Saturday, March 27, 2010

Psalm 22 and the cross

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus cried those words from the cross. With his human skin torn, his human face beaten, his human body exposed, his human hands and feet pierced, and his human brow bleeding, it was being abandoned that hurt most of all. His connection with God was so unique and so cherished, it is amazing that he gave it up just so you and I could experience it as well.

But at this moment, his only companion is the deep, agonizing emptiness of solitary.

This wasn't the cry of a betrayed servant. It was the pain and loneliness of a scapegoat.

This soldier fought alone. He had to. He had been abandoned.

No one would be there to save him. No one would help him bear the pain. No one would help ease the weight of his body on those three Roman nails; the agony, ironically, caused by the gravity that he created.

Oh, how it must have hurt. Unspeakable, unimaginable hurt.

For you and me.

With it being Easter week and Passover on Tuesday, my mind is on the cross. It's meaning, it's purpose, and it's power.

Jesus is recorded to have spoken seven times from the cross. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:43 and 46; and John 19:26,27,28 and 30.

Only one of these is an obvious quote from the Old Testament: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which comes from Psalm 22:1. But there are other sayings from the cross that also come from that Psalm.

Jesus, a master of the text, was reciting Psalm 22 when he died.

Don't believe me? Grab a copy of Psalms 22 and let's study together.

Verse 9 "Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

From the cross: Mother, behold your son. Son behold your mother.

Verse 15 "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."

From the cross: I thirst.

Verses 4-5 "In you our fathers put their trust: they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed."

From the cross: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Verses 8-9 "All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

From the cross: Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

Verse 23 "You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help."

From the cross: Today you will be with me in Paradise.

Verse 31 "They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn - for he has done it."

From the cross: It is finished.

You will most likely hear Psalm 22:1 quoted this week, but don't let that be the only verse of that Psalm you read. All 31 verses are like a "Jesus view" of Calvary. Our God is truly amazing.

And remember when you do hear that Jesus cried "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He cried that so that I will never have to and neither will you.

1st Kings 8:57 "May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us."

Oh, and remember that he is not here. He is risen!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Celtic Way?

I have been thoroughly enjoying the book 'The Celtic Way of Evangelism' by George G. Hunter III, and I wanted to share some thoughts and excerpts.

The book is the summation of the evangelical mission of St. Patrick to the people of Ireland and the subsequent Christianization of that island, the rest of the British Isles and Western Europe by the succeeding generations of missionaries that continued Patrick's work.

The way that God used Patrick to bring the name of Jesus to the "Barbarian" people; the Britons (in what is now England), the Picts (in what is now Scotland), and the Scots-Irish (in what is now Ireland), is a great lesson for us today in how to reach Western cultures who are increasingly pagan and "Barbarian" in the eyes of Christianity.

From page 19-20

"Patrick's mission to Ireland was unprecedented and widely assumed to be impossible. The Irish context of that period, however, provided some strategic advantages for Patrick's mission. Ireland was populated by about 150 tuaths - extended tribes - each tribe fiercely loyal to its tribal king. Ireland's total population numbered between 200,000 and 500,000 people. By Patrick's time, all of the tribes spoke the same language that Patrick had learned while a slave, and they now shared more or less the same culture, so Patrick understood them.

Indeed, the fact that Patrick understood the people and their language, their issues, and their ways, serves as the most strategically significant single insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity, and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning from this movement. There is no shortcut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how. When the people know the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the High God understands them too."

Patrick was given an audience by the native Irish because Patrick chose to relate to them, he did not force them to relate to him. He understood and identified with them and he earned the right to speak to them.

As for the reaction outside of Ireland: Page 40-41

"You would think that the Roman wing of the Church would have been grateful for the expansion achieved by the mission of the Celtic wing and, begrudgingly, it was; but the Roman wing's leaders repeatedly criticized the Celtic wing for not doing church the "Roman way!"

The Celtic Christians...had not adopted Rome's innovations. David Bosch once observed that 'By and large...Catholicism endorsed the principle that a missionary church must reflect in every detail the Roman custom of the moment.'

A(n)...issue was indigeneity versus cultural uniformity. In the hairstyle matter, and many others, Celtic Christianity had adapted to the people's culture; the Romans wanted Roman cultural forms imposed upon all churches and peoples - a policy that was alien to the Celtic movement's practice and genius.

The driving issue, of course, was control. That is why it was so important, to the Romans, for everyone to do church the "Roman way." Once any society accepted Christianity, the politically dominant Roman wing of the Church insisted that the young churches organize in the Roman pattern of dioceses led by bishops and learn to worship in Latin, follow the liturgy from Rome, sing the music from Rome, etc.

The Synods of Whitby and Autun presumably settled the matter: the Roman way should be followed everywhere. In some cases, Celtic priests who refused to do church the Roman way were banished; in other cases, Benedictine rule was forced on Celtic monasteries. More often, presumably, church and secular leaders simply pressured Celtic leaders to conform, and they praised and rewarded those who did. Within two centuries of the Synods of Whitby and Autun, the Roman way largely prevailed throughout the Western Church."

This hits me very hard for three reasons:

1. We, and I mean all of us, who are in the Restoration movement, are heirs of Patrick's boldness to throw off the traditions of men and to lift up Jesus alone as God's answer to a broken world. Patrick dared to alter the pattern of his day to bring the truth of the Gospel to the ears and hearts of the "barbarian" people of his day.

The Stone/Campbell movement grew largely out of the Scotch/Irish church that maintained that rebellious tendency when presented with a choice between God and man. It also was a great influence on the origins of the United States of America.

2. It absolutely amazes me when I see an African church and the men are all wearing neckties. I see a church in Zambia where there are two songs, a prayer, a song, a lesson, an invitation, the Lord's Supper, a prayer, then they are dismissed. They've been taught the "new Roman way" of doing things. What would we say if they deviated from that?

I am finding myself more willing to release the old moorings of my customs and traditions and to be guided by God's Grace in all things.

3. I don't see any effort at all for our churches to reach out to a pagan and "unchurched" culture. I've been taught that the Church is there for the faithful Christians and if someone on the outside wanted Church of Christ "goods and services," then they must first become faithful members. That is not the pattern used by Patrick or by Jesus. Jesus never made anyone believe before He loved them. He loved them and they believed. They belonged before they believed.

Is that a pattern to follow? I think it is.

Oh, and get this book and read it!