(note: don’t read and respond to this blog until after Easter. Enjoy the holiday. Do your devotionals on Sacred Space and go to church (or spend time with your new monastic community) or something like that. Please.)
so i’m pretty distracted as of late… and busy. My TA duties began this week, so now I’m tutoring, TAing, and taking a full course load. Plus I’m planning my study abroad situation this summer (I’m going with Fuller to Italy to take two two-week intensive classes…just put my deposit down yesterday), and planning my summer and fall internship (For those who don’t know, I’m attempting to start a “hub” group through my church that aims to live out socioeconomic diversity and reconciliation in a fellowship setting…as my Field Internship for Fuller). Throw in running/hiking, my ever-growing obsession with ultimate frisbee, piano and guitar, babysitting and home tutoring, and class/non-class related reading…blogging has been on the bottom of the totem pole of priorities these past few weeks.
OK, so here’s a topic of discussion, for those “theologically-minded” people out there, approp. for Good Friday: What did Jesus do on the cross?
Yeah, I know the answer you’re supposed to give. “He died for my sins.” But as of lately I’ve come to desire to push further about this very central issue of the faith I claim. (Being aware that Christians for centuries have aimed to understand the atonement better and have always come up short, I tread forward lightly, knowing that I must ultimately exclaim, “O the depths!” as Paul did. Of course, Paul only made this exclamation after 11 chapters of theological probing!… so this is where I must begin.)
To return to the above statement: “He died for my sins.” For lack of a better way to talk about this, let me break down this statement:
“He”–this is the part of the statement that I am the most sure about, even if the rest gets really convoluted in my fragile brain. Even the most staunch atheist must admit to the historical existence of Jesus, his ministry, and his death on a cross.
“died”–I am also quite certain about this (as noted above); although I’d like to nuance it differently…more accurately, he was killed…murdered…executed by the Roman government. He didn’t kill himself; he didn’t die on an altar, and I dare say that there was at least a chance that Jesus himself did not plan his execution- instead he was dragged off, “like a lamb to the slaughter,” yet remaining faithful to His Father in heaven all the while, even to his death.
“for”–Okay… so what was in fact the purpose of Jesus’ death on a cross? (Did it have to happen on a cross at all?) Ben Meyer says that Jesus, as he eventually came to the realization during his ministry on earth that his faithfulness to the will of the Father would eventually lead to him being killed, “began to fill his impending death with significance.” What is this significance? To satisfy the need for God to evoke violence as a result of human transgression? Is our God merely bloodthirsty, or vengeful?
“my”–this one I really have a problem with. Saying “Jesus died for me” is well and good, but I think we tend to say this all too often and forget the fact that Jesus did NOT come to save YOU or ME by ourselves…but to restore a COMMUNITY, and to establish His kingdom upon the entire EARTH.
“sins”–Here I just think our view of sin is really small. It includes moral obligations, yes…but it certainly goes farther than that… it refers to our orientation as a people–are we following after idols (money, success, careers, friends, acceptance, my own desires and wants, power, etc.) or after God? (Btw, the OT and Jesus make pretty clear that trying to “mix and match” your deities doesn’t typically work out very well. “You cannot serve both God and Mammon…”) I honestly think that there are many a person in this country who have prayed “sinner’s prayers” and have gone to church their whole lives…who may find themselves among the “goats” when Jesus comes to judge. In addition to all of this, sin is not simply an individual phenomenon, as hinted above. There are societal sins that we as a church community are called to address. We cannot remain satisfied simply b/c “my soul is saved.”
I have been impacted by several theologians and scholars as of late (e.g. Miroslav Volf, John Goldingay, N.T.Wright, Stephen Travis, Marianne Meye Thompson, as well my return to the studies of St. Anselm and Peter Abelard) and have come to (somewhat of a better understanding…
…but I want to know what you all think out there, seminarians/theologians or not. I’ll throw in my two cents as comments come (if they come at all. If they don’t, I’ll just have to blog later…which as you all know, may take a long time!)
If this has thoroughly depressed/upset you before Easter, I’m sorry. You didn’t pay attention to my warning, apparently.
The Good News is that even though it’s Good Friday now, Easter is coming. And with Easter comes the hope for all humanity, the restoration of the whole of creation to God and the partial installation of the coming Kingdom. So I pray that all of you, this Easter, experience the resurrection of Christ anew, which is our hope for our own resurrection as a redeemed people.