Blogroll: Sussex Parson
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 11 posts from the blog 'Sussex Parson.'
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Jane Williams argues that Arianism would view the sacraments as merely symbolic because its motivation is to keep the divine from contamination with the creaturely. It is held to be impossible for the creature and God to co-exist. "Sacraments become merely symbolic, since matter cannot receive the divine" (p27. 'Creeds: Boundaries or paths?' in The Bond of Peace: Exploring Generous Orthodoxy (SPCK, 2021)Marc Lloyd
Joshua J. Knabb, Christian Meditation in Clinical Practice: A Four-Step Model and Workbook for Therapists and Clients (IVP Academic, 2021)
Drawing on research around mindfulness, Knabb argues for the benefits of a distinctively Christian approach to prayer, meditation and contemplation resourced by various branches of the Christian tradition. Three introductory chapters set out his approach with comparisons to Buddhist and secular meditation. Five subsequent chapters propose interventions for repetitive negative thinking, impaired emotional clarity and distress intolerance, behavioural avoidance, perfectionism and mentalization.
Chapters include templates for keeping logs, exercises and questions for review. Audio recordings for some exercises are available at: ivpress.com/Knabb1 etc. to Knabb5
Some things I thought worth jotting down:
Definitions of Christian meditation (p9) heavenly mindedness and communion with God (p11)
About one in five adults will struggle with depression during their lifetime to the point of meeting the criteria for a formal psychiatric diagnosis; one in three for an anxiety disorder (p22)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) over 300 diagnoses. The danger of pathologizing normal experiences of psychological suffering (p23)
Domains to consider:
Thinking / cognition (e.g. repetitive thinking)
Feeling / affect (impaired emotional clarity or distress intolerance)
The self (perfectionism)
Assessing types of meditation consider: (1) the type of attention (2) relationship to cognitive processes (3) the goal (p36f)
Buddhist three marks of existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness / suffering, no-self/ non-self (p38)
John Ball, A Treatise of Divine Meditation: meditation as “the steadfast and earnest bending of the mind on some spiritual and heavenly matter, discoursing on it with ourselves, until we bring it to some profitable point, both for the settling of our judgements, and the bettering of our hearts and lives.” (Puritan Publications, 2016, p25) quoted on p43
Puritan Edmund Calamy on The Art of Divine Meditation (1680): “a dwelling and abiding upon things that are holy; it is not only a knowing of God, and a knowing of Christ, but it is a dwelling upon the things we know; as the bee that dwells and abides upon the flower, to suck out all the sweetness that is in the flower.” p23 quoted on p48
Biopsychosocial-spiritual model, dynamic interaction of biological, psychological, social and spiritual (p51)
Summary of Christian meditation p54f
Comparison of Christian, Buddhist mindfulness / loving kindness / secular meditation pp56f, including table
Lectio divina/ divine reading – p41 – read, meditate, pray, contemplate
(1) Bite – read slowly
(2) Chew – ponder the meaning
(3) Taste – pray, thank, praise, recognise
(4) Savor – rest in God
p58, See further Guigo II, The Ladder of Monks, 2012
D. Benner, Opening to God: Lectio divina and life as prayer (IVP, 2010)
Developing the mental skills of attention, present moment (non-judgemental) awareness and acceptance (some openness, flexibility, curiosity, non-striving etc.):
Four stage process: notice, shift, accept, act (diagram p12)
(1) noticing mind, brain, body behaviour patterns such as repetitive thinking, worry, anxiety, self-criticism, judgementalism, perfectionism, avoidance of distress / conflict, emotions
(2) shifting to a more spiritual / heavenly God-centred perspective
(3) accepting the active loving presence of God with us
(4) acting. Fellowship with God and contentment in him as the basis of Christian living. (see esp. pp61-67
Gently and repeatedly bringing the mind back to God, perhaps by using some short phrase of Scripture
Cultivation a spiritual awareness of God’s active, loving presence in the here-and-now which avoids worrying about the past which cannot be changed and the future which is uncertain
We may seek to anchor ourselves in the present with God rather than allowing our thoughts to be on auto-pilot (p65)
Description of heavenly rather than earthly mindedness p69ff – rather than always looking at the ground around us, we might focus on Jesus who walks with us as our companion and on heaven as our destination (p64)
What are our relational habits / our self in relationship dynamics? (p63)
Try to slow down to notice any repetitive thinking and to understand your mind with a bit of humility and distance (p80)
Puritan Thomas Goodwin wrote: "our thoughts, at best, are like wanton spaniels, they indeed go after their master and come to their journey's end with him, but they run after every bird, they wildly pursue every flock of sheep they see." (Knabb, p75)
“God is the most glorious object our minds could even fasten upon, the most alluring…. But I appeal to your experience, are not your thoughts of him most unsteady? Do you not have as much trouble holding your thoughts on Him as you would holding a telescope on a star with a palsy-shaking hand?... So when we are at our business, which God commands us to do with all our might [Eccles. 9:10], our minds, like truant children… will go out of the way to see any sport, will run after every hare that crosses the way, will follow every butterfly buzzing around us.”
We should view our thoughts with a healthy dose of humility. Goodwin says, “As wanton boys sometimes scribble broken words which make no sense, so our thoughts sometimes are – and if you could but read over what you have thought, as you can what you have written, you would find as much nonsense in your thoughts as you will find in madmen’s speeches.” (The Vanity of Thoughts, Knabb, p101f)
God’s attributes, especially his four omni-s should lead us to trust him:
Omnipotence – he is in control
Omnipresence – his is with us
Omnibenevolence – he loves us
Omniscience – he always knows and chooses the best for us (p121)
Drawing on W. Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A theological commentary (Augsburg Publishing, 1984), Knabb pp125-128 suggests using the Psalms as a model for how to lament. He suggests considering Psalm 13 as an example. The lament Psalms combine two main elements: (1) A complaint or plea to God to help remedy a present situation and (2) praise to God for listening to the petition.
