temple veil was torn and heaven on earth no longer was the province of a select few only at a select time of every year, but heaven came to earth and became possible for all of us.

Our Scripture's answer to the pain and perplexity of human existence, to our sorrow, grief – and to our joys – is our Free and Sovereign God of mercy, grace and love who indwells creation, indwells us, and who sorrows, grieves and rejoices with every breath we take! Our God is present whenever and wherever we break bread and share a cup – not only in the church sanctuary or during the regularly scheduled Sunday liturgy! But everyplace everywhere and every time becomes holy and sanctified, because wherever God and the People of God meet is holy, sacred sanctified ground and holy time – 'qodesh.'

It's all so tremendously physical – remember, when the Bible was canonized, they threw out everything that possibly remotely could've made Jesus less than fully and totally human! It's not about the possibility of our living with God someday; rather it's about the reality of God's living with us right here, right now. Just as at the 9th hour, the hour of Jesus' death, when the Temple veil was torn and heaven came to earth and became possible for all of us. [OK, some shorthand there: I need to backtrack to the Incarnation and fast-forward to Easter Dawn, but this'll have to do for now.]

Marburg?

[Part 3]

Ulrich Zwingli

Zwingli's point essentially was twofold: since Jesus is seated [incumbent] at the right hand of God, Jesus can't also at the same time be in Zürich, Geneva, Wittenberg, London, San Diego...Luther's rejoinder, 'God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; therefore the right hand of God is everywhere: in Zürich, Geneva, Wittenberg, London and San Diego!' But furthermore, Zwingli observed, 'This is Pentecost, we already have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and what 'Realer Presence' do we need?!' We need only a reminder of that Presence!

Scandal!

Part 2:

The SCANDAL of our Holy God's self-revelation in the written, recorded Word of Scripture and in the living, enfleshed Word Christ Jesus is its very physicalness=humanness=vulnerability and therefore its corruptibility and decayability on every level! And this Word's dynamism includes its ability to address and fulfill each one of each of our needs on every level, including physical, though also, of course, spiritual. Makes me think of the Interpreter's Bible's tawdry habit of over-spiritualizing Jesus' life, mission and teaching!

A whole lot of Jesus' actions and words were sacramental ones – IOW, they pointed away from themselves to a larger essence and reality. The union of the physical with the spiritual: earthiness and the Word of God is part of our definition of 'sacrament;' the sacraments, although mighty acts of God, demand human initiation and participation for their existence! This organic union of physical and spiritual is the reason Protestants always have rejected transubstantiation...as the Methodist Book of Discipline states, that very idea 'overthroweth the nature of a sacrament.'

Mark's and Matthew's accounts of Jesus' 'founding meal' tell of Jesus' predicting his betrayal by 'the one who is dipping bread in the same dish with me.' IOW, a meal can engender the intimacy of community; the betrayal by anyone you've broken bread with is all that more painful since it implies – and means – betrayal of the sacredness of intimacy.

Although I'll probably write more about this later, my answer to Drew is yes, any shared food and drink can be Holy Communion with one another and with our Triune God, but I believe we still need to formally schedule and celebrate Eucharistic celebrations within the context of the gathered people of God, as a reminder of the ongoing sacramentalness of life in Christ; but I also trust the sacraments themselves may be efficacious in ways beyond our more ordinary, day-to-day 'Holy Communions.'

Eucharist notes

Many months ago I wrote in response to a 'bagel and coffee' Holy Communion/Eucharist idea! At that time my point was:

The fruit of the vine is a potent and multivalent biblical symbol; to use another drink or juice is dissonant with the integrity of the Bible's witness to God's self-revelation of saving acts within human history, to the continuing efficacy of God's activity within a worldly, earthbound, physical human context, because these actions – and our sacraments, baptism and Eucharist – always gesture beyond that particular 'kairos' moment toward a more cosmic and universal meaning, to the 'Yes' of God's promises fulfilled in 'chronos.'

Although the earliest Eucharistic celebrations featured a round loaf of leavened wheat bread, I'm OK with using bread made from a different grain in any culture or circumstance where wheat bread's not common or ordinary. But again I'd caution to keep it as close as possible to creation [one reason wine is preferred over grape juice; besides, wine's more celebratory and although this feast is sustenance, it's also celebration!].

That said, it seems as if now the questioner was looking for a different focus. So I'll mention I've powerful and poignant memories of being welcomed and fed – physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually – at a meal as well as powerfully painful memories of being excluded. For myself there's no more 'leveling' experience than mutually participating in a meal, no more denigrating, dehumanizing – marginalizing – one than being excluded while everyone else is feasting.

