Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

Apostle’s CreedAnd in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
Nicene CreedWe believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Scots (one of many statements)VI. We acknowledge and confess that this wonderful union between the Godhead and the humanity in Christ Jesus did arise from the eternal and immutable decree of God from which all our salvation springs and depends.
HeidelbergQ. 18. Who is this mediator who is at the same time true God and a true and perfectly righteous man? A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given to us for complete redemption and righteousness. Q. 19. Whence do you know this? A. From the holy gospel, which God himself revealed in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, afterward proclaimed through the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed through the sacrifices and other rites of the Old Covenant, and finally fulfilled through his own well beloved Son.   LORD’S DAY 11 Q. 29. Why is the Son of God called JESUS, which means SAVIOR? A. Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation is to be sought or found in no other. Q. 30. Do those who seek their salvation and well-being from saints, by their own efforts, or by other means really believe in the only Savior Jesus? A. No. Rather, by such actions they deny Jesus, the only Savior and Redeemer, even though they boast of belonging to him. It therefore follows that either Jesus is not a perfect Savior, or those who receive this Savior with true faith must possess in him all that is necessary for their salvation. LORD’S DAY 12 Q. 31. Why is he called CHRIST, that is, the ANOINTED ONE? A. Because he is ordained by God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, fully revealing to us the secret purpose and will of God concerning our redemption; to be our only High Priest, having redeemed us by the one sacrifice of his body and ever interceding for us with the Father; and to be our eternal King, governing us by his Word and Spirit, and defending and sustaining us in the redemption he has won for us. Q. 32. But why are you called a Christian? A. Because through faith I share in Christ and thus in his anointing, so that I may confess his name, offer myself a living sacrifice of gratitude to him, and fight against sin and the devil with a free and good conscience throughout this life and hereafter rule with him in eternity over all creatures. LORD’S DAY 13 Q. 33. Why is he called GOD’S ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, since we also are God’s children? A. Because Christ alone is God’s own eternal Son, whereas we are accepted for his sake as children of God by grace. Q. 34. Why do you call him OUR LORD? A. Because, not with gold or silver but at the cost of his blood, he has redeemed us body and soul from sin and all the dominion of the devil, and has bought us for his very own.
Second HelveticCHAPTER XI Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man, the Only Savior of the World CHRIST IS TRUE GOD.We further believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was predestinated or foreordained from eternity by the Father to be the Savior of the world. And we believe that he was born, not only when he assumed flesh of the Virgin Mary, and not only before the foundation of the world was laid, but by the Father before all eternity in an inexpressible manner. For Isaiah said: “Who can tell his generation?” (Ch. 53:8). And Micah says: “His origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). And John said in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” etc. (Ch. 1:1). Therefore, with respect to his divinity the Son is coequal and consubstantial with the Father; true God (Phil. 2:11), not only in name or by adoption or by any merit, but in substance and nature, as the apostle John has often said: “This is the true God and eternal life” (I John 5:20).  Paul also says: “He appointed the Son the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding all things by his word of power” (Heb. 1:2 f.). For in the Gospel the Lord himself said: “Father, glorify Thou me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made” (John 17:5). And in another place in the Gospel it is written: “The Jews sought all the more to kill him because he . . . called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Shorter CatechismQ. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ,1 who, being the eternal Son of God, became man,2 and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one Person forever.3 Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul,1 being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her,2 yet without sin.3 Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer? A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet,1 of a priest,2 and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.3 Q. 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet in revealing to us,1 by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.2 Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest? A. Christ executeth the office of a priest in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice,1 and reconcile us to God,2 and in making continual intercession for us.3 Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king? A. Christ executeth the office of a king in subduing us to himself,1 in ruling and defending us,2 and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.3 Q. 27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition,1 made under the law,2 undergoing the miseries of this life,3 the wrath of God,4 and the cursed death of the cross;5 in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.6 Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation? A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day,1 in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father,2 and in coming to judge the world at the last day.3
Barmen Declaration2. “Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30.) As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures. We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
Confession of 19671. JESUS CHRIST In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all. Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows. He expressed the love of God in word and deed and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men. But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people. His life and teaching judged their goodness, religious aspirations, and national hopes. Many rejected him and demanded his death. In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment under which all men stand convicted. God raised him from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah and Lord. The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory over sin and death for all men. God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery which the Scriptures describe in various ways. It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for man. They reveal the gravity, cost, and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work. The risen Christ is the Savior for all men. Those joined to him by faith are set right with God and commissioned to serve as his reconciling community. Christ is head of this community, the church, which began with the apostles and continues through all generations. The same Jesus Christ is the judge of all men. His judgment discloses the ultimate seriousness of life and gives promise of God’s final victory over the power of sin and death. To receive life from the risen Lord is to have life eternal; to refuse life from him is to choose the death which is separation from God. All who put their trust in Christ face divine judgment without fear, for the judge is their redeemer.
A Brief Statement of Faith7We trust in Jesus Christ, 8 fully human, fully God. 9 Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: 10 preaching good news to the poor 11 and release to the captives, 12 teaching by word and deed 13 and blessing the children, 14 healing the sick 15 and binding up the brokenhearted, 16 eating with outcasts, 17 forgiving sinners, 18 and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. 19 Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, 20 Jesus was crucified, 21 suffering the depths of human pain 22 and giving his life for the sins of the world. 23 God raised this Jesus from the dead, 24 vindicating his sinless life, 25 breaking the power of sin and evil, 26 delivering us from death to life eternal.
Belhar Confession10.9 Acts 5:29–32; 1 Peter 3:15–18 We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence. Jesus is Lord.