Or in more detail:
(1) Calling personally on God
(2) presenting a specific problem to God
(3) asking God to intervene
(4) expressing a reason for the request
(5) confidently stating that God has heard the request
(6) concluding by giving God thanks and praise for hearing the request, regardless of whether or not the situation is resolved
Greek, eleos, mercy, compassion / kindness to the suffering. Cf. Greek, elaion, olive oil, used in healing wounds, soothing comfort p129 citing K. Ware, The Jesus Prayer (2014)
Some “C”s for Christians to consistently cultivate / contemplate:
Closer communion with God
Calm confidence in God
Contentment in God
Commitment to God and his will for me
Conformity to / conversion to Jesus Christ – Christlike-character – Companionship with Christ
In the desert tradition some logismoi, tempting compulsive thoughts / distractions from God and some alternative virtues:
(2) Lust / fornication
(3) Money / material possessions
Love of God (charity) self-control (temperance)
(6) Boredom / discouragement / restlessness
Patience and courage
(7) Vanity / fame
Good judgement (prudence), understanding and wisdom
Cf. Brother Lawrence - Mindful activity e.g. doing the dishes slowly, carefully, deliberately, gently, lovingly, with present attention - not impulsive, hurriedly, distractedly (p172f) – worshipfully!
A summary of steps in Puritan mediation: (p191f):
(1) Select a short passage of Scripture on which to focus
(2) Pray for God’s help
(3) Shift from earthly focus to heavenly mindedness
(4) Meditate – focus sustained attention of the passage
(5) Move from brain to heart
(6) Feel (God’s love and grace)
(7) Commit to act on the basis of the meditation
Human self in relationship processes / dynamics – self and others
Metacognition – thinking about thinking – an element of distance (objectivity / humility / compassion) from one’s own thoughts – a bird’s eye / balcony / helicopter view
Mentalization (chapter 8, p203ff) minds minds. It involves the recognition that I have a mind and so do other people! It is an attempt to understand the relationships between (1) minds and intentions (the interior worlds), and (2) actions and behaviours (in the external world). It attempts to understand how I might appear to others (from the outside in) and why others might be acting as they do (from the inside out). How people think of things may not correspond to objective reality nor to how I think of them! Mind reading and its limitations.Marc Lloyd
Drawing on W. Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A theological commentary (Augsburg Publishing, 1984), Joshua J. Knabb, Christian Meditation in Clinical Practice (IVP Academic, 2021) pp125-128 suggests using the Psalms as a model for how to lament. He suggests considering Psalm 13 as an example. The lament Psalms combine two main elements: (1) A complaint or plea to God to help remedy a present situation and (2) praise to God for listening to the petition.
Or in more detail:
(1) Calling personally on God
(2) presenting a specific problem to God
(3) asking God to intervene
(4) expressing a reason for the request
(5) confidently stating that God has heard the request
(6) concluding by giving God thanks and praise for hearing the request, regardless of whether or not the situation is resolvedMarc Lloyd
From The Rectory
On Thursday 26th May, we’ll celebrate the Ascension of Christ. You are very welcome to join us for our joint benefice service of Holy Communion at St Giles’, Dallington at 7:30pm.
In case you need a little reminder, the Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Forty days after Easter, the risen Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and was enthroned at the right hand of God the Father in glory. Ten days later, at Pentecost, he would send the Holy Spirit to empower the church for mission.
The Ascension doesn’t enjoy the profile of Christmas or Easter. The marketing industry has perhaps missed a trick by failing (as yet) to commercialise it. Perhaps it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to discuss the relative importance of different parts of the saving work of Christ: Jesus could hardly die if he hadn’t been born, his death is essential to his resurrection. The saving work of Christ all belongs together and each part is necessary. But St Augustine of Hippo spoke very powerfully about the importance of the ascension. As we might be tempted to neglect this festival which is always celebrated on a Thursday rather than a Sunday and not surrounded by a lengthy period off school or work, it is worth thinking about what Augustine claims: Ascension Day is "that festival which confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven, his nativity would have come to nothing ... and his passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy resurrection would have been useless." No ascension, no Christmas, no Easter, no Christian faith, Augustine is saying.
Why might the ascension matter to us? What can we say about it in the space remaining?
To some it has seemed rather absurd and primitive to think of Jesus going up into heaven like a human rocket. I guess we don’t think of heaven as literally up in the sky somewhere. But as with the resurrection, the physical bodily nature of the ascension reminds us of the Christian hope. Our bodies matter, as Jesus’ does. Jesus’ incarnation was not temporary but permanent. He continues to have a divine and a human nature. Matter matters. We are looking not to an eternity of disembodied souls, but to the resurrection of the body, as the creed says. On Easter Sunday morning the tomb was empty. The risen Jesus was no mere thought, idea or principle. He wasn’t a ghost or a spirit. And likewise our final destiny is the New Creation, or, better, a renewed creation. And so Jesus the God-Man’s human body ascending to heaven reminds us about the importance of our bodies and this creation. There is hope for my skin and bones and for this world.
And the Bible also makes a point about what Jesus does when he gets to heaven. He sits down. We might even say he puts his feet up. His saving work is done and God is putting all his enemies under his feet. The ascension demonstrates the victory of Christ. The Father welcomes his triumphant Son back to glory and enthrones him as ruler and judge of the world. Jesus has done his job faithfully and fully. His mission was accomplished.
And though the world often seems in disarray and terribly broken, our Jesus is on the throne of history. The ascension assures us that love wins. Jesus is our friend in high places who ever lives to intercede for us. The ascension urges us to believe the Christmas prophecy has been, and is being fulfilled: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding itwith justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
A very merry ascension to you!
