Once upon a time, the God of the Universe was basically fed up with being on the receiving end of all our human projections, tired of being nothing more to us than what we thought God should be: angry, show-offy, defensive, insecure, in short, the vengeance-seeking tyrant we would be if we were God. So, at that time, over 2,000 years ago, God’s Loving Desire to really be Known overflowed the heavens and was made manifest in the rapidly dividing cells within the womb of an insignificant peasant girl named Mary. And when the time came for her to give birth to God, there was no room in our expectations – no room in any impressive or spiffy or safe place. So this God was born in straw and dirt. He grew up, this Jesus of Nazareth, lefthis home, and found some, let’s be honest, rather unimpressive characters to follow him. Fishermen, Tax collectors, prostitutes, homeless women with no teeth, people from Commerce City, Ann Coulter and Charlie Sheen. If you think I’m kidding…read it for yourselves. These people were questionable. So, with his little band of misfits Jesus went about the countryside turning water to wine, eating with all the wrong people, angering the religious establishment and insisting that in him the kingdom of God had come near, that through him the world according to God was coming right to us. He touched the unclean and used spit and dirt to heal the blind and said crazy destabilizing things like the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and sell all you have and give it to the poor.
And the thing that really cooked people’s noodles wasn’t the question “is Jesus like God” it was “what if God is like Jesus”. What if God is not who we thought? What if the most reliable way to know God is not through religion, not through a sin and punishment program, but through a person. What if the most reliable way to know God is to look at how God chose to reveal God’s self in Jesus?
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Tuesday of Holy Week are Isaiah 49:1-7 (Servant mission in the world), Psalm 71:1-14 (they say, “God has abandoned him.”), 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (cross is foolish to world, wisdom of God), and John 12:20-36 (Jesus speaks about his death).
John 12:23-26 (New Jerusalem Bible):
Jesus replied to them: Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
From Chapter 9 of the Didache concerning the Eucharist:
Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
Commentary from Audrey West:
Where is Jesus? He is with the Father (1:1; 14:11), and he dwells among us (1:14; 14:23). He is leading his followers to eternal life as he moves toward the hour of his death (12:32-33). Before much longer he will be “lifted up” on the cross (12:32, 34; 8:28) where he will lay down his life for his friends (15:13). Even as a grain of wheat falls to the earth in order to fulfill its true purpose, Jesus is lifted up from the earth in order to fulfill his, so that he may draw all people to himself. (12:24, 32). It is there, at the cross, that we will see his glory (17:24).
I have decided to do a series of posts for Holy Week 2011. I’ll post at least once each day of Holy Week. Not everyone may realize there are lectionary texts assigned for every day of Holy Week (not just Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil). So I will post the texts for each day, possibly some comments, and probably some quotes from others to help us reflect.
As a way of introduction to Holy Week, a quote from Robert Webber [Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 118-119]
As I contemplated the spiritual journey of Holy Week . . . I knew this was not a week for shopping, vacation, parties, or hilarity. I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle–and reward!
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Monday of Holy Week are Isaiah 42:1-9 (the Servant is a light to the nations), Psalm 36:5-11 (all humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings), Hebrews 9:11-15 (Christ came as High Priest), and John 12:1-11 (Mary anoints Jesus).
Hebrews 9:11-15 (New Jerusalem Bible):
But now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, not made by human hands, that is, not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement, may restore their bodily purity. How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God. This makes him the mediator of a new covenant, so that, now that a death has occurred to redeem the sins committed under an earlier covenant, those who have been called to an eternal inheritance may receive the promise.
A quote from James Alison (in “Some Thoughts on the Atonement”):
This puts many things in a slightly different perspective from what we are used to. It means, for instance, that the picture of God in the theory that we have that demands that God’s anger be satisfied is a pagan notion. In the Jewish understanding it was instead something that God was offering to us. Now here’s the crunch with this: the early Christians who wrote the New Testament understood very clearly that Jesus was the authentic high priest, who was restoring the eternal covenant that had been established between God and Noah; who was coming out from the Holy Place so as to offer himself as an expiation for us, as a demonstration of God’s love for us; and that Jesus was acting this out quite deliberately.