Saturday, April 10, 2004

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Crazyness.... Today was... interesting. Alpha Epsilon Pi extended a bid to me. This was seriously unexpected. I accepted the initial bid, I can still figure out if I want to be in. On top of that I sent out my "Application for Entrance to Candidacy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" to the synod today (I had already sent it off to the national church). Oh, I got a rejection letter from an editor today. Also, yesterday I turned in my short stories and poems to a writing contest on campus!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Here is the sermon.
Jesus Christ was crucified.
The crucifixion has become such a mainstay of Christianity that we easily relegate it to a theological exercise, forgetting that it is more than just an event we proclaim because we are Christian, but an event we proclaim both because of its pain and its saving power. Nearly every Sunday we confess “he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, died, and was buried.”
We just said our Lord was beaten by a Roman thug, stuck on a stick, breathed His last, and was put in the ground, yet we say it like it was a to do list. “Get up, pick up a gallon of milk, buy a box of Cheerios, jog a mile, Christ was crucified, go to Daniel Falk’s class, check my email. ETC ETC”
But what does it mean that Christ was crucified? To what can we compare the Crucifixion? One of our initial answers, the traditional answer of we churchly folk, is that He was executed as a common criminal. This is an easy phrase to say, yet it is filled with biting and bitter implications.
Think of the thousands of heads, minds and lives cut short, which tumbled through the streets of Paris when the guillotine was queen of revolutionary France. Think of bodies hung for the sake of unjust vigilante justice, men and women hung in the style of the old west or the Deep South. Think of firing squads, a line of five men holding guns, two of them with live ammunition, the remaining three without, aiming at, then shooting a common criminal. Think of Stephan King’s the Green Mile, where “Electricity shall now be passed through your body until you are dead, in accordance with state law. God have mercy on your soul.” Think even of our modern sanitized death sentence. Needles poked into veins, injection of some cocktail of poisons, the deadening of feeling, the slowing down of the body, the stopping of the heart, and life ends.
And so, what is the Crucifixion like? To what can it be compared?
It is like… your neighbor. Look to your right, or to your left. Chose a person siting close to you. Now close your eyes (SLOWLY NOW)
Imagine this person next to you. You are praying in the night, your knees against soft soil, and then he is next to you. With her is a group of soldiers clad in armor which glitters bronze in the moon’s light, swords clang upon their side as they reach you. He is there with those troops, roughly binding your arms, twisting them behind your back. She is with them as they hurl accusations upon you. He heaps blame upon you. She prostrates you before the oppressors of the nation, and he cries out for your blood. She savages you with blow after unending blow from a whip. He scourges your body, and she cries for your crucifixion. He forces you to carry your own impending death upon your back, slivers, shards, bulky wood, hate and sin formed together into a cross. She mocks you upon the road to the hill called the Skull. He straps you upon a stick, she drives nails into your hands and feet. Above your head he writes words about your kingdom in mock. She raises you up, jolting your already bruised body against the cross. He, while in the same position as you, laughs at you from your left. She kills you. He forces you to breath your last.
Yet that, even to the most vivid imagination or skilled director is simply bitterness upon your lips. What of nutrition? What does it mean that Christ was crucified? To what can we compare the Crucifixion?
The crucifixion is like the near sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. Many theologians see Genesis 22 as a foreshadowing, a pre-figuration, a foretaste of Jesus’ death upon the cross.
In Genesis 22 God calls on Abraham the first of God’s chosen people, to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac. Then as Abraham puts his son Isaac upon the altar and brings the knife down he is stopped by the voice of God and is given a ram to sacrifice in place of Isaac. So too God gives Jesus to us as a sacrifice in replacement of us.
Yet Marsha Mirkin, a scholar at Brandeis University, does not stop with this Ram as a replacement for Isaac. She also sees this Ram as Abraham’s past mistakes being sacrificed so that he could be in right relationship with God and with his family. His mistakes are being destroyed so that his life is remade. Through his atoning death Jesus takes our past mistakes, our sinful and broken lives, upon himself to redeem us. (brief pause)
One of the things I decided to do for Lent was to reread the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. An event that looms large over those five books is the Passover. In fact Pastor Kegel just came from having a Seder meal with the highschoolers. The Seder meal is done in remembrance of the last meal the Israelites ate before they departed from being slaves in Egypt. The last of the plagues that befell the Egyptians when they held the Israelites as slaves was the plague of the first born. All the first born in Egypt, both Jew and Gentile, were to die, yet God, full of mercy, gave the Israelites an out. If they smeared a mark of blood of a lamb upon their doorpost their house would be “passed over” and their first born would not die. So too Jesus has replaced us, his blood is shed upon us so that we shall be passed over, and not face death. So too Jesus has freed us from the bondage of the slavery of sin.
Also in the Pentateuch are the many laws of Sacrifice. These sacrifices are quite complex, but the long short of the Israelite sacrificial system is that when an Israelite fell short of the covenant with God they had to make a sacrifice to repair that covenant. Through the crucifixion Jesus repairs God’s covenant with us, “His life was made an offering for sin.”
That is at least a snippet of biblical foundation for understanding the Crucifixion, which is all well and good, but what is a more recent, a more modern example? Something that we can relate to better?
Let’s take an example out of literature. The Crucifixion is like the death of Sydney Carton in Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” In one of the most powerful scenes in English Literature Charles Evermont, is being taken away to the guillotine and Sydney Carton, a man who looks just like Evermont, comes to him and silently switches places with Evermont and is killed in his stead.
Still, Sydney Carton is no Jesus. Sydney is a man, who up until his death, was always said to be “full of promise,” but never made use of this promise, in effect he had been living a wasted life. His life until this point can be summed up by the lyrics of the Goo Goo Dolls “Broadway is dark tonight,” “A young man sitting at an old man’s bar, waiting for his turn to die.” At the end of his life, as he replaces Evermont at the guillotine he sees Evermont having a son who bears Sydney’s name, and is filled with promise, and lives up to his promise. In his death Sydney Carton finds redemption. Through Christ’s death we are all saved from death, and redeemed from sin, so that we may live a life not wasted.
Once again close your eyes. Again find the image of that person next to you. This time though, it is not them betraying you, but you betraying them. You are the one turning their palm Sunday into the Passion, not the other way around. It is not their whip against your body, but yours against theirs. You are the one who goes from singing “hosannas” to crying “Crucify him, Crucify him.” It is not you on the cross, but them.
That is what the Crucifixion of Jesus the Christ is, replacement and redemption. For our sinfulness we deserve nothing short of death, yet Jesus dies for us. Through Jesus’ death our life, a twisted, fallen and down right wretched mockery of God’s intentions for us is redeemed. Redeemed, we may say as it says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
All of humanity is sinful, from our lust and greed to the murderous intents of our heart and the inadequacies of our social structures to our inability to love one another and our unwillingness to forgive always. Still, even to us, the Crucifixion of Christ is hope for all of us. We have all Crucified Christ, yet through that action of Jesus we are all replaced and redeemed by him. Because Jesus poured out himself to death,” we are spattered clean with his blood, the blood of the lamb, as he calls to God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
We, the first-hand witnesses of the crucifixion, our hands not yet dried of his blood, and his words of forgiveness still ringing in our ears, knowing this forgiveness face to face, must go out into the world loving our neighbor as we know Christ loves us, and loves them. We must go out with confidence in Christ crucified, and take our faith out side this building, outside our bible studies, outside our oldschool Norwegian potluck fellowship dinners, and outside our Churches and into the streets, living out a life in witness to the forgiveness bought and brought by Jesus’ death on the Cross.
I could toss out complex, yet if I may be so bold, pretty, phrases like that all day, but in the end that is not the way to proclaim God’s forgiveness. In the end faith is an active thing. In the end faith is an experiential thing. It is not just a revolutionary call to the streets, but also a call within our selves and within our churches. Let’s start this proclamation of Christ right here and right now.
This is how we are to proclaim Christ Crucified, both in this building and to all the ends of the earth. Turn to that person who you have imagined as both the crucifier and the crucified, who you have invested the best and the worst attributes in. Who contains both the anguish of humanity, as well as the hope of humanity. Turn to them and boldly say, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” THEY DO THIS Jesus Christ was crucified and “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I didn't preach as well as I sometimes do. I just didn't have a stride, was kind of off. It worked out well enough though.
Well. I translated the first two pslams. Here they are in all their ambiguity