The Revd Marc LloydMarc Lloyd
In an interview with Niall Ferguson in The Spectator ('Putin still has a lot left to lose', 16/4/22, p18) former CIA Director, General David Petraeus mentions four tasks of strategic leadership he says President Zelensky of Ukraine has performed brilliantly:
(1) the right over-aching big ideas
(2) communicated effectively
(3) implemented relentlessly
(4) refined again and again.
These things might seem like stating the obvious, but sometimes we don't just have the wrong or partial answers, we fail even to address the right issues. It is so easy to be distracted from the big things which matter, it seems to me these four simple points form a useful reminder of necessities at the heart of leadership.Marc Lloyd
In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess that Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.”
I want to focus with you today particularly on the claim that after his death and burial, Jesus descended to the dead.
A similar belief is affirmed in the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
It’s remarkable that earlier generations thought the descent of Christ to the dead important enough to be included in creeds and confessions, but I suspect we may not have given it much thought – until today!
Some translations of the creed say that Jesus descended to “hell”, but that would be misleading for us since we use that word “hell” to speak of a place of torment, of the punishment of the damned.
The creed just means that Jesus descended to the place of the dead.
If we have preconceived ideas about Jesus’ descent to hell, maybe from art works, we may have to put out of our minds what whatever we think the harrowing of hell might mean.
We’ll think about what Jesus’ descent might mean, but let’s back track for a moment and think also about Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial.
Reading: John 19:28-end
It’s very important for us to emphasise the full and true humanity of Jesus.
We know he was fully human and fully divine.
And it’s very hard for us to grasp what it means, what it was like, for him to be the God-Man.
We’re speaking of a unique miracle here, that God the Son should assume a human nature at the incarnation so that (without change in God), God the Son was made man.
But one thing we must say is that Jesus’ full divinity didn’t undermine his true humanity.
He wasn’t somehow half God and half man.
It’s not a trade off of percentages.
Jesus was fully God and fully man.
So Jesus’ human life was true and real.
And so was his human death.
Of course in some ways Jesus’ death was unique, but he really died a true human death as a man, a death like ours.
The gospels underline that.
It was essential for our salvation that Jesus should really die a true human death.
Jesus was born to die:
He faced the penalty for human sin as a man – human death.
Jesus could only rise from the dead if he truly died.
And not only did he die, he also was dead.
Part of Jesus’ full humanity is not only his dying but his being dead.
He shared our state of death.
He wasn’t instantly resurrected.
We should not rush too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb for three days, just like our bodies will be buried.
Perhaps there is more to be said some other time about the details of Jesus’ burial in the unused tomb of a rich man hewn from the rock in a garden and who does what to his body, wrapping it in linen garments, and so on.
And of course it matters for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, for the fact that his body is risen, that eyewitnesses knew where it had been buried.
Jesus died and was buried.
As the prophet Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The word “cemetery” means “sleeping place” and our bodies will sleep in the grave as they await the great final day when they will be raised up and re-united with our souls.
And so it was for Jesus for those three days from Friday to Sunday.
He too knew that time of waiting, of the separation of body and soul.
His human experience was parallel to ours to the full extent, right down to the depths – really.
His body was planted in the ground like a seed awaiting the resurrection, as our bodies will be.
Jesus’ three days in the tomb remind us that so much of the Christian life is about patient waiting and looking forward to the great day of Resurrection.
Salvation is accomplished, but we await its full fruit.
Of course there is much striving and effort and work to the Christian life.
It is a race and a battle and so on.
But it is also a matter of resting the finished work of Christ.
There is a sabbath rest for the people of God both now in part and fully and finally in the New Creation.
For now we must wait in hope for the Lord’s salvation.
Christians are traditionally buried facing East, awaiting the return of Christ, looking in hope for the coming of the Sun of Righteousness and the dawn of the great final day, when night will be no more.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves!
Back to the cross.
It is Good Friday, after all!
Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!”
Not “I’m finished”, but my atoning work of dying on the cross is finished.
The price for sin was fully paid – salvation is achieved, accomplished.
It is DONE.
As Jesus’ body rests in the tomb he takes his Sabbath rest having completed his work of salvation.
Jesus rested from all his work of saving, and it was very good.
When he rises, on Resurrection Day, it will be a new week and a new Creation.
Calvin came up with a more or less novel understanding of Jesus’ descent to the dead, or Hades, or Hell.
He took it to mean that Jesus faced hell for us on the cross.
That’s an odd understanding of the creed because the creed speaks of death, burial then descent.
On Calvin’s understanding, the creed seems to get the order wrong.
But even if Calvin is wrong about how to understand the descent of Christ to the dead, it is certainly right that Jesus bore our hell on the cross.
The wrath of God was poured out on the innocent Jesus for us.
As the sin-bearer, Jesus was forsaken to the judgement of God, so that we might know God’s blessing.
Jesus faced the frown of God that we might know his smile.
In his perfect and infinite person, Jesus paid many eternities of hell for all who would trust in him.
An eternity of sin was spent on Jesus that Good Friday.
* * *
Jesus’ body was three days in the tomb.
But what of his soul?
He said to the dying thief, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Our second reading, where the Apostle Peter quotes from Psalm 16, also sheds some more light on this:
Reading: Acts 2:22-36
Peter says that in the Psalm David must be prophesying the Messiah: “you will not abandon my soul in Hades, neither will you let your holy one see decay.”
We know that David’s body decayed.
Human death is the separation of soul and body.
Jesus’ body lay in the tomb for three days awaiting the resurrection, as our own bodies will lay in the grave awaiting our resurrection.
And yet Jesus’ soul could be with the dying thief that day in paradise.