A meal or snack eaten alone sometimes meets my need for physical sustenance [can be a mood stabilizer, as well! – happens to me all the time!] but from my own experience it lacks the fulness and completeness of a meal shared within a social context. Whether with one other person or with several, for myself food is, above all, a way of connecting, and if connecting in this moment, doesn't that also mean connecting with our shared human histories, connecting with our shared aspirations? Just a few thoughts.

To be continued…

Real Presence

Agreed that the Real Presence of the Risen Christ is central BUT Jesus' post-Easter appearances (please not to begin a discussion of "Resurrection vs. Appearance"!) definitely were "sensible" ones, although, as always, Jesus remained, at least initially, hidden; and Jesus' presence always was elusive just as it had been during his earthly life and ministry. As the definitive manifestation of the God we know as both hidden yet apparent though still at the same time free and elusive, how could Jesus be otherwise?

lively discussion!

Thanks for keeping this discussion alive! My point is I believe Jesus is physically, as well as spiritually, present at the Table. And though I believe the Sacraments themselves definitely retain a privileged character, they also serve as models or metaphors for God's continuing action in the "accidental" activities and events of everyday life, that we may be able to discern God's gracious actions moment by moment. It's all incarnational; it's all Incarnation. It's all sacramental; it's all Sacrament. Life is Liturgy! But we need the consciously and regularly scheduled gatherings and celebrations we formally designate "sacrament," as proclamation to ourselves and to the world. More about this later.

A Favorite Topic!

One of my very most favorite topics! I consider Zwingli's view far too constricting, though I often consider his considerable youth and wonder how his understanding would have evolved had he not gotten himself killed at such a relatively young age. Of course the Lord's Supper/Eucharist is memorial, but doesn't Paul make clear to us that it’s also realization and anticipation? For myself, Luther come closest to capturing the outrage of a Holy God Who dared live as one of us, a Holy God Who condescends to continue to reveal Himself in, with and under common, ordinary, everyday human experience. I also appreciate the reminder of the "mystery" and telling us it's no cop-out—Roman Catholics do have a far greater sense of the mysteries of faith than do we Protestants who so tend to do our bestest to explain and rationalize just about everything including those mysteries that not only are above and beyond our understanding but which also probably aren't to be understood by us! And also which we have no need to understand. Although I agree the Roman Catholic view is ok, with the Methodist Book of Discipline I agree the idea of transubstantiation "Overthroweth the nature of a sacrament!" (This is most certainly true!) And transubstantiation also fails to capture the essence of the Incarnation. I'll give this more thought! Wait—one more thing. Walter Brueggemann points out that Holy Communion is "pre-Eucharist." Any thoughts on that idea?

A few more words.

A few more words. The earliest recorded celebrations featured a round leavened loaf of wheat bread and a shared cup of wine. Although it's so very apparent that many, many shared meals are sustenance and celebration, Holy Communion and Eucharist, I'd caution against being too "vernacular," particularly in liturgical practice we formally designate as ""sacrament." The fruit of the vine is a potent and multivalent biblical symbol. Historically, wine has been the preferred fruit of the vine as grape juice is artificially kept from fermenting and is a step further removed from creation. In a culture in which wheat bread isn't common, ordinary everyday I'd very definitely spring for bread that IS. However, I'd still be extremely cautious about substituting anything for the fruit of the vine. And again, we join both in substance and in spirit with all the saints in every place and time and consciously need to plan our liturgies (as well as all of our lives!) remembering, realizing and anticipating that fact.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

paradox

Doing theology means engaging mystery and being engaged by mystery and especially engaging and being engaged by paradox. In the United Church of Christ Statement of Faith we affirm, "In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common lot." In the Old Covenant Scriptures we encounter many human redeemers; in the New Covenant God Himself is our Redeemer, though we still find redemption in a human, but now our redemption is in a human One Who is yet the Christ! For Paul, Jesus becomes the Divine Christ at his death and resurrection; Jesus is always at once both crucified and risen. For Paul, we are Christed at our baptism, when we partake of Jesus the Christ's death and resurrection. For Christians, the empty cross implies the empty tomb and challenges us to be free in Christ so as to live Easter in the midst of tombstones and graves – to assume our "Christness." We Christians are a people of the book, our Book being the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. in the Gospels we have John's "Son of God" as well as the synoptics' "Son of Man." Just as "Son of a prophet" means a prophet, "Son of God" means a God and "Son of Man" means a human. Enoch in the Pseudepigrapha (as well as Daniel and Ezekiel) refers to the "Son of Man" as the One who will usher in the New Age. The outrage and the SCANDAL of the Gospel is a Holy God Who lives and dies as one of us, that it is a HUMAN who ushers in the New Age. But that human is the Divine Christ! And just as the written Word of scripture is both divine revelation and human disclosure, so is the Living Word Jesus the Christ both divine revelation and human disclosure. Showing US who we are and showing us who we can become. Each of us is both born of the spirit and born of the flesh – Luke refers to Adam as "Son of God."