Psalm 1
Happy is the man/ Who does not go as the wicked advise
He does not stand upon the path of the wicked/ nor sit upon the scoffer’s couch
For only in the LORD’s law does he take delight/ and he chant’s His law day and night
He is a wooden corpse planted into an underground stream of water
Because his fruit is given up at the time/ his foliage is not kindling
And all that is formed of him is useful
Not so for the wicked/ because they are as chaff blow away in the wind
Thus the wicked shall not be erect in judgment/ and sinners will not stand as the righteous
Because the LORD knows the way of the righteous/ the way of the wicked shall not stand

Psalm 2
Why are the nations agitated/ and the nations mumble in vain?
The kings of the earth fortify/ the diplomats conspire together
Against the LORD and against his anointed
They tear to pieces their fetters/ they throw off their binding
He That Dwells in Heaven laughs/ the Lord derides them
He responds to them in anger/ they chose a swift retreat
I have baptized my king/ upon Zion, my holy mountain
I wrote God’s decree
The LORD said to me, “You are my son/ Today I have born you.
Ask from me
The boundaries of the nations are yours/ your property is to the ends of the earth.
Yours is a roaring rod of iron/ and all the pottery is smashed.
Now the kings understand/ the chiefs of the land are removed
They serve in fear of the LORD/and rejoice with trembling
Kiss the son
Or else he will be on the road to anger/ a trifle spark will set him off
(Blessed) are all who find compassion in him
Preaching tonight at 6:30 PM. I'll post my sermon sometime afterwards.