The Christian confession has almost always been that Jesus’ human soul went to the place of the righteous dead when he died, sometimes known as paradise, sometimes called “Abraham’s bosom”, which Jesus refers to in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Jesus shared a full human experience not just of dying but of being dead.
He went down to the very depths of the lower earthly regions, to the place of the dead or to Hades.
But he went there now as the Victor, and the one who had paid the price of sin, as the one who had triumphed over death.
Whatever we make exactly of this doctrine of the descent of Christ, the Bible tells us that the keys of death and Hades are given to Jesus.
He rules over Satan, and death, and the place of the dead, and even over hell.
He is the Lord of life who has opened the gate of heaven.
All those who have ever died and hoped in him are with him in heaven.
And one day our bodies and souls will be reunited and we will be raised.
We will be like the risen Lord Jesus who, body and soul, is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.
* * *
Our final reading is one of the texts most often connected with Jesus’ descent to the dead.
It could be read in other ways, and the doctrine of the descent of Christ to the dead doesn’t depend on it, but in the light of the Scriptures we’ve read and alluded it, it’s not outlandish to see here a proclamation of Christ’s victory after his death:
Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-end
Jesus’ death means that he can announce victory over the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago.
Even those under the earth must bow the knee to Jesus the Lord.
Jesus is Lord even of hell and the fallen angels.
Satan is cast down and crushed.
And the risen Jesus is now gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
The Old Testament saints waited in hope for the coming of Christ, but now his saving work is accomplished.
Their waiting is transformed into reality.
The one they longed for and hoped in from afar has arrived with all the benefits of his cross.
He has come!
He has done it!
And all the dead who trust in him are with him in heaven.
Jesus has triumphed and brought his people with him.
His victory is our victory.
What he has won is our destiny.
We share in the spoils of his triumph.
This Good Friday, then, we meditate also on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, and on the Ascension of Christ, his reign in heaven and on great final day to come.
I want to conclude our reflections today with some words from Charles Hill:
“Christ descended into Hades so that you and I would not have to.
Christ descended to Hades so that we might ascend to heaven.
Christ entered the realm of the dead, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys.
The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands.
And God his Father has exalted him to his right hand, and given him another key, the key of David, the key to the heavenly Jerusalem.
He opens and no one will shut, he shuts and no one will open (Rev. 3.7).
And praise to him, as the hymn says, “For he hath opened the heavenly door, and man is blessed forever more.”
All praise and honour and glory to the Lamb who has conquered!
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14.13).
And blessed are we here and now, who even now have this hope, and a fellowship with our Savior which is stronger than death!
Thanks be to God. Amen.”
(Hill, ‘He Descended into Hell’, 10, quoted in Emerson, He Descended to the Dead, p221)
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
* * *
All of the above is very much indebted to:
Matthew Emerson, He Descended To The Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (IVP Academic, 2019)
Some further jottings:
What the descent of Christ to the dead means to teach is the Jesus experienced human death as all human do, his body was buried, and his soul departed to the place of the righteous dead, sometimes known as paradise or Abraham’s bosom, and in so doing, by virtue of his divinity, he defeated death and the grave. (Emerson, p23f).
Jesus proclaimed victory over death.
It would certainly be a mistake to move too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
We need to face the full force of death: the reality and pain of it.
The apparent finality.
He was buried.
We live between the death and resurrection of Jesus, on the one hand, and his return and the consummation of all things on the other.
Our life is lived in these in-between times.
So much of the Christian life involves looking forward in hope and waiting in expectation for what God will do.
And for Jesus too there was an element of waiting.
He died on Good Friday and for that Holy Saturday his body waited in the tomb.
He descended to the dead.
He descended from heaven.
He descended to the cross.
He descended to the dead.
Down, down, down.
He went as low as he could go, to the very depths.
Matthew Emerson: “The descent [of Christ to the dead] is, in my opinion, a beautiful doctrine that not only fits into the fabric of Christian theology but is also integral to that fabric. While some may believe we can simply discard the descent, it is my conviction that this doctrine, held ubiquitously for the first 1500 years of the church’s life, is an integral one for the health of Christian theology and practice.” (21)
Matthew 12:40 - The Sign of Jonah – see Emerson p35f – Woodhouse: “The primary meaning of the ‘sign of Jonah’… is … the correspondence between Jonah’s experience in the belly of the sea creature, and Jesus’ experience in death, his descent to Hades.” Quoted in Emerson p38
2 Cor 12:3
1 Cor 15:20, 27 – from the dead, from the place of the dead
“Christ’s descent, then, is part of what Christ experiences for us in the incarnation. Death, both the moment of dying and the state of being dead, is a universal human experience, and Christ experiences it with us and for us.” (Emerson, p57)
Typical Roman Catholic view – Emerson, p87
Calvin argued that Christ experienced hell on the cross for sinners (see Emerson, p91f).
This is of course true, but Calvin is novel in thinking this is what the Creed means by saying Christ descended to Hades.
Institutes, vol 1, p511ff
The order of the creed is very odd if this is what it means since it affirms that Christ died, was buried and descended to the dead
The Heidelberg Catechism Question 44:
44. Q. Why is there added: He descended into hell?
A. In my greatest sorrows and temptations I may be assured and comforted that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His unspeakable anguish, pain, terror, and agony, which He endured throughout all His sufferings  but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.
 Ps. 18:5, 6; 116:3; Matt. 26:36-46; 27:45, 46; Heb. 5:7-10.  Is. 53.
The Thirty-Nine Articles – Article 3:
The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 27
Q. 27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition [a], made under the law [b], undergoing the miseries of this life [c], the wrath of God [d], and the cursed death of the cross [e]; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time. [f]
[b]. Gal. 4:4
The Westminster Larger Catechism Question 50
Q50: Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?
A50: Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.
