Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lenten Books 4

In my final post on Lenten books, I'll highlight a time-honoured genre of meditations on the last words of Jesus from the cross. The three books I'll single out are Death on a Friday AfternoonMeditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, by Richard John Neuhaus, The Seven Last Words from the Cross by Fleming Rutledge, and Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words by Stanley Hauerwas. Neuhaus, a convert to Roman Catholicism and a longtime conservative cultural critic in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton and others, brings verve and erudition to his journey into the mystery and wonder of the crucifixion of Jesus. Fleming Rutledge, a noted Episcopal priest, used the three hour Good Friday service to develop her series of seven meditations on Jesus' sayings formed out of a position of generous orthodoxy.  Cross-Shattered Christ is a small book packing a significant 'Hauerwasian' punch as the writer grapples with the 'ungraspable' mystery of the heart of the gospel. Each of these books was written in the early years of the 21st century and so the examples from history and events give evidence to this period. And yet each has a staying power which makes them well worth revisiting over the years.

My favourite is Hauerwas's Cross-Shattered Christ. Self-described as a "high-church Mennonite", Hauerwas loves paradoxes and finds in the gospel the most extraordinary paradox of all -  crucifixion brings new life.
The Gospel of John makes explicit what all the Gospels assume - that is, that the cross is not a defeat but the victory of our God. Earlier in the Gospel of John a voice from heaven responded to Jesus's request that the Father's name might be glorified through his obedience, saying "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again." Jesus tells us this voice came for our sake so that we might know that "Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:28-32). That "lifting up" is the cross, the exaltation of the Son by the Father, making possible our salvation.
This is, moreover, as Pilate insisted, the King of the Jews. That kingship is not delayed by crucifixion; rather crucifixion is the way this king rules. Crucifixion is kingdom come. This is the great long-awaited apocalyptic moment. Here the powers of this world are forever subverted. Time is now redeemed through the raising up of Jesus on the cross. A new age has begun. The kingdom is here aborn, a new regime is inaugurated, creating a new way of life for those who worship and follow Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Kelvin for your thoughtful and challenging reading suggestions for Lent. I came to your comments later then intended but appreciate them nonetheless. M. Neufeld