Monday, February 06, 2006

Five Things I Believe and Trust

5 Epiphany
4 Hilary

I decided to take a cue from Abbot Creech, who likes to write short, provocative posts like this from time to time. Mind you, this installment and the next are intended to provoke thought, prayer and discussion, not wrath.

Jesus has saved and is saving the world. The new creation started in AD 33 when Jesus of Nazareth tried to take upon himself God’s chastisement of Israel, and got crushed between the unstoppable force of the Roman Empire and the immovable object of the Nation’s rebellion against the responsibilities of their “chosenness.” God raised him up, vindicating him, and initiated the same new life in everyone who’s been baptized into him.

Will you say "Amen"?

Holy Mother Church. Folks, we were baptized into the Body of Christ. It is in and through our mystical, sacramental, and nitty-gritty daily communion with Christ, and our brothers and sisters in that Communion, that God transforms us, re-makes us, and gives us new life. Jesus and his Church cannot be separated; his plan for our salvation – the remaking and redemption of our lives – is enacted through the life we share together. You step out of that, you refuse that, you short-circuit what God’s trying to do in you – and the people God wants to be with you. There is no salvation outside the Church.

Will you say "Amen"?

Spiritual Disciplines. As Eugene Peterson has said, “justification is by faith, but holiness is by discipline.” If we expect to see God’s healing in our lives, we must stop fighting it, and choose to actively cooperate in real, concrete ways. Let me repeat myself: that’s about creative cooperation with God, not keeping rules.

Will you say "Amen"?

The Eucharist. I had a very difficult church internship in Texas a couple of years ago. I was on difficult terms with the people I thought I was suppose to please. I didn’t understand their expectations, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t believe in most of the things I was doing from day to day, and there was little opportunity for a relational ministry – though I did have a few good friends, it must be said. But I did believe in the Eucharist. I believe that in consuming the bread and wine, I’m taking a little more of the reality of the risen Christ into myself. I believe that he offers himself, broken and poured out, so that his brokenness heals mine. I believe that this sign and sacrament both expresses and contributes to the life we have together as the Church and the life we share with God.

Will you say "Amen"?

The Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is completely, ridiculously, insensibly, crazy smitten in love with us. I believe in the life I share with my friends as God's eschatological community, and I believe in the forgiveness of sins, both what Christ offers, and our ministry of that to one another. I believe in healing.

Will you say "Amen"?

Pick out a point or five, and we'll chat about it some more.

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18 comments:

John Lunr said...

OK, I'll take the first point:-)

"Jesus has saved and is saving the world. The new creation started in AD 33 when Jesus of Nazareth tried to take upon himself God’s chastisement of Israel, and got crushed between the unstoppable force of the Roman Empire and the immovable object of the Nation’s rebellion against the responsibilities of their “chosenness.” God raised him up, vindicating him, and initiated the same new life in everyone who’s been baptized into him."

The part I would tend to take exception to is the word "tried" and the following portion. "and got crushed between the unstoppable force of the Roman Empire and the immovable object of the Nation’s rebellion"

First, he succeeded, not just tried. Second, the Roman empire was not unstoppable and the nation's rebellion wasn't immovable.

Jesus, for whatever reason, chose not to stop Rome or to break Israel's rebellion. If he had appeared in his glory, and call legions of Angels as he said he could do, Rome would have toppled and Israel would have bowed before him. Sometimes in our discussions of Christ, we focus on his humanity to the exclusion of his divinity. What he did was a choice based on his love for his Father and for us. It was not something forced upon him that he had no say over. "The earth is the Lords, and the fullness there in."

I might tackle some of your other points later. Hope this will be a fun discussion.

Peter said...

"crazy smitten in love with us"?

What are you, a flaming American evangelical?

Kyle said...

Cheers, John.

I chose the word "tried" because while Jesus did indeed take upon himself God's chastisement of the nation, it did not keep it from falling upon it in full force in AD 70. In that sense, I think that his vocation was an apparent failure. He sought to take on the judgment so that the rest of the people wouldn't have to. Clearly, it only happened about halfway.

The Roman Empire may not have been "unstoppable," but in the context of Yahweh's judgment and the destruction of Israel, it certainly wasn't stopped.

Regardless, I was going for a particular word picture in terms of what happened to Jesus and his apparent understanding of his own vocation, rather than making some kind of ontological statement about either the Empire or Israel.

