Friday, March 30, 2007

Theology of the Cross 6

Although I planned this sixth class for NPC as a wrap and recap of the previous five, it was Palm / Passion Sunday, everyone participated in Holy Week and Easter prep so we didn't meet. I offered this series at OS-ELCA-NP for the adults for the five evenings of VBS during summer 2007, so we would not have needed a sixth session there anyway.

Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church’s and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?
1. Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

2. See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

3. Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.

4. Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

James Montgomery, in Selection of Psalms and Hymns, by Thomas Cotterill (London: 1820).
The cross of Calvary forms the ultimate type and reality of God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people. Especially in the cross we learn God totally subverts evil for good, as the death of Jesus Christ becomes a redemptive reality for all creation.

Throughout the witness of scripture, we find God’s Self-revelation from a series of mountains: the Mount Sinai Covenant recorded in Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21; the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-11 (there’s the parallel Sermon on the Plain plus in Luke 6:17...); the Transfiguration, with Mount Tabor, rising out of the Jezreel Valley as one of the traditional suspects; finally, Mount Calvary brings God’s definitive self-revelation, and ultimate covenant! (I love the name of the hymn tune, Bryn Calfaria...)

New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 22:[19]-20; 2 Corinthians 3:4-8; read the book of Acts!

New Covenant: On the day of Pentecost, Jews commemorated the Sinai Covenant; on the Christian Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the Spirit through which God enables us to perform the New Covenant. Read the book of Acts!

Jesus said, “Do this!” Do this liturgical action? In the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls the church—
  • As the body of the risen Christ, the Bread of Life, to nourish the world, especially the stranger, the outcast and the “other”;
  • As branches of Jesus, the Vine, to pour out our lives to those around us.
12. What does the cross mean for the world in which we live and serve?

Martin Luther begins his Small Catechism – traditional preparation for First Communion – with the 10 Commandments. Walter Brueggemann observes, “It is the God of the Commandments with whom we commune!” In the Book of Common Prayer, The Holy Eucharist, Rite One, begins with the Ten Commandments—with the Great Commandment as an alternative.

We’ve been discussing God’s action and presence in the sacraments, considered a “means of grace.” American theologian Robert McAfee Brown suggested that people who aren’t practicing justice and righteousness in their daily lives should be kept from the Communion Table.

Decalogue: Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; the Great Commandment: Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:36-48

Some churches practice foot washing as a sacrament or as preparation for participating in the Lord’s Supper. Think about it!

13. The cross of Jesus Christ: Foolishness to the Greeks and foolishness to us?

“When Christ calls us, he bids us come and go one’s way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation, but peace and refreshment for the soul, it is the highest joy...we do not walk under our self-made laws and burdens, but under the yoke of him who knows us and walks under the yoke with us.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (Discipleship)

14. Concluding questions, observations and loose ends.

For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

Jubilee Year Redemption for all creation: Leviticus 25:8-24; Leviticus 23 and 24:

The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

How does living as people of the cross ultimately lead to Jubilee Justice for all creation?
Let us Talents and Tongues Employ

1. Let us talents and tongues employ,
reaching out with a shout of joy:
bread is broken, the wine is poured,
Christ is spoken and seen and heard.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

2. Christ is able to make us one,
at his table he sets the tone,
teaching people to live to bless,
love in word and in deed express.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

3. Jesus calls us in, sends us out
bearing fruit in a world of doubt,
gives us love to tell, bread to share:
God, Immanuel, everywhere!
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

–Fred Kaan, 1975–
© Leah Chang 2007

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