Good Friday – The Tree of the Cross

‘Behold the wood of the cross,’ we say on Good Friday. ‘Touch wood,’ we say on any day of the year, reaching out for the nearest piece of wood as an extension of the wood of the cross. When we cross our fingers it is a sign of the cross we are making.

The cross is a tree. This tree represents the union of God and man in Christ, and the history that creates this union, and the gospel that reveals this history.

The cross is a representation of the figure of a man with his arms extended upwards. Moses held up his arms until the battle against the Amalekites was won and Israel was saved (Exodus 17.11.-12) in battle. ‘He opened wide his arms for us on the cross.’ His arms are up in welcome and to give us his protection. The Lord extends his arms out in order to save us and give us his shelter. He extends his covenant to include us, so we are covered and protected. He holds out his arms as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and as the Holy Spirit gives us his protection, portrayed in our West window as the dove with outstretched wings.

The Lord opens wide his arms for us also on occasions when his arms are not mentioned. In the Transfiguration on the mountain the disciples see the Lord radiant with glory, with Elijah on one side and Moses on the other. Peter wants to recognise their dignity by setting up awnings to give them some shade. By his reply the Lord indicates that it is he who gives Peter and the Disciples shelter. The Lord is our covering (kippur), the covenant and the atonement that keep us safe. He raises his arms so that we can all come in under his coat. Moses and Elijah, the prophets and the law, are two wings of this shelter. Elijah stands on one side of Jesus, Moses on the other, so that the three of them form a triptych, in which Elijah and Moses reflect different aspects of Christ, so that we can see better who Christ is because we can see these two aspects of his identity in these two other figures.  The elements are no threat to the Lord, for they are simply his obedient servants. But the Lord gives us our shelter not so much from the elements, but from some of the worst consequences of the disorder in creation that result from our failure to rule it well. The Lord gives us shelter. He gives us a place to be. That place is with him. He is that place. Continue reading “Good Friday – The Tree of the Cross”

The Victor and his people – at a glance

1) God has come to man. But the world had been divided by rival lords.Each is at war with every other, the unprotected are taken captive, and the war of all
is directed also against God.

2) God set himself against them to wrest back those oppressed by them. God has defeated these masters and is recovering from them and
reintegrating all parts of the world they divided.

3) He has seized us from all corners of the world, and brought us together as his assembly, a distinct new people, the start of the regeneration of the old creation, and first batch of the new.

4) The old masters have been defeated and their peoples taken from them. The forcing of this admission from them is part of this defeat. We were the old masters, and we were also their victims.

5) On the cross the Son sketches two parties and two outcomes. He represents us – to us, first dramaturgically, then constitutively. His display dissuades us from continuing towards one and turns towards the other outcome.

6) Instead of annihilating the irresponsible masters the Son displays their annihilation himself. He plays out the defeat and exposure of the rebel leaders on the cross.

7) The Son parodies our action and demonstrates its failure, and points to his own perfecting human performance as the escape route out of our failing human performance. He stampedes us away from the danger he points to and through the gate he opens to us – into the train of his captives.

8) We desert our old masters and surrender to him. He keeps the pressure on until the surrender is universal and the rebellion over.

9) The Son closes down our local headquarters, disconnects the autonomous mind, so we no longer receive our orders from it but, by the Spirit, through the body of Christ, direct from him.

10) God refused from us what did not belong to him, and turned our unfinished acts into finished ones, bad reciprocity into good reciprocity.

11) The Son provides the missing reciprocity and action. He set himself to the labour of extricating people from the consequences of their actions. He supplied endings to these actions that no one else could.

12) The Holy Spirit makes us a spiritual body that cannot be penetrated or split up by any external forces.

13) The Son is raised by the whole company of heaven. He is the glory of Israel, who made him and handed him on to us. He opens the community of Israel, to let us in.

14) Flooded by the Holy Spirit the world has become a unified life-supporting ecosystem through which the Spirit diffuses directly into each body, re-engineering our metabolism to take ever increasing dosages of reality and freedom from him.

The Victor and his people

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. He planted his vineyard, making it the place in which his people could deal with each other with the generosity that they received from him. He gave them a share in this work of exercising all the care of the shepherd for his sheep, setting the older over the younger, giving those with more the task of providing for those with less. What more could have been done for this vineyard than he did for it? To find out how things stood and to give them his assistance and direction he sent his servants to them, one after another. But the tenants did not care to govern the vineyard under their direction, and yet without receiving the generosity of God, they had no resources from which to exercise generosity towards those set under them. God heard the pleas of those who received nothing, and had been seized for repayment of debt. He sent one more servant, but the reply was: This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours.

Continue reading “The Victor and his people”