As for the last bit, I assure that I've read the Chalcedonian Definition very carefully. ;-) Thanks for your points.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Amen!

Hey...it's what you wanted.

Marshall said...

Well, let's see: Amen, over all.

That said, let me raise a question related to salvation outside the Church. First, if Christ has saved and is saving, then we need to temper our statments about the limitations of how and when Christ might do that for any individual. Therefore, we can't know that Christ hasn't saved someone outside "the Church."

Which raises the related issue: how do we understand "the Church?" We have wrestled over the issue of the Visible vs. the invisible Church. We have spoken of the Church Militant, the Church Expectant, and the Church Triumphant. Where in those taxonomies do we want to say Christ cannot work or is not working? Yes, certainly, those living experience the presence of Christ primarily through the Body, present in the world through the Church. On the other hand, lack of that Body didn't stop Jesus from reaching Paul. We believe profoundly that Christ saves in and through the Church; but I wouldn't want to exclude Christ doing something in addition.

Kyle said...

Cheers, Marshall. Good points. In regard to the first, I should note that by "salvation" I mean the holistic process by which God is gathering up all the fallen bits of creation and placing them under the headship of Christ. Goin' to heaven, goin' to hell, I don't really do much business with all that.

My understanding of the Scriptures and Tradition is that the primary locus of God's redemptive activity is the Church. Does God do some other things? Probably, but I think the point of it is to bring people to the fullness of salvation in the fellowship of his Church.

No church = less good.

Pax

naak said...

I like the comments of John Lunr, but I know what you meant and, other than the belief that Christ was born in A.D. 4 which would push His year of death to 37, I agree with you.

For Mother Church, which I hate the name "mother" for the church, if you are using it to speak of the Universal or Invisible church I agree. I disagree with Marshall in that Christ is possibly working outside His church. If one is saved by Christ then he is apart of Christ church, which is Christ body.

Spiritual Disciplines...amen...though I find following rules to be apart of it, not directly, but impossible not to be in there as we become disciplined to some sort of standard.

In the words about the Eucharist, if I follow you correctly I am in agreement, but if you mean to bring with it the transubstantiation or consubstantiation I disagree, though I do agree that reality of Christ in increased in my life.

I do believe that the Trinitarian God is in love with His elect, not sure what you mean by eschatological community, and I believe in the forgiveness of sins by Christ and the common grace which should be given by members of His body; and I believe in the healing of men's lives as God's Spirit frees us from the shame and guilt over sin.

Jared Cramer said...

I give a whole-hearted amen to all five.

Kyle said...

Thanks, Peter, Ryan, and Jared.

Naak, don't pick on me about the calendar, man! ;-)

That's an interestingly strong reaction to the word "Mother" for the Church. I use it very simply to denote the nurturing role of the community. What does it sound like, I wonder?

In regard to the Eucharist, I don't feel the need to attach those words to it. However, I do think the increase of the divine life in me that occurs through the Eucharist is not accomplished only because of my understanding or reflection upon it, but by the act of eating itself. Don't know what that's called. :0)

By "eschatological community," I think I mean something like "the people of God who are constituted by God's saving act in Jesus, through whom the "end" is brought to the here and now, and the healing and completion that marks "the end" starts raining into our lives here and now as we live together as the Church." The other thing just seems to roll of the tongue more smoothly, don't you think?

Charles said...

This Roman Catholic says amen to all five of these.

Kyle, I'd love your comments on my recent post on women bishops in the Church of England (everyone else is welcome, too) if you have a few moments.

naak said...

Hey Kyle, I understand what you mean by Mother Church and that is why I agree with you. I just prefer more biblical terms like His body, elect, bride, and so on. I dont mean to be quarlsome, just sharing my opinion.

Robbie said...

What has to happen to the bread and wine for it to become Eucharist? Do you have to partake with others? Must there be a hierarch present to administer? I guess I'm looking for some fundamentals, or just wanting to know how broad the ideal Eucharist is.

Kyle said...

Thanks, Charles and Naak.

Robbie, all of that stuff depends on what community you live in and whose magisterium you wish to obey. :0)

I think a prayer of consecration by an ordained priest (and my protestant tendancies say, "duly set apart member of the community") is pretty important. I don't think anybody has any business celibrating a one-person mass. I mean really, what do we think Holy Communion is supposed to mean?

bria_elaine said...