Summary Emerson, p99ff, 102, esp. 103Marc Lloyd
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
I think we should talk about feet.
They can sometimes be a bit smelly, but they seem to matter.
This meal in John chapter 13, closely parallels the meal in John chapter 12.
Both are in the context of the Passover and there’s talk of Jesus’ death.
Both contain a symbol action relating to Jesus and feet.
Here Jesus washes his disciples’ feet.
And in the previous chapter Mary anointed Jesus’ feet.
In fact, in John chapter 11, Mary had fallen at Jesus’ feet and called him “Lord”.
There is the call of the gospel:
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Will you fall at his feet?
Will you humble yourself before him, worship him, and pledge your allegiance to him, and look to him for his mercy?
Further, in Luke chapter 10, we find Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
Sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his word, is the place of discipleship:
Some would have said that a woman’s place was in the kitchen, but Mary was at her Lord’s feet learning from his word.
You may remember the incident.
Mary’s sister, Martha, is distracted by all the preparations that have to be made for hosting Jesus and his disciples.
Martha is resentful.
She complains to Jesus: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?
Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus is Lord.
He will put all his enemies under his feet and make them his footstool.
But what kind of Lord is he?
It’s worth saying that Jesus himself would of course have had smelly dirty feet.
At another meal in Luke chapter 7, a sinful woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Jesus pointed out that no one had given him water for his feet.
Jesus is the down to earth God.
He got his hands and his feet dirty.
He was truly made man, made flesh.
Jesus didn’t float around above the muck and the grime.
He mucked in.
In the Bible the earth is under God’s curse because of human sin.
The serpent has to crawl on his belly and eat the dust.
Human beings are taken from the ground and return to the ground.
“Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
And Jesus is made mortal.
Jesus too is heading for the grave and that anointing in John 12 was in preparation for his burial.
He was anointed both as king and corpse.
He comes to take on himself the curse of sin, to share in and un-do the dust of death.
Influenced by Satan, Judas will lift up his heal against Jesus.
But Jesus will crush Satan’s head under his foot.
Jesus will of course triumph over sin and Satan and death.
The LORD will deliver his soul from death, his eyes from tears, his feet from stumbling, that he may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Our chapter is one that speaks of comings and goings.
And Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is an acted parable of his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension.
He has come from God his Father and is returning to him.
Jesus goes from his place at the table and back to it, just as he has come from heaven and will return to heaven.
And Jesus takes off his outer garment and wraps himself in a towel.
Jesus laid aside his glory and was clothed in human flesh.
Jesus will be stripped for his crucifixion and wrapped in clothes for his burial.
He will lay down his life only to take it up again.
He has come from the Father and will return to the Father.
In chapter 12, you may remember, Judas objected to the expense of the anointing of Jesus’ feet.
But Jesus will pour out not expensive perfume, but himself, his own precious blood, to make his disciples clean.
By making his apparently pious objection to the Lord Jesus washing his feet, Peter is becoming like Judas in the previous chapter.
Judas is going to betray Jesus.
Peter is going to deny him.
Both Judas and Peter stand as warnings to us not to resist the necessity of Jesus’ death and burial.
For Peter, his conversation with Jesus must have recalled his conversation with Jesus at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus had said that he must suffer and die.
Peter had dared to rebuke Jesus about the cross, and had been rebuked in turn.
This rejection of the cross and of the foot washing is another “get behind me, Satan”, moment.
Jesus is extraordinarily strong and particular with Peter here.
Jesus absolutely insists on washing Peter’s feet and says:
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
So we must fall at the feet of the Lord Jesus.
We must sit at Jesus’ feet as his disciples and learn his word.
He calls us to serve him:
We must go his way.
But first we must allow him to serve us.
We must admit our need of him.
We must let him wash our feet and make us clean.
We must learn this vital lesson that the Christian faith is about what Jesus has DONE for us, before it’s what we DO for him.
Jesus must be our crucified Saviour, before he can be our risen Lord.
Jesus must cleanse us before we can serve him.
We must trust him and then obey him.
Jesus’ life must be poured out for us.
His blood must make us clean.
The way of the cross is essential:
Without it there is no cleansing, no fellowship, no discipleship, no part in Jesus, no resurrection, no glory.
We cannot have a cost-less, cross-less, cosy, comfortable Christianity.
The Christian message is not you’re all right and I’m all right.
It insists that Jesus must wash us and make us clean.
It’s appropriate, then, that a baptismal wash is always the beginning of a Christian life.
The Christian faith is humiliating.
It says to you and me that we are dirty and we need a wash!
Jesus insists on it.
Get your feet out!
Yes, they smell, but Jesus must wash them.
There is no other way.
But with all that in place, Jesus does then show us what to do.
He calls us to follow in his way.
He gives us our marching orders:
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.”
Jesus’ cross is far more than an example, but it is an example.
The position of Lord, Messiah and Saviour of the World is taken.
But Jesus the Lord of all and the servant of all calls on us to serve too.
The one who died for us says we must be willing to die for him.
The crucified one calls us to take up our cross.
Jesus called himself the Way and he calls us to come and follow him.
The Christian faith is often described as a race or a pilgrimage.
The Bible speaks of our walk as the way we live.
And so Jesus calls on us afresh to put our feet on his way, to walk with him.
2 John takes up Jesus’ command that we love one another and speaks of it as walking in Jesus’ commandments:
John says to the church:
“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.
5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning.
I ask that we love one another.
6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.
As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
May we fall afresh at Jesus’ feet, which have borne the dust of the earth and the curse of sin for us.
We give thanks that Jesus has crushed the serpent’s head and that he is putting all his enemies under his feet.
But we are also thankful that he came as one who serves.
We admit our need of him.
We allow him to wash our feet and make us clean.
It is Jesus’ service of us which allows us to serve others.
