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Monday, April 18, 2011

Rustler Article for 4.21.11

This weekend we celebrate the central event of Christian history in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ve been thinking about our usual description of the Easter story – we move so quickly from the horrors of Friday afternoon to the glory of Sunday morning.
It is the Cross that is the central event of the Gospel story, more so even than the Resurrection. Now before anyone has a heart attack and calls me a heretic, hear me out.
The Resurrection is the ratification of the identity and work of Jesus. It is the proof of his righteousness, innocence, and divinity. The Cross is that moment of condemnation, of justification, of atonement for sinners. It is the Cross that bears our sufferings and punishment; it is the Cross that models faithfulness; it is the Cross that satisfies God’s justice. While the Resurrection is the home of glory and honor for the ones covered by the Lord’s blood, it is the Cross itself that offers hope.
We cannot, as with Paul, hope in the Resurrection without participating in the Cross. But as comfortable Christians we are more accustomed to claiming the relief and glory of Easter Sunday rather than the gore and tragedy of Friday afternoon. This week may we dwell just a moment longer with Jesus at the Cross; perhaps then we will understand just a little more what we have been saved from.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rustler Article for 4.7.11

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about older brothers and younger brothers lately, mostly in relation to a sermon I recently preached on the story of the Two Brothers (also known as the parable of the prodigal son).
It should be clear that the parable is not entirely about the younger brother, who goes off and squanders his inheritance. We must see that Jesus leaves the parable open-ended with the older brother, arms crossed and red from anger, standing in the shadows outside the party of redemption.
It is the self-righteous among the family of God who are left standing in the evening air complaining about how good they’ve been to God who will ultimately be left out of his celebration of grace.
One thought on this that I think is pertinent to our discipleship: whether we are older brothers or younger brothers, we all fall into the trap of looking for God’s salvation through our works. For the younger brother it was the penitent act of asking forgiveness for his sinful acts, which he planned to “work off” by being one of his father’s hired men. For the older son it was the constant, faithful obedience to God’s laws and morality through which he hoped to be included.
Neither licentious behavior nor slavish morality will convince God to save us; rather it is God’s grace extended to all of us that gives us what Paul calls “the hope of the resurrection.” I pray we’re wise enough to know that salvation is by grace through faith whether we’re the good sons and daughters or the rebels looking for a way to come back home.