Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


We preach Christ crucified

The Rev. Patrick Augustine writes that "the Cross is crucial and the heart of the Christian faith" but that this has not always been easily accepted:
From the pages of history we learn that as the church grew, so did controversy around the cross. In the ancient world people could accept new religions and new teachers quite easily. Jesus as teacher was attractive to many. But the cross was continually an enormous barrier to the acceptance of Christianity, and the first Christians knew it. The cross was offensive in its own right because crucifixion was a penalty levied out to only the most evil and wretched of men. How then can that humiliating, dishonorable death of Jesus on a cross be the event that brings salvation for the world? One would have to be a fool to believe that.

Yet that is precisely what the gospel declares. The fundamental theological point is that if the cross itself is in fact God's saving event, all human standards of evaluation are overturned. The outlandish message baffled Jews and Greeks. They were eminently reasonable by their own standards in asking for evidence of a more credible sort, either empirical demonstration of power ("signs") or rationally persuasive argumentation ("wisdom"). The Messiah should be for the Jews a man of power, or the Christ for the Greeks a wise teacher. But no! God has invalidated all apparently reasonable criteria.

This was a major stumbling block, and seemed foolishness in the eyes of the world for church to invite people to believe in Christ crucified. But the fact of the matter is that they dared to proclaim "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15: 3). In the New Testament and the teaching of the early church, there emerges a dominant theme of Christus Victor, Christ the Victor. In his life, in his death, and in his resurrection Jesus finally and utterly defeated the evil demonic powers whose aim was to keep humanity permanently depressed and separated from its creator. The Gospel declares that "God so loved the world" that the work of salvation, the supreme proof of God's love, began at the Incarnation, and was gloriously completed when Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished." He is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)." On the cross it finally came about the hour of his glory, so that even a pagan soldier who earlier had mocked him looking at the face of the crucified finally recognized the truth, saying, "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mk. 15: 39 b)

The truth about Christ crucified needs to be declared to the world without shame and hesitation. Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says, "In our Western church we have lost the dimension of radical discipleship to identify with Christ in the suffering and pain of the humanity. We have replaced it with a following of Jesus which is virtually cost-less. Indeed, some evangelists are guilty of going to the other extreme of offering the carrot that 'if you accept Jesus, he will solve your problems, help you find a good job, husband, wife, peace, contentment, etc.' The motive behind this may be admirable -- it is true, after all, that the presence of the Lord is healing -- but the result is a 'filleted' Christianity, with sacrifice removed."

To proclaim "Christ Crucified" is not a fancy fashionable statement. It is a risky, costly, demanding and sometimes dangerous business. Your life and my life are ultimately built on faith that goes beyond mere belief in prosperity theology. It is a faith that dares run the risk in the killing fields of Carthage and Sudan. It is a faith which reaches out to touch with the healing hands of the Crucified the dying in the gutters of Calcutta. The 14th century theologian Thomas a Kempis said, "Jesus now has many lovers of his heavenly Kingdom, but few bearer of his cross."

It is my sincere prayer as we come to the end of the Lenten season that we may not rush too hastily to the empty tomb to raise our songs of Alleluia! -- of Easter joy -- for we know the risen Lord only through Christ and him crucified. Here at the cross is the real power of God made available for our forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with our creator who created us in his own image. Stay awhile; here is the axis mundi for the salvation of humanity.
The full text of his reflection is online here: We preach Christ crucified

Our Good Friday liturgy is at 12 noon and 7 p.m.
Stations of the Cross will be at 1 p.m.

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