Jesus’ love enables us to love.
We commit ourselves afresh today to walking with Jesus in his way, in the way of the cross which is also the way of life.
And we pray that we might stand firm with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Amen.Marc Lloyd
Holy Week and Easter Services and Events 2022
Maundy Thursday 14thApril 7:30pm at St John’s, Bodle Street Green – Joint Benefice Holy Communion
Good Friday 15thApril – An Hour at the Cross
10am at Bodle Street Green
12pm at Dallington
3pm at Warbleton
Saturday 16thApril – Easter Eggstravaganza for Children and Families – 2pm at Warbleton Church – crafts, songs, refreshments, Easter story and chocolate. Children must be accompanied by an adult
Easter Sunday 17thApril
9:30am All Age Family Service with Holy Communion at Bodle Street
11am All Age Family Service with Holy Communion at Dallington
11am All Age Family Service with Holy Communion at Warbleton
Easter Monday 18thApril – The Club With No Name Youth Club Ramble – Warbleton - 10am - 2 to 3 hours, followed by BBQ - Jeremy Cooke to speak. Contact us for more details.
All welcomeMarc Lloyd
Palm Sunday 2022
Luke (Year C)
Dramatized Passion Reading: Luke 23:1-49
There’s so much we could say about the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, which are at the very heart of our faith.
But as we’re going to have a long reading, we’ll have quite a short sermon.
Just before we have this dramatized reading, I’m going to suggest a couple of themes to look out for, though of course there are many others too, and it might be something else that particularly strikes you today.
One thing to think about is kingship.
Who is the true king here?
What’s he like?
What’s his kingdom like?
In this account, we hear about Pilate, the representative of Cesar, the ruler of one of the greatest empires there’s ever been.
And we meet King Herod, who becomes friends with Pilate.
And of course we’re shown King Jesus and we hear something about his Kingdom.
And then I’d suggest you also look out for a second theme of justice and righteousness.
Who does the right thing here?
Who deserves what?
Who’s guilty and who’s innocent?
After we’ve had our reading, I’m going to say something briefly about Jesus’ conversation with the dying thief, the details of which are given only in Luke’s Gospel, which we’re reading from this year.
* * *
Jesus is crucified, in part, because he claims to be the Christ, or the Messiah, the anointed one of God, God’s chosen king.
He’s falsely accused of opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar.
The Jewish leaders want Pilate to agree that King Jesus is a threat to King Caesar.
Pilate cross examines Jesus about whether or not he is “the king of the Jews.”
The soldiers ridicule him by dressing him in an elegant robe, like a parody of kingly splendour.
The bystanders mock him:
They want to see him save himself if he is the Christ of God.
The written notice of the charge against Jesus, hung above the cross says, “This is the king of the Jews.”
So Jesus is dying as the king.
A king rejected and scorned, but a king nevertheless.
Of course, we know Jesus is the true and rightful King, the Messiah.
And the dying thief, amazingly, can see it.
Jesus is utterly defeated and broken.
He’s dying the most terrible death the Roman Empire could devise.
And yet the thief can see past the squalor and the pain.
He says to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The thief knows that Jesus is the king.
And amazingly he also seems to know that death won’t be the end for Jesus.
Jesus is obviously dying – but by dying he is coming in to his kingdom.
Jesus is clearly a very different sort of king with a unique kingdom.
Jesus is the king who dies because he will not save himself.
He dies to save others.
And he has the power to bring them into his kingdom.
And then to our second theme of justice and righteousness, guilt and innocence.
Pilate can find no basis for a charge against Jesus.
Neither can Herod.
It’s obvious to everyone that Jesus has done nothing deserving death.
“What crime has the committed?”, Pilate asks again in desperation.
We’re repeatedly told that there are no grounds for the death penalty.
The Jewish leaders and the crowd have lost the argument for Jesus’ guilt and they’re just reduced to shouting louder.
We could paraphrase it: “We don’t care if there’s no evidence and you’ve found him not guilty: Crucify Him Anyway!”
The Centurion in charge of the crucifixion says about Jesus: “Surely this was a righteous man”.
So Jesus is a king coming into his kingdom by his death.
He’s also innocent and righteous.
He is suffering unjustly.
He does not deserve death.
The dying thief sees all this.
And he’s willing to admit his own guilt.
He says to the other criminal: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Jesus is the innocent one dying the death of guilty.
This incident with Barabbas, the insurrectionist and murderer, serves to illustrate the point.
We might say it's like a mini-parable made history.
It’s a little drama which shows what the cross achieves.
The innocent Jesus takes the place of the guilty Barabbas.
Here’s the gospel acted out:
The guilty Barabbas deserves punishment.
But the innocent Jesus dies, and Barabbas goes free.
There’s a reversal, a swap: the innocent for the guilty.
There’s the Christian doctrine of the cross in this apparently incidental accident of history.
God has surely arranged it to show us that Jesus is dying in the place of all those guilty sinners who deserve punishment, who will put their trust in him.
Jesus is dying for us, in our place, instead of us:
The innocent one, bearing our guilt and punishment, that we might go free.
He dies, that we might live.
Did Barabbas ever realise any of that, I wonder?
The dying thief certainly had some idea what he ought to do.
He has the insight and courage to ask for the mercy of king Jesus.
He can make no pleas in mitigation.
He can offer no good works:
He can’t promise to turn over a new leaf and live from now on as a reformed character.
But he simply prays: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
And that brief prayer for mercy is enough.
The thief somehow perceives that all that is necessary is that King Jesus should remember him with kindness.
Jesus promises him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
And for any of us, whatever we’ve done, the assurance of heaven is only ever a prayer away.
That prayer of faith, looking to Jesus in simple trust, asking for the mercy of the king, is one which Jesus will always answer:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“I tell you the truth, you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus the righteous king died to save guilty sinners like me and you.
