Lent & Easter 5. Palm Sunday – Entry to Jerusalem

The sixth Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday. The Lord rides into Jerusalem. We will read the short version of this entry from Mark, but here is the longer one from Matthew:

When they had come near Jerusalem … Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey

The disciples brought the donkey and its foal… and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 

Matthew points out that the Lord is now doing what Zechariah said he would:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The Lord is at war, riding out to confront the malevolent forces arrayed against mankind. But this king is so confident in his victory that he does not ride a war horse but a much more peaceful animal.

Continue reading “Lent & Easter 5. Palm Sunday – Entry to Jerusalem”

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday 2010 He must rise from the dead
John 20:1-18, Psalm 118, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15:9-28 St George the Martyr Holborn

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed. Mary stood weeping. Bending to look in, she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been. They said to her, Why are you crying? They have taken my Lord away, she said. Then, turning round, she saw the Lord standing there. But she was unable to recognise that it was him. Then he said Mary! and she said, Master?
Jesus greets Mary. This scene from the Gospel of John is portrayed in the window above the altar in my Church, St Mary Stoke Newington. Since Jesus is dressed in bright gold and red, glory and passion, it is the first image that catches your eye when you come in and look down the nave. Mary has come to the tomb to anoint his body. By coming to do this last God for him, of preparing his corpse she, like all of us, can only acknowledge the power of death. But Mary is startled by this absence, and the two figures who pose the question of where Jesus is. Then the Lord calls her name and she is face to face with the living person. Until he does so, she is completely unable to see who he is. She and the disciples are looking towards the Lord, but cannot yet make him out. So are we. Christ is first not visible, and then, as concession to us, visible, yet still, by faith. They must be called by name to recognise him, and to recognise that he has mastered death and so is the master of all creation, the Lord of life.
Continue reading “Easter Sunday”

Christ the King

Here we are at Christ the King. Every Sunday the Church reads a piece from the gospel. A very large part of the worldwide church reads the same portion of Scripture on the same day, so Christians across the world and across denominations are on this same page with us. Together we travel through one gospel in a year. All this year we have read from the Gospel of Mark, augmented as this week, with John. This is the last Sunday of the church year, the climax of the year, on which we celebrate Christ our king. The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; he is girded with strength (Psalm 93) This king is on his way. The gospel of Mark tells us Keep awake for you do not know when the master of the house will come… so he does not find you asleep, I say Keep Awake! We Christians have been made sentries. We are on duty here on the ramparts, looking out for our king. We also have to keep a look out for all threats represented by all the various pretend-kings who make their claims on us. We have to give warning to the nation when it takes their claims too seriously. This is why we Christians are here.

Continue reading “Christ the King”

Christ our Ransom

Our gospel is from Mark. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10.45).
Week by week we have been walking through the gospel of Mark, following the disciples and peering over their shoulders to see the Lord and catch his words. This Mark’s word for us this week. Of course you are not limited to this little piece of the gospel that we have just heard. As soon as you get home you can read on. Pick up this Gospel of Mark for yourself and see here he comes lowly, riding on a donkey. What was it last week? All these commandments have I kept from my youth. Then go and sell all you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and anyone who has left home and family for me will receive a hundred times again. The week before that it was: Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will have no part of it. You cannot take your own bit of the kingdom by force. You to receive meekly and gladly that bit of the kingdom that you are given. What is the gospel going to be next week? Bartimaeus – Teacher, teach me to see again. Amen, Lord teach us to see again. Week by week we walk through the bible, learning to see again. We follow the disciples and apostles, and they follow the Lord. Through this gospel we can watch the Lord coming to his people to release them from all the kings of this world. We can watch the passion of the Lord, which is our passion, that he has taken for us, through trial and flogging and crucifixion through battle to victory and triumph. The ‘kings’ of this world want us to insist that we serve them and we work for them. But the true king is coming, back to his own vineyard, because he has heard the prayers and appeals of those long in captivity. But He shall call me and I shall answer him… I will rescue him and show him my salvation – that is this week’s psalm, psalm 91. So the Lord returns to judge the wicked masters who had grabbed control of the vineyard and so long been exploiting the little ones in it.

Continue reading “Christ our Ransom”

Naming the powers – Christians and the challenge to our culture

Why is our economy in trouble?
Could it be that our economy is in trouble because our culture is in trouble? One reason that our culture might be in trouble because it has adopted a dramatically reduced account of the human person. It has adopted this reduced account of the person because it does not care to hear the Christian gospel which tells us that man is made for love and freedom in relationship with God and his fellow human beings. Because it does not care to hear about this love, or this freedom, our culture is no longer confident of the value and significance of human beings. Our economic crisis reflects a crisis of cultural confidence that reflects a crisis of faith. Man is not convinced that he has a future, and this loss of confidence has eroded his long-term perspective and is stalling our economy. Let us take a look at some of the connections between gospel, culture and economy that are at the root of our economic situation.

Continue reading “Naming the powers – Christians and the challenge to our culture”

Future directions in systematic theology

Future directions in systematic theology – there’s a title that invites a big answer. I am going to start though by giving you a modest account of what is being done, and from that we can see what there is to look forward to. I am going to give my answer in terms of three theologians you may well have met for yourself, and then a fourth who is not so well known.

Let me say right away that the short answer is that the future of systematic theology is political, and that that means public. It is no more about religion as a way of talking about the emotional inner life of the individual. Now it can be publicly challenging and challengeable. The future of systematic theology is escape from Kant. Christian thought is systematically engaged in encounter with, and in confrontation of, other systems of ideas. If it is good to talk, it is also important to disagree, and do so honestly, and not to suggest that underneath our differences we are really trying to say the same thing. We do not all share the same essential beliefs, and to insist we do prevents public debate of public issues. Instead there can be a real encounter and contest of world-views, and that is what I mean by political.

To outline where systematic theology is going I want to say something about its current best practice. I am going to limit myself to three theologians who all work in the UK, all producing what we could call political theology. They are Tom Wright, Oliver O’Donovan and John Milbank. Tom Wright is a historian of the New Testament, O’Donovan a historian of the Christian tradition from the beginnings to the seventeenth century, while Milbank deals with the modern period.
Continue reading “Future directions in systematic theology”