Skip to comments.Lent and Beyond: Lenten Meditations, continued: Axegrinder
Posted on 04/07/2006 5:51:38 PM PDT by sionnsar
For today from Lent and Beyond's Anglican Bloggers' Collaborative Lenten Meditations series, we have The Seven Words by Jason Kranzusch, who writes the Axegrinder blog. Don't miss this one as it has some good thoughts on the words our Lord spoke from the cross--a fit subject since we are now one week from Good Friday.
This is the thirty-ninth in a series of daily Lenten devotionals by a group of Anglican bloggers and friends. Todays entry is by Jason Kranzusch of the Axegrinder blog. You can read other entries in the series here.
The Seven Words
We are a week away from Good Friday. I would like to offer some thoughts on Christs seven words from the Cross.
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
Relational strife is exceedingly taxing on human personhood. Few things eat away at us like unreconciled relationships.
Though there was no fault in him, Jesus was at odds with many people at thetime of his death. Nevertheless, he called upon his Father to forgive them of their sins. This prayer was an expression of his own willingness to die without holding a grudge.
A great trial for some people as they approach death is a relationship in which forgiveness and reconciliation are needed but have not been achieved. Christ took this suffering into himself. He left us an example for how to deal with those who refuse reconciliation.
We may walk in his steps in peace. We may die having expressed forgiveness to all who have ought against us. If we are at fault, we must see ourselves as members of the mob at the foot of the cross. We need to be forgiven. If this is our plight, Jesus has secured our forgiveness and calls upon us to seek reconciliation with those whom we have offended.
Truly I say unto you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).
Some people experience great doubt regarding where they will go after death. esus speaks comforting words to those whose minds are oppressed, but who cling to him by faith.
Whatever mystery remains in reference to our post mortem locale, we are assured that it is good and desirable. Wherever it is, Jesus will be there with us, and we with him. His promised presence is assurance that indeed the place of the faithful dead will be paradise.
There is also the expectation of reunion. If the Lord will take us there and be present himself, then paradise will be a gathering place for all the faithful. Since the basis of our solidarity [is] mutual love (Kallistos Ware), then we have a strong confidence that we will meet again. Separation, while real and painful, is not permanent.
Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother! (John 19:26-7).
Death involves an unavoidable, grievous separation from our friends and family. Jesus experienced this pain along with us.
His angst over this separation does not take away our pain over being parted from our loved ones. His participation in our pain does show us that he cares and is willing to help us bear our griefs.
While the presence of the dying person will not be replaced, the Lord does want to provide mutual comfort for the grieving in their remaining relationships. Those who are left behind by the dying should not allow themselves to be isolated by their grief, but should draw near to those around them.
Indeed, we should behold our mothers, sons, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and friends when faced with the death of a loved one. They may be ministers of Gods grace and comfort to us in our bereavement. We may be such ministers for another.
I thirst (John 19:28).
The lesson here may be as simple as Jesus participation in the physical traumas of dying. There are varying levels of physical suffering experienced by the dying. The passion of Christ was witheringly awful in both physical and spiritual senses.
Docetism was an early Christian heresy that denied that Christ suffered on the cross. This heresy was refuted and condemned by the church. Indeed, Christ suffered.
It is difficult to compare his physical sufferings with anyone elses. We know the duration of his passion. Some people suffer for longer periods. One may battle with cancer for years before finally giving way to death. Another may languish in a prison for decades, starving, tortured, and filthy. We cannot quantify Christs physical suffering in a comparative sense.
What we can say is that he died a very, physically painful death. He did this for us. He did this as us. He did this with us. We may go to him in our dying process as the one who bears our infirmities, suffers our pain, and reaches out his scarred hands to comfort us.
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).
There is great mystery surrounding the cry of dereliction. It is impossible for us to know exactly what Christ was expressing to his Father at that moment.
Maybe he was expressing his identification with sinners in their final alienation from God at death. Whatever was happening, we know it is impossible for the Father and the Son to be separated from one another in their being.
At the very least we may take heart that Christ can minister comfort to those who are tempted to despair at their death. He took into himself that sense of abandonment. Death is abandonment in the company of the one who on the cross was abandoned (Richard John Neuhaus As I Lay Dying 54-5). He tasted that feeling of alienation.
He is able to draw nigh to those who are in the throes of temptation. He is able to deliver them from the sense of forsakenness. He has promised to be present with those who love him. I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
It is finished (John 19:30).
Another trial that presents itself to the dying is a sense that their life has been incomplete, meaningless, or that they have failed to accomplish Gods purpose for them.
Christs declaration of completion certainly pertains to the atonement. Could there also be a sense in which he shares his success with us?
We only have the time that we have. We are finite and dependent upon the Lord. Our life is a mixture of trial and error, success and failure, sin and repentance. Nevertheless, there is refuge for us in Christ.
He perfectly performed his Fathers will. He accomplished what we could not. He is willing for us to share in his victory.
Our lives have ultimate meaning as they are lived in reference to the atonement of Christ. While we are certainly accountable to God for the things done in our body, we may also participate in the faithfulness of what Christ did in his body.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).
The words on the cross begin and end with the Son addressing his Father by name. They begin with mans need of Gods forgiveness and end with the solution to his alienation from God, which is the reason he needs forgiveness in the first place.
Jesus committal of himself into his Fathers hands at the point of death is the ultimate act of trust. We have no indication that the Father answered the cry of dereliction while Jesus was on the cross. Yet, Jesus entrusts himself to the Father in death.
Trust in the Fathers character was expressed before an answer was given. The Fathers answer is the resurrection. The trust that Jesus exhibits in his final words from the cross are honored and proved justifiable by the Fathers faithful raising of the Son from the dead.
Jesus made the way for us to express an ultimate trust in the Father. We have opportunities throughout our lives to express our faith in the Lord. We have a plausibility structure in the Church in which the power of witness functions to bears us up in the midst of doubts, struggles, and failings. We may speak face to face with others who have struggled through the same, or similar, issues that we may be facing.
This is not the case when it comes to death. There is no one who has experienced death with whom we may have a face-to-face conversation. There is no one to whom we can sit down over coffee and ask, So, whats it like to die? Does it hurt much? Is it scary? There is only Jesus, and we cannot see him. The Christian faith is founded on the historical reality of his death and resurrection. There is no scientific way for us to verify those events. We either accept the weighty evidence, or we do not.
If we accept the testimony of the church, Word and Holy Spirit, then we may unite with Christ in his trust of the Fathers care for us in death. We may come to death, with all its horrors and pain, with the confidence of the resurrection. We may meet death with a declaration of trust in the Father. We may join with Christ in our own experience of death and say, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
With Christ and by the Holy Spirit, we will find that the Father is well able and exceedingly willing to carry us in his hands through death and raise us again in the likeness of his Son, in whom he is well pleased, the Spirit crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.
Jason Kranzusch is a layman in the Reformed Episcopal Church. He graduated with an MDiv from Wesley Biblical Seminary in 2005. He likes buffalo wings, blues music, Georgia Tech basketball and John the Baptist. He blogs at axegrinder.
Much as I despise his politics, Jon Stewart had a funny view on Lent. It goes something like:
"We Jews have one day for atonement of sins, Yom Kippur. Catholics have Lent - 40 days. Even for atonement, you're paying retail."
Baruch Ha Shem, Yeshua Ha Maschiach
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