As we marvel again at the crucified king this Easter, may God give us the insight and faith of the dying thief, that we too might throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus. Amen.Marc Lloyd
This talk for Chichester Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship Spring Conference 2022 is 50 minutes worth your time for small group leaders and members: http://www.chichesterdef.org.uk/spring-2022.htmlMarc Lloyd
The Kantzer Lectures 2007 Perfection & Presence: God With Us, according to the Christian Confession
Lecture 1: Introduction | LISTEN
Lecture 2: God’s Perfect Life | LISTEN
Lecture 3: God Is Everywhere but Not Only Everywhere | LISTEN
Lecture 4: Immanuel | LISTEN
Lecture 5: The Presence of Christ Exalted | LISTEN
Lecture 6: He Will Be With Them | LISTEN
(A number of the other series look very interesting too)
These lectures are a bit technical at times but very worth the time and effort.
They have quite a lot to say about dogmatic methodology as well as the substance of the issue of God’s presence.
Some partial / unsystematic and possibly erring jottings on these lectures: (I could have typed out rather more, Not normally exact quotations)
Webster argues that tautology is a virtue, a necessity, in theology. God is God. He is singular, original and particular. He cannot be understood entirely by way of contrast or comparison. He must reveal himself and tell us who he is. Dogmatic work is done in his presence under his Lordship, in response to who he and what he has done and said. We do not so much seek after God as respond to God giving himself to us. God himself specifies his being before us. He must remain God.
Better to think of God as uncaused rather than God as self-caused.
God’s perfection is his particular self-existent majesty in the relations of his being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Mission of the Persons are temporal processions which repeat the eternal relations of origin, their eternal processions. God’s perfection is not self-enclosed. It has a term and an energy. Missions follow processions. God’s works repeat or externalise his eternal relations of being. God enacts his completeness. Neither whence nor wither can be separated off. God’s perfection includes his presence. The relations of origin turn out to be charged with economic potency.
Reformed Federal Theology from the late 16th C onwards: The Covenant of Redemption / The Pact of Salvation
The perfect God, Father, Son and Spirit, is and is present. He has life in himself and he gives life.
Dogmatics give reasoned service to the gospel.
Dogmatics is governed by a principle of “derivation”. Dogmatics is study of God and all things in relation to God. Creaturely time is an economy formed by the Creator and the end of creation. Giver and gift make theology possible. Theology is to teach God because it is taught by God. Recovery of beginning with God may be the sine quo non of theology.
Sequence. Topics must be considered in their proper order. The material sequence is God and all things in relation to him. If we seek to go from creatures to God, then we may distort both creation and God. Exposition may begin at different points, but we must relate all things to God as their beginning and end.
Inclusion. This does not diminish but includes the creaturely. Creatures are only properly understood in the presence of God.
John Webster said that he once agreed with Colin Gunton that “life” might be the best overall way of expounding the gospel because God has life in himself and bestows life. “Life” is related to creation, redemption and eschaton.
John Webster argued that our theology is not that of the eternal God nor that of the blessed in glory. It is always a theology of and for pilgrims – limited, contextual. We can never give a complete and perfect picture. God’s revelation means we can make affirmations, but we also have to hedge them with negatives.
God’s presence - Immensity and ubiquity – omnipresence – local presence – presence on the basis of promise – free relation – purposeful presence
No bodily / spatial limitation / dimension / circumscription – not locally or by extension
God is simple and therefore everywhere always wholly present as himself – as Lord, creator, sustainer
Providence – ordered by creation and eschaton – a work of God’s love for God’s covenant purposes of fellowship with creatures – Calvin: God’s hands as well as his eyes – God conserves, accompanies and governs his creatures
Providence finds it consummation under the rule of Christ. God’s providence and rule cannot be separated off from his covenant purposes.
God’s presence in the special history of the covenant – God’s free faithful and commanding presence for God’s creatures to have fellowship with him – temporal, spatial, social, institutions, bounded, visible but also mysterious
God’s taking / calling / choosing create a special history by the Word of God beyond merely creaturely relations – free sovereign covenant election presence decree – unconditional ex nihilo grace, uncaused origination
Not merely a fiat / decree of separation and segregation but the teleological energy of a history – a temporal enactment – the steadfast love and presence of God – ongoing fellowship with God – condition, status and summons, vocation, obedience, conformity to nature
Sin as negation of the covenant, unbeing, absence
Sinners repudiate God and their own being – sin is to choose death, unbeing
Our freedom is caused and given to us. It is not a freedom of spontaneity or counter-causal (against another will). God’s freedom enables our freedom. God’s causality of us and our causality are two ways of talking about the same thing which need not be played off against one another.
The incarnation as the great moment / test case for a theology of perfection and presence
What needs to be said / corrected in a particular setting? Danger of over reaction – keep in mind the overall shape of revelation and the proportion and arrangement of topics
Person, office and work must be held together – the metaphysics and purpose of incarnation are related
The gospel requires the gospels. Christ’s presence with us flows from his presence in his incarnate ministry.
What does it mean to say: (1) The Word (2) Became (3) Flesh?
God remains God. Incarnation does not erase the difference which the perfect God is. It identifies the point at which it becomes visible in time.
The perfect inner life of the Triune God must be seen not as a contradiction of the presence of God in time but as its condition. The Word became flesh. The eternal perfect divine Word of God is present. The Word is encountered in the history of Jesus as he has assumed flesh and is untied with it. The incarnation is a movement and confirmation of the Lordship and majesty of the Word. The Word becomes flesh changelessly without diminution of the deity.
The Word remains the free Lord of time and flesh and is not lessened by them.