Why would you need a priest? We are all holy (set apart). A Priest has no power or recognition in heaven I have not recieved. He (Our glorious Christ) said to do it in remembrance of him. It's as simple as that. Why do we need to add extra rules on how?

bria_elaine said...

1)I have to agree that to say that Christ "tried" does not give him credit for his divinity and omnipotence. If he would have tried it would have happened. If we do not say that he allowed himself to be crushed, allowed himself to be killed, etc. we are taking away from one of the most beautiful parts of his act- his willingness.

Doesn't saying that he was only trying to take upon himself God's chastisement of Isreal seems to undermine the fact that it was God himself there? I think he took upon himself sin and sin alone. If God wanted to chastise us we would all be dead. He wanted to redeem us. Why do you say Isreal? What about the rest of the world? I think I might be confused.

2) I kind of cringed at the concept of "Holy Mother Church." Maybe it was too close to "mother earth" to me. I think it is important to put titles where they belong. I agree that it brings out the nurturing roles of us as brothers and sisters, but I fear it places too much impotance on us in a matter of authority. The term mother contains a lot of authority and could go awry with people that are a little less informes. Also, in a weird way it puts us above Christ himself. Being a bride still puts us under the submission of Christ through God's law of a man and a woman.

3) AMEN! We could all use a little of that. ahhh, if there was another way.

4)I already posted about communion.

5)AMEN!

Kyle said...

Brianna,

Thanks for dropping by!

I'll try to unpack the notions of Christ's deity a bit. Jesus of Nazareth was not omnipotent or omni- anything. To say that he was is at least an implicit denial of his fully humanity.

It could be said better than I have above, that what Jesus "tried" was to redirect the whole of God's chastisement onto himself such that the nation as a whole would not receive it. Jesus did indeed take upon himself this punishment, but the nation itself still recieved it. This is what he was grieving in Matthew 22 (I think, when he wept over the temple) and what would come to pass in it's destruction in AD 70. I think that what Jesus wanted didn't entirely come to pass, but "failure" probably isn't the right word. Might he have felt somewhat like he had failed when he wept over the city? Maybe, but we can't know.

Jesus did take on our sin in terms of brokenness and rebellion, and the chastisement from God that it brings. I think that Jesus would first have understood that in terms of the narrative of Israel's exile and future return, rather than catagories that encompass the whole of creation necessarily. And yes, God did chastise the nation, that's what exile was, and we as a human race experience it as exile as well, and we find our return in Jesus. Chastisement means punishment and correction, not destruction. The former can be understood as a function of love, whereas the latter, probably not.

While the word "mother" can indeed convey many things, it's been used in this way since the fourth or fifth centuries. If anyone supposes that it puts the people of God somehow "above" Christ in authority, they've completely misheard. I've read the New Testament, after all. ;0)

It may interest you, I've done a little work unpacking authority here: a kind of prolonged treatment of just what I mean by that.

Thanks again for reading. I do appreciate your comments. :0)

bria_elaine said...

Ok, I guess this may be a doctrinal difference. Do you believe in the existence of Christ before his birth on earth? I am afraid we have very different beliefs about who Christ was and what he did.

One such instance is in God's relationship to the Son. I don't think his act on the cross had any more to do with Isreal than anyone else. Second, I don't think He wa taking God's chastisement, but fulfilling the justice of who God is and the way he created humanity. C.S. Lewis says it best at the end of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, after Aslan came back to life. About the magic and such. The Hebrew nation was expecting someone to do just what you said and "fix" the nation and take the punishment that was still being poured on them.

What they didn't realize was that Christ came to do much more, in that he also would fulfill the responsibilty that God gae the nation which was to bring salvation and the knowledge of who God was to everyone, jew and gentile.

I believe punishment and correction come through an ongoing relationship with Christ and though the Holy Spirit, but what was taken on the cross was very different. It was pure evil. I believe that he literally took on the full evil of every sin that ever was and that was why God had to look away. (God can not align himself with imperfection.) Is any of this making any sense?

I suppose I should go backa nd read what you have to say on the divinity of Christ so we can have a better understanding of eachother. Godspeed.

Kyle said...

Thanks for this, Brianna. My response to this was so long, I made it a post here.