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?! Jesus is the image of the invisible God; Jesus is the transcendent invisible God enfleshed and visible in total human vulnerability. 'What unique role did/does he play in [the] history?...' Jesus is the one who signals the end of the old age; the one who initiates the New Age. As Enoch in the pseudepigrapha writes, the 'son of man' will usher in the New Age. The outrage is that this one, this 'son of man' who renews all things is just that – a human and not a god, but still paradoxically the image and the essence of God beyond time and beyond space.

...loving glow of God's own face
You who sang creation's story...
Love that fills the night with wonder
Love that warms the weary soul
Love that bursts all chains asunder...
You who made the heaven's splendor
every dancing star of night...
...gentle Christ who lights our way...

by Marty Haugen

But the Bible and Jesus!

But the bible (and Jesus!) reveal God's presence incarnate in our midst: "God among us; God within us!" In the ark of the covenant, tabernacle & temple the sign of God's presence was physical and tangible – 'sensible' [Westminster Catechism] but its revelation was static, unmoving & iconic and therefore an imperfect representation of the God of the Bible we know as dynamic, free & elusive. And those artifacts eventually led to a return of the imperial religion of Egypt, as well. The 'God-Spell' is not that eventually we will live with God but rather that God lives with us! Here and now! The 'SCANDAL' of the Gospel is a Holy God who condescends to live and die as one of us, a Transcendent Other revealed and re-revealed in common, ordinary, everyday 'sensible' things – as common as water, bread & wine; as common as the neighbor next door. As common as US!!! Just as Jesus was a living, breathing, moving revelation of God, so are we!

In baptism God calls us to be and to show salvation to one another and especially to the stranger in our midst. The salvation/wholeness/healing we bring is a redemption, a 'buying back' of ourselves to ourselves, to one another and to our Creator; a 'redeeming' that lives and moves and breathes and changes with every human need. Just as God's primary passion is response to human need, that becomes our primary passion – our baptism makes our response in grace and freedom possible and 'sensibly' apparent. The ark, tabernacle and temple can be seen as imperfect 'types' of Christ, therefore as imperfect representations of God, but Jesus himself lived – and died – as a perfect representation [I used to say 'ultimate & definitive manifestation' but haven't used that phrase for a long time] of the loving, merciful, free and elusive God who responds not to our attempts to contain God for our own edification ['imperial religion'] but instead responds to our need, to the world's need for redemption and sanctification and for 'holiness.' Does this work for you? My point is, despite the Christ Event, we still live in a fallen world. Our call, our ministry is the reconciliation of the world to itself and to its Creator. 'God...sets before us the ways of life & death.' IOW, the ministry is in our living and in our lives: this is Pentecost, we're 'clothed with Power from on High;'the ball's in our court now.

Animals in the Bible

You know I'm not prooftexting! I'll begin with some Bible verses that tell about God's passion for all creation:

Genesis 1 God's Word creates everything.

Genesis 1:20-22 God creates sea creatures and birds.

Genesis 1:24-25 God creates all animals.

Genesis 1:26-30 God gives humans dominion over and stewardship of creation; there is plenty of food for everyone.

Genesis 2:19-20 Animals are God’s creation; humans have safekeeping of and naming of animals and birds.

Noah's Ark by prawnyGenesis 7:1-3 At God’s command, Noah takes animals and birds into the ark, which he built at God’s command.

Genesis 8:1 God remembers Noah and all the birds and animals

Genesis 9:8-17 God makes a covenant of grace with "every living creature…birds, cattle, and every beast of the earth."

Psalm 8:7-8 Praise for God’s giving us dominion over creation: flocks, herds, beasts, birds, fish, and sea creatures.

Psalm 36:6c God redeems both humans and animals.

Psalm 50:10-11 God, "The Mighty One," knows and possesses all animals, cattle, birds, field creatures…

Psalm 104:11-12. 14, 17-18, 20-21, 26 The entire psalm celebrates God’s care for all creation and its creatures: light, heavens, clouds, winds, fire, earth, water, thunder, mountains, valleys, springs, ravines, beasts of the field, wild donkeys, birds of the air, cattle, food, wine, oil, bread, trees, cedars, storks, crags, moon, sun, darkness, beasts of the forest, lions, sea, sea creatures, leviathan…by the Spirit all are created and renewed!

Psalm 148:7-10 A charge for all creation to praise its Creator! In other words, for all creation to engage in our "chief and highest end to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever." (Westminster Catechism)

Isaiah 11:6-9 The Eschaton, "Messianic time" of "new heavens and a new earth": the Peaceable Kingdom: The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 41:18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness pools of water, and the parched land into springs.