The Word is not imprisoned within flesh. The Word remains free in the act of becoming. God is self-derived and self-determined to be incarnate. The Word is eternally to be made flesh. The Word’s stretching forth to become flesh is in keeping with the Son’s generation from the Father.
Word and flesh are asymmetrical. The Word exists without the flesh but the flesh does not exist without the Word. The Logos is the subject. The flesh is the predicate.
Jesus’ history is his mission, a function of his office. It is purposive according to the divine must.
Jesus’ human history is within Israel: it is the re-enactment and fulfilment of the covenant. Jesus is the faithful Son of God.
Jesus is baffling, oblique. He must reveal himself.
Jesus is prophetic. He speaks. He gives a new teaching with authority.
Jesus decisively brings the kingdom, unmasking his enemies, bring in his rule and Lordship. The Kingdom of God comes and triumphs in and by Jesus.
Aquinas on the altar of earth which must not be ascended by steps (Exodus 20:24ff). Christ is our fleshly human altar of earth. He is divine and equal with the Father so we cannot go up to the altar by steps.
God’s perfection perfects.
The resurrection as historical apologetic is a problem if it is known not as the self-manifestation of God (his revelation) but as something to be proved by the inquirer.
God does not wait upon reason to establish him but God is known through God alone.
The historical resurrected Christ (he rose) must be related to his presence (he is risen). We need a theology of the living Christ present with us.
Resurrection should be related to ascension, heavenly session and eschaton. Easter Day looks ahead. Christ is contemporary and present, not just the object of probabilistic historical investigation.
The resurrection is the intersection of the pre-and post-presence of the Son. The resurrection points back and forward. The resurrection is related to the eternal relation of Father and Son.
The resurrection is natural and necessary. Of course! Not-resurrection of God the Son would be impossible.
The unrecognizability of the risen Christ who is then recognised shows that Christ is known only by his own act and gift. Jesus reveals himself and makes himself known. The exalted one gives himself as Lord.
The exalted Son turns to creatures in grace. He makes himself present to us.
The risen Christ is king, prophet and priest. He rules and speaks and intercedes for us.
Hermeneutics needs to remember that we read the Word of God in His presence. The Word is communicative, eloquent and the Truth. The canon is His Lordly address, His living voice, not just a complicated negotiation between interpreter and text. Reading the Bible is simpler and more alarming than we sometimes imagine. Christ summons and claims us by the Scriptural ambassadors.
More than theoretical worrying about hermeneutics, we must read. We must be attentive to one who speaks through a text.
We read canonically. Scripture is in one sense (a complex, historically situated) single united speech-act read traditionally. The Spirit has guided the church’s reading of this text (though not infallibly). We read with a seriousness about the 5th Commandment.
We must embrace a Christological Maximalism. As Barth once said to Bultmann, Christ must stand out in gigantic proportions. He is not plastic or potential but wholly actual in his presentation to us.
The resurrection and exaltation of Christ has ontological, noetic and ethical implications. We are raised with Christ to know him in the Spirit for good works prepared for us to walk in.
Fellowship of creatures with the Creator which maintains the Creator-creature distinction.
For some, ecclesiology has become a kind of First Theology and has expanded into all areas of dogmatics. Communion koinonia has become a potent concept in theological and ecumenical discussion: Trinity as Communion; Communion of creatures and Creator; saving Communion in the church. The church is salvation in social form.
Henri de Lubac on the separation of nature and super-nature, form and inner reality etc., dualisms introduced in 12th C – radicalised and reduced by John Milbank, On The Name of Jesus – The priority of ecclesiology over Christology and atonement – their function in bringing about a new polity of which Jesus is the founder, a New Moses. An ecclesiological deduction of Christology and the atonement. God incarnate is found in the practices of the gospel.
To deduce Christ from the church reverses the evangelical logic of 1 John 1. The beginning is not the church but God, the eternal life of Father and Son. Ecclesiology flows from theology proper. Testimony and proclamation flow from the manifestation of the Word resulting in fellowship. Ecclesiology has its place in this sequence and economy. It cannot be a first theology.
There is a we with God which answers to God with us.
What kind of visible polity is the church? What are its creaturely acts? What is this social history in time on the basis of the gospel realities? What is the depth of its reality as the Household of God built on the Apostles and Prophets with Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone?
Derivation and inclusion.
Theology leads to economy. God creates the life of creatures. The doctrine of God is imperfectly grasped unless all his works are included.
We must guard the gratuity of the church and the difference between God and the church. The shock of the existence of the people of God must not be muffled.
Arguably the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ is made to do too much work in dogmatics.
What would an ecclesiology that started with (election or) Christ’s exaltation look like?
Gratuity (free, sovereign), proper externality of Christ and church as creature. The Son of God is in heaven. Christ maintains his identity. He is not mixed or confused with the church. Jesus is Lord of the church.
Robert Jenson Systematic Theology – embodied availability. Assembled church with her the sacraments as the way Christ is available in the world. Jenson asks where the risen one turns to find himself. But isn’t this an odd question to ask of God? The bread and the cup make Christ distinct from and available to the church.
Jesus is the head of the body, the firstborn from the dead, the origin who is pre-eminent. Fellowship but not confusion. The Son creates the church but he does not thereby create himself.
The church is a human society which keeps us in the society of God. To participate in this fellowship is to have fellowship with the Triune God on the way to heaven. This visible human fellowship takes form in particular creaturely forms and acts, an order of signs, accessories used by God to keep the church. God’s secret power is at work by the Spirit in the church, dwelling with them as the Lord who has his own place.
In the sphere of the church, the Spirit acts by Scripture and sacrament.
The church is the creature of the Word, a hearing church which lives in the domain of the Word. The church proclaims, instructs and exhorts because it has heard and continues to hear.
The church is most herself as she prays for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
And Twitter tells me I should also listen to: