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Archive for July, 2017

yoderPolitics of Jesus.qxd“This life brought [Jesus], as any genuinely human existence will bring anyone, to the cross…’Cross and resurrection’ designates not only a few days’ events in first-century Jerusalem but also the shape of the cosmos…

‘The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power!’  John [in Revelation] is here saying, not as an inscrutable paradox but as a meaningful affirmation, that the cross and not the sword, suffering and not brute power determines the meaning of history.  The key to the obedience of God’s people is not their effectiveness but their patience (13:10).  The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and other kinds of power in every human conflict.  The triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, not because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys.  The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection…

The will of God is affirmatively, concretely knowable in the person and ministry of Jesus.  Jesus is not to be looked at merely as the last and greatest in the long line of rabbis teaching pious people how to behave; he is to be looked at as a mover of history and as the standard by which Christians must learn how they are to look at the moving of history…

The cross is not a recipe for resurrection.  Suffering is not a tool to make people come around, nor a good in itself.  But the kind of faithfulness that is willing to accept evident defeat rather than complicity with evil is, by virtue of its conformity with what happens to God when he works among us, aligned with the ultimate triumph of the Lamb.  This vision of ultimate good being determined by faithfulness and not by results is the point where we moderns get off.  We confuse the kind of ‘triumph of the good,’ whose sole guarantee is the resurrection and the promise of the eternal glory of the Lamb, with an immediately accessible triumph which can be manipulated, just past the next social action campaign, by getting hold of society as a whole at the top…A social style characterized by the creation of a new community and the rejection of violence of any kind is the theme of New Testament proclamation from beginning to end, from right to left.  The cross of Christ is the model of Christian social efficacy, the power of God for those who believe.  Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur.  Our Lamb has conquered; him let us follow…

The crucified Jesus is a more adequate key to understanding what God is about in the real world of empires and armies and markets than is the ruler in Rome, with all his supporting military, commercial, and sacerdotal networks.  Then to follow Jesus does not mean renouncing effectiveness.  It does not mean sacrificing concern for liberation within the social process in favor of delayed gratification in heaven, or abandoning efficacy in favor of purity.  It means that in Jesus we have a clue to which kinds of causation, which kinds of community-building, which kinds of conflict management, go with the grain of the cosmos, of which we know, as Caesar does not, that Jesus is both the Word (the inner logic of things) and the Lord (‘sitting at the right hand’)…’He’s got the whole world in his hands’ is a post-ascension testimony.  The difference it makes for political behavior is more than merely poetic or motivational.” (John Howard YoderThe Politics of Jesus, 2nd ed., pp. 145, 160, 232-42, 246-47)

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LordshipI found this opening “parable” in Eduard Schweizer’s Lordship and Discipleship to be quite profound in describing the essence of the Christian life as participation in the story of Jesus.  At the heart of being a Christian is not an ethos of substitution (“Jesus did this for me, so that I don’t have to anymore”) or moralism (“Jesus sets a nice example that we need to now reduplicate in our own will power, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps”).  Rather, Christ died and rose for us, so that we might now die and rise with him in the power of the Spirit (participation!).  This is what Hebrews means when it describes Jesus as our “forerunner” who has gone before us to make the way:

“When in a valley in the mountains there is a sudden heavy fall of snow, a child visiting his grandmother may not be able to reach home again.  But when father comes home from his work he will fetch him, lead the way and with his strong shoulders make a way through the snowdrifts.  The child follows, step by step, in the footsteps of father, and yet in an entirely different manner.  If the father wanted to be just an ‘example’ to the child, then the child would have to make his own way ten yards away from the father and merely imitate the manner in which the latter makes his way.  If the father wanted to act ‘vicariously’ for the child, in the strict sense of the word, then the child would stay with grandmother and think: Father is going home in my stead.

This example cannot have the intention of emphasizing that the child ‘too must do something.’  He certainly does do something, and something very concrete at that…He is involved in what father is doing, involved ‘after the event,’ but yet involved step by step; so much so that he learns to see what father is doing before his eyes and step by step practices what he sees.” (Eduard SchweizerLordship and Discipleship, p. 11)

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A sermon I preached at Trinity Heights Church in New York City:

http://www.trinityheightschurch.com/sermon/memory-and-imagination/

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Restless Hope

Moltmann“From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.  The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of the Christian faith as such, the key in which everything in it is set, the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day.  For Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ.  Eschatology is the passionate suffering and passionate longing kindled by the Messiah.  Hence eschatology cannot really be only a part of Christian doctrine.  Rather, the eschatological outlook is characteristic of all Christian proclamation, of every Christian existence and of the whole Church.  There is therefore only one real problem in Christian theology, which its own object forces upon it and which it in turn forces on mankind and on human thought: the problem of the future…

Christian eschatology does not speak of the future as such.  It sets out from a definite reality in history and announces the future of that reality, its future possibilities and its power over the future.  Christian eschatology speaks of Jesus Christ and his future.  It recognizes the reality of the raising of Jesus and proclaims the future of the risen Lord.  Hence the question whether all statements about the future are ground in the person and history of Jesus Christ provides it with the touchstone by which to distinguish the spirit of eschatology from that of utopia…

To believe means to cross in hope and anticipation the bounds that have been penetrated by the raising of the crucified.  If we bear that in mind, then this faith can have nothing to do with fleeing the world, with resignation and escapism.  In this hope the soul does not soar above our vale of tears to some imagined heavenly bliss, nor does it sever itself from the earth…Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering.  If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death.  That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.  If we had before our eyes only what we see, then we should cheerfully or reluctantly reconcile ourselves with things as they happen to be.  That we do not reconcile ourselves, that there is no pleasant harmony between us and reality, is due to our unquenchable hope…

Hope alone is to be called ‘realistic’, because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught.” (Jurgen Moltmann, “Introduction” in Theology of Hope)

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