Isaiah 41:19 In the desert I will put the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together.

Isaiah 43:23

Isaiah 43:23 Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, O mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.

Isaiah 49:13 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3

Isaiah 51:3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 65:17, 25 New heavens and a new earth; the wolf, the lamb, and the lion…

Matthew 6:26 …God feeds the birds of the air…

Luke 12:24 God feeds the ravens…

2 Peter 3:13 …new heavens and a new earth…

Several theological concepts and images appear in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Covenant Scriptures of the New Testament I’ve referenced. First comes the act of “creation.” After evoking the first light of earthly time, by His dynamic, creative Word, this free, transcendent, almighty and omnipresent Creator wills to form not only humans, but also every aspect of earthly substance, including “animals,” which carry a creative life force in themselves!

Then, "dominion" and "stewardship" and "naming": Dominion means Lordship. To be a steward means to care for one’s charge; in the Bible, to name anything or anyone means to bestow an identity upon that being or thing. Any being’s name – including God’s – reveals or manifests what and who that being is. To know a creature’s name implies both intimacy and relationship; the Word speaks to and redeems all creation into relationship and intimacy, drawing all creation out from anonymity and estrangement in order to be known by its Creator and by every other creature.

Next, God remembers not only Noah, but also all the birds and animals. In the biblical witness, history and the memory of history are closely and inextricably linked together. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Sinai Covenant, God of the prophets, God of Jesus the Christ, reveals himself as a God who acts in human history, as God whose primary passion is the humanity of his creation and that humanity’s needs.

And covenant. There’s no more central concept in the entire Bible! Covenant is about creation, grace, redemption, renewal; it’s about the primacy of life over death; it’s about the God who initiates and does whatever is necessary to maintain responsive and responsible relationship. In Genesis 9, God’s covenant with "every living creature" is a covenant of grace or one of free gift – in other words, the "coming together" of relationship is given and unconditional, rather than being an "if – then" one that depends upon the condition of the giftee’s performance! God makes this covenant; God performs it.

Throughout the witness of the Word of God runs a constant theme of a new and renewed earth, of a new and renewed creation, right here in this physical, material world. The God of the Bible is a God whose supreme self-revelation is in the course of human history, "in, with and under" (Luther) the material stuff of creation. God revealed again and again in water, bread and wine; in humans and in all of creation – including animals, of course! I’ve quoted just a couple of the many, many new creation verses – these essentially are Resurrection texts.

In both testaments there are images of the Lion of God and of the Lamb of God. In New Testament theology, Christ Jesus, the image of the transcendent, invisible God beyond time and beyond space, becomes and is both "Lion and Lamb."

A few more notes: Christianity's – and the Bible's – central proclamation is the Mighty God of All Creation's self-revelation in the powerless, weak and vulnerable – in "the least of these." In Christ Jesus, God became and lived as one of the least of these, in innocence and vulnerability: vulnerability to the point of death. Although the separate and distinctness of Creator and creature is an essential biblical tenet, just as essential is the conviction God indwells all creation as Holy Spirit! Therefore, the Holy Spirit of God indwells animals, just as it lives in humans. Jesus’ charge to humanity is to be responsible to "the least of these." Jesus says any kindness we pay to these innocents is as if that kindness was done to him…and therefore, as if it was done to God, as Jesus is the image and essence of the Holy God beyond time and beyond space.

The God of the Bible calls us into covenant/relationship/response with our Creator and with all creation. God addresses us as covenant partners; God speaks to each of us as those who are called to hear, to receive, and to do his Word. That Word calls us to justice and righteousness; as God’s servants and agents we’re summoned to allow and bring about the restoration and reconciliation of all creation, proclaiming in word and in action, the freedom of the year of Jubilee. Our God, as Holy Spirit, makes Shekinah, "dwelling place" with us, making possible our response to creation’s needs. Especially in the Isaiah verses I’ve quoted, all creation rejoices in its redemption! And if the mountains and hills, deserts and streams celebrate, how much more so the animals!

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Welcome!

Welcome to Leah's blog, or rather Desert Spirits's blog, "Desert Spirit's Fire!" Here you can read some of my theology and some of my new views – as well as some of my more-or-less neo-orthodox ones – about scripture and theology. Here I'll post stuff about my general everyday life, loves, days and nights. Maybe some of my poetry and other people's poems, as well.

Desert Spirit's Fire is an ecumenical celebration of and inquiry into scripture, and a whimsical view of my sometimes passionate theology. I've thought about, talked about and written about these ideas and concerns in response to questions and inquiries from friends, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances.

Welcome, and enjoy your visit!