You were there

You know that old spiritual that asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?. . .when they nailed Him to the tree?. . .when they laid Him in the tomb?. . . .when God raised Him from the tomb?”  Well, the answer to that question is YES.

According to the Bible, if you were baptized, you died with Him, you were buried with Him, and you rose from the dead with Him. [Read more…]

He descended into Hell

Great reflections on Hell and what it means that Jesus “descended into Hell,” from Dale M. Coulter:

In the Torgau sermon on Christ’s descent, Luther remarks that the paintings depicting this event “show well how powerful and useful this article is, why it took place, why it is to be preached and believed that Christ destroyed hell’s power and took all his power away from the devil. When I have that, then I have the true core and meaning of this article of faith.” Theological precision about the exact conditions under which it occurred, the mode of Christ’s presence, the composition of hell’s gates, etc., distract from the essential point, and to demythologize this part of the church’s teaching is a failure to see the crucial importance of Holy Saturday. [Read more…]

“God suffered, God died”

Some of the deepest waters of Lutheran theology and where it makes some of its greatest contributions are in the realm of Christology.  For Lent I have been reading The Two Natures in Christ by Martin Chemnitz, that master of Biblical, Medieval, and Patristic (not only Latin but also Greek) sources and the principal author of the Formula of Concord.

Studying all of this has given me some new understanding and appreciation for the magnitude of what happened on that first Good Friday.   Article VIII of the Formula of Concord turns an assertion that was highly controversial at the time into a matter of confessional subscription:  That we are to understand the Incarnation and the Atonement in such a way that we can affirm that “God suffered” and “God died.” [Read more…]

George Herbert on Christ on the Cross

For a Good Friday meditation, read The Sacrifice by George Herbert after the jump.  It presents the Crucifixion from the point of view of Christ Himself.  A repeated pattern in the stanzas is a contrast between how we treat Him and how He treats us.  It’s on the long side, but you’ll be glad you read it. [Read more…]

On the night when he was betrayed

We commemorate quite a lot of things on Maundy Thursday.  Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, giving them–and us–the “mandate”  (maundate; hence, “Maundy”) to love one another.  Then He gave them His body and His blood in bread and wine, thereby making clear the meaning of what was about to happen (“this is my body given for you”; “this is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”), ensuring that His followers would continue on as a Church (“do this in remembrance of me”), establishing His continual presence with them (“this is my body. . .my blood), and instituting the means by which His followers are incorporated with Him and receive the promise of the Gospel (“given for you”).  Later, Jesus prays for His Church, for His disciples and for those in the future who will believe because of their testimony–that is to say, us.   Then Judas betrays Him, He is arrested, arraigned before Herod, and Peter denies Him.  And the rest unfolds.

The events of Maundy Thursday are all for the benefit of His followers–washing their feet, exhorting them to love each other, giving them His body and blood in an ongoing sacrament, praying for them–whereupon one of those followers betrays Him, another denies Him, and the rest run away. [Read more…]

What the Bible is all about

On Sunday we read the entire Passion narrative from Matthew 26-27.  Read what our pastor said about it in a sermon that contains the “God  who didn’t act like a God” bit that I blogged about yesterday.  From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palm / Passion Sunday Sermon:

You just heard the story that all the Bible is about. This is not just part of the story, this is what it’s all about. Take this story out and the Bible is just another holy book – teaching us what to do and how to be good. But with this story, the Bible becomes a wholly different book, and everything in it gains new meaning. Everything in the Bible must be understood through the lens of this story, or not be understood at all. [Read more…]