All of these are from The Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Book of Confessions, PDF Edition (Louisville: 2014).

Love One Another

Jesus said it four times in one night, and even made it a commandment so the disciples would pay attention. They must have been listening because Paul, Peter and John say it a bunch of times in their letter, and Paul even writes a whole chapter just about what love is (1 Corinthians 13).

  1. John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.”
  2. John 13:35 “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
  3. John 15:12 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”
  4. John 15:17 “This is my command: Love each other.”
  5. Romans 12:10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
  6. Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
  7. Galatians 5:13 “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
  8. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.”
  9. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 “But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.”
  10. 1 Peter 1:22 “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
  11. 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each otherLove each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”
  12. 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
  13. Hebrews 10:24 “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
  14. 1 John 2:7 “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.”
  15. 1 John 3:11 “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”
  16. 1 John 3:23 “And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.”
  17. 1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”
  18. 2 John 1:5 “I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning.”
  19. 2 John 1:6Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.”

Gathered

“… for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there. ” –Numbers 20:26

It’s an odd way to talk about dying. Scholars don’t all agree about the meaning of this idiom. The same word is used to talk about gathering wheat at harvest time, and for gathering people together for meetings. Some think it means being placed in the family graveyard, others think it means to be gathered into sheol or the afterlife. Others think it simply means to die peacefully.

I like the idea that it means to join a gathering of those who have already died. Hebrews says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (12:1), and Revelation describes a huge crowd of people worshiping in heaven:

After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language.


–Revelation 7:9

Now, if you don’t like crowds, this doesn’t make heaven sound very attractive, but I’ve also read recently (here) that it’s comforting to tell people who are dying that they’re not alone. Saying this while you’re sitting next to them sounds reasonable, but we can only speculate about what will happen after the point of death. In Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven it’s not a crowd in heaven, just a few well-loved people. Even with just two, it’s still a gathering, right?

When Jesus was about to die on the cross, he told the man next to him, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). So whether or not there’s a crowd, or five people, there’s at least Jesus, and so, indeed, in death we’re not alone.

Another meaning of the word “gathered” is the thing one does to fabric to make it look like this:

I definitely don’t think that this is what happened to Aaron in Numbers 20:26, unless somehow in death we are sewn to other people. Or maybe we are SOWN, as we are being buried, just like we bury seeds. The word “gather” comes from the Proto-Germanic word gaduron which sounds like “garden.” Gardening does involve burying seeds.

Maybe I’m just being silly or grasping at threads, but it is rather interesting how much all these words connect to one another. Maybe someday when I’m gathered to my people, they’ll be able to explain all this stuff…

Defenestration

Prague Defenestration Site

I happened upon this word (defenestration) last week as I was working on my sermon entitled “All for One and One for All.”  My sermon talked about how we are all connected, as Paul describes in Sunday’s scripture (1 Cor. 12:12-27). I was googling to see if there were other uses of that motto made famous by Alexandre Dumas in The Three Musketeers. It turns out it was the rallying cry for Bohemian protestants in 1618 when they lost their exemption from converting to the king’s religion.  Their punishment for refusing to convert was defenestration.  They were thrown out of a window, which sounds much more like something from a Monty Python movie than an actual punishment.  Its effectiveness is also questionable, although when these protestants survived their defenestration, people said it was divine intervention.

The sermon text for this coming Sunday is the story of Jesus speaking in his hometown synagogue, and riling up the people so much that they want to throw him off a cliff.  (Luke 4)  It sounds quite similar to being thrown out a window, doesn’t it?  Maybe I’m overly fascinated by this idea because it sounds so silly to me, and so much like tossing things in the garbage or sweeping things under the rug or covering our eyes to pretend we aren’t in the situation we don’t want to be in.

Besides, defenestration is such an undignified way to die.  Maybe that’s partly the point.  Defenestration is what happened to Queen Jezebel (2 Kings 9:32) in response to her persecution of those who followed God instead of Baal.  It was conveniently simple since she happened to be leaning out the window at the time, taunting Jehu who was passing by the building.  All Jehu had to do was ask someone to push her and the deed was done.

Looking at the list of defenestrations throughout history it appears that more of them happen as an angry response than as a pre-planned execution.  This doesn’t surprise me.  Surely with time for greater thought, a more effective method would be chosen.  I have thrown things in anger.  I have a book that bears the mark of the wall against which I threw it when I was around ten.  I don’t remember what prompted that anger, but I will forever remember my response.

We say that when God closes a door he opens a window.  If our response is then to throw whatever we don’t like out that open window, what does that say about us?

Windows of opportunity show up at strategic points in Bible history.  Noah uses the window in the ark to test the waters, so to speak, by sending out a raven and a dove.  Rahab hangs a red cord out her window to signal the Israelite army which building to spare as they attack Jericho (Joshua 2). The Apostle Paul escapes through a basket lowered out a window (2 Corinthians 11:33).

In Malachi, God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”

The windows of heaven then are the skies above through which God pours down his blessings, especially the rain that waters the earth and makes things grow.  Following this line of thinking, Jesus is describing a defenestration in Luke 10:18 when he says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  God threw Satan out the window.

Maybe that day God was preparing to create Marie Kondo and deciding what to keep or toss based on whether or not it gave him joy?

May we be prayerful, mindful, and joyful of our responses to whatever happens in our lives, and always be careful around open windows.

Advent Peace

In these darkening days,
we come seeking peace.
We seek serenity within ourselves.
We seek harmony within our families.
We seek goodwill among our neighbors.
We seek a ceasefire among all nations.
We seek not just the absence of conflict,
But the presence of shalom–
the abiding peace
the healing life
the unrelenting justice
that God calls us to in Christ.
Let us worship with Divine hope.

–Joanna, a Mennonite pastor

Call to Worship: Advent Peace

Good Friday or Black Friday?

1a28ae7a1cb42451baa88c0b60fc1c73I used to think it was really weird that we call the day Jesus died “Good Friday” and not “Black Friday.” Instead, Black Friday is the day everybody goes crazy with their Christmas shopping.  Don’t we have those backwards?  Black Friday is a really good day to go shopping, and Good Friday is a really dark day . . . literally, actually.  Mark says, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (Mark 15:33).

I’m not the first person to wonder about this, and probably not the last.  Many who are wiser than I have theories about how we got here, the best of which says that “good” used to mean “holy” and that it’s actually Holy Friday.[1]

BC Comics answers the question quite nicely:

4-17-17-toon-good-friday-bc_orig

But before we move on and just leave it at that . . . maybe I’m pointing out the obvious, but the name given to the day after Thanksgiving is the perfect foil to Good Friday.  On Black Friday we have historically seen the worst displays of greed and selfishness, and it is the height of irony that it happens right after we have a day dedicated to thankfulness.  The origins of the name “Black Friday” are muddy (read more here), but the day has grown into its name well.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul could be describing some of the scenes we see on Black Friday:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” –Romans 3:18-19

And lest we think we’re ok because we don’t go shopping on Black Friday, so we’re not so bad, Paul adds:

“. . .all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

But the Good News that makes Good Friday good is that God is good and faithful, and loves us all so much that he provided a solution.

“all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” –Romans 3:24

Such an amazing gift . . . one we see paralleled in the story in Genesis when Abraham takes his son Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed, and at the last minute finds a ram in a thicket. Abraham then sacrifices that ram instead of his son (Genesis 22:13). (Read the whole story here.)

A thicket is a dense area of bushes or trees.  My brain is often like a thicket, a particularly foggy one sometimes. Maybe this is why I resonate with the people in Exodus that God calls “stiff-necked” for their stubbornness and tendency to complain about everything.   My thicket today is this whole Good/Black Friday bundle of nomenclature and etymology and all its theological implications, and most of all the blackness that inevitably pervades my mood on Good Friday.  Yes, I know Sunday is coming.  I know the good news is that Jesus doesn’t stay dead, he is resurrected.  But despite that, Good Friday still gets me down.

Maybe the real thicket is that bundle of sin and shame that Jesus bore on the cross on this day.  l know the theology around our sinful nature begun when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden (Genesis 3). I know that Jesus willingly died for us (John 10:11-18).  On this day that knowledge sinks from my head down into my heart and makes me sad.  Some say this is what is really happening in that little verse that says “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  I know the pain of watching people that you love deeply go through pain.  Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, it’s so hard to watch.  We want to do something.  We want to make them feel better.  We want to take their pain away.  Knowing that feeling, I think we get a glimpse of what Jesus might have been feeling.

And since he is God, he did do something that we would do if we could.  He took on all our pain and redeemed it on the cross.

Here we find another thicket.  Theology is sometimes impossibly dense about what exactly transpires in Jesus’ death and resurrection and in our believing in him.  Paul in Romans spends a plethora of words on what boils down to this: “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28), faith in Jesus who died for us and conquered sin and death through his resurrection from the dead.

e6d0ee3baa2d44335aaaf0bfc37a0c99--foggy-forest-landscape-illustrationI know Sunday’s coming.  I know we’ll be joyful and thankful on Easter.  I know today wouldn’t be what it is if the resurrection hadn’t happened. But for today the good and the black are still roiling around in the thicket.

And it’s ok.  God is still here.  This is a not a bad place to be, even if it is a hard place.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

May we appreciate Jesus’ work on the cross all the more, and know sincerely the joy of the resurrection by having walked through this day with sober understanding of the depth of our need for a savior.

Thanks be to God.

 

My Good Friday playlist . . .

[1] http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/04/18/why_is_good_friday_called_good_friday_the_etymology_and_origins_of_the_holiday.html