Archives For Advent

neonbrand-463099-unsplashGrace shows humanity God’s commitment to humanity. This commitment isn’t the result of our empty attempts to placate a bored King who has everything. God’s commitment to us has nothing to do with any human sycophantic transaction. It is a totally aware, pure, turning towards creation by its Creator.

God’s commitment picks humanity up from its failure to fulfill its own commitment towards Himself. Even when rejected, God’s commitment remains unchanged. It cannot be undone. The follow through of grace means that human commitment is fulfilled. God has done it. What is left is the human response to the completed work.

That human commitment fulfilled by God necessitates a turning of the creature back towards the Creator. Hearts and minds are directed back to the memory of His act on our behalf. Humanity is graciously shown the way and firmly commanded to follow.

For Karl Barth, ‘all that [then] remains for me to do is to let my eyes rest on Him, which really means to let my eyes follow Him. This following is my faith. But the great[er] work of faith has already been done by the One whom I follow […] To abide in; to trust in God (Ps.91:1) to believe is to stand in in the communion of saints; who has received, receives and will receive the forgiveness of sins, who hastens towards the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life […] His faith is the victory which has overcome the world.  But that it is this victory does not rest with [the believer], but solely with Him in whom he [may] believe.’ [i]

Human commitment is empowered by God’s grace to be lived out. That humanity is empowered  towards commitment means that whilst God’s act of grace is immutably superimposed, it is not forcefully imposed. We are simply shown the creation and opening of a door where there was none before. God has an exit plan. He spells it out with the letters e.n.l.i.s.t. This is the response to the call of grace: ‘grateful obedience’ (Barth, 2/1 p.229). The commitment of the ‘free man to the free God.’ (Barth, 2/2 p.561) is empowered by God’s revolution; a revolution no man or woman can lie about to control or trump.

This is confronted by God’s act and claim on humanity, to humanity, for humanity vs. humanity’s self-justification and rejection in its counter-claims about God.

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men and women by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV)

No other can lay claim to being this truth; fact; Christ event: God’s revealing of Himself in Jesus Christ. No other can lay claim to being the source of goodness; ethics, right and wrong. No other can claim to be the sole hope and promise of our future. Come Nero, hashtag riot, Hillary, Trump, unjust law, illness, closet-oppressive utopian idea, rainbow ideology or Hitler,

“The subject of theological ethics is not the Word of God as it is claimed by humanity, but the Word of God as it claims humanity. It is not man as he is going to make something of the Word of God, but the Word of God as it is going to make something of man* […]The grace of God is always this: Jesus Christ. It is from what God has done for us that we must learn to read what God wants with us and of us. We must seek the command of God only where it has itself torn off the veil of all human opinions and theories about the will of God**” [ii]

This is the chief reason for why we Christians call the Gospel, Good News. God lives and He speaks!

‘A Christian is one who knows that God has accepted him in Jesus Christ, that a decision has been made concerning him in Jesus Christ as the eternal Word of God, and that he has been called into covenant with Him by Jesus Christ as the Word of God spoken in time.’ [iii]

Summed up by Barth, in true Barth fashion:

‘We hear the Gospel as we obey it. For Jesus Christ is the basis in which we may believe in God, the Word in which dwell the light and force to move us to this event. He Himself is the Gospel. He himself is the resolve and the execution of the essential will in which God willed to give Himself to us. The grace of God, of the God in whom we may believe, is this. In Jesus Christ the eternal Word became flesh. Without ceasing to be who He is in Himself, God became as one of us.’ [iv]

As Karl Barth repeatedly remarks, God wills to be with us & wills that we should not be without Him:

‘Death could not hold Him [Jesus Christ], & therefore it cannot hold us. In the midst of death we have in Him no future but that of resurrection and eternal life. The grace of God decides and has already decided concerning our human existence. What then does it mean to be human now that this decision has been reached by the grace of God? It means to be one who stands and walks and lives and dies within the fact that God is gracious to us, that He has made us His own.(Gal. 2:19)’ [v]

The human response to the question of God’s grace, is ‘our answer to this Word. It is a free action bound by commitment’ (Barth, 2/2:546 paraphrased).

In other words, life with God, begins with, God with us.

Jesus Christ is the Gospel (Barth). He is the author, recipient and standard of both the Shema Yisrael and Lord’s Prayer:

“Hear O, Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy, 6:4-5, ESV)



[i] Barth, K. 1942 The Basis of the Divine Claim, CD 2/2 Hendrickson Publishers (p.559)

[ii] Ibid, p.546* & pp.560 & 559**

[iii] Ibid, p.547

[iv] Ibid, pp.557 & 558

[v] Ibid, pp. 558-559

[the words wrapped in parenthesis are my own]

Originally published 7th November 2016.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018



The revolution

Anastasis Iesous Christos [i]

Viva Noël!




[i] Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Advent Day One:

In order to mark the beginning of Advent I think it’s a great idea to begin with a prayer. Marking the occasion with one of Karl Barth’s liturgical prayers allows me room to introduce a journey; one that will hopefully draw myself and others towards a more reflective appreciation for the importance of the communal, the individual, the festal, and the theological, located within the celebrations to come.

Not unlike the curious, unplanned journey of the shepherds; their proclamation, post-angelic visit (Lk.2:17), and the wise-men;sojourners, linking up with the concepts of inquiry, insight, and of being led-by a strange, free and beautiful light. Coming; ‘for they saw His star in the east and came to worship Him’ (Mt.2:2).

Before us, the Swiss/German theologian’s words remain to-the-point, full of anticipation, trademark Trinitarian, and universally relevant:

‘Lord, our God and Father, give to many, to all, and to us as well, that we may celebrate Christmas like this:
Hernhutter Star
‘Herrnhut – ”Moravian” – Star’ San Francisco (Photo credit: spieri_sf)

that in complete thankfulness, utter humility, and then complete joy and confidence we may come to the one whom you have sent, and in whom you yourself have come to us. Clean out the many things in us that, now that the hour has come, have become impossible for us, can no longer belong to us, may, must, and will fall away from us, by virtue of your beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour, entering into our midst and creating order.

Have mercy also on all those who either do not yet or do not fully know you and your kingdom, who perhaps once knew everything and have either forgotten, misunderstood, or even denied it!
Have mercy on all of humanity, who today are once again especially plagued, threatened and haunted by so much foolishness. Enlighten the thoughts of those in both the East and the West who are in power and who, as appears to be the case, are today in complete confusion and despair.
Give the rulers and representatives of the people, the judges, teachers, and bureaucrats, give even the newspaper reporters in our homeland, the insight and sobriety that are necessary for their responsible work! Place the right, necessary, and helpful words on the lips of those who have to preach during this Christmas season, and open then also the ears and hearts of those who hear them!
Moravian Stars in the Strietzelmarkt in Dresden
Moravian Stars in the Strietzelmarkt in Dresden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comfort and encourage those who are sick, both in body and spirit, in the hospitals, as well as the prisoners, and those who are distressed, abandoned, or despairing! Help them with what alone can truly help them and all of us: the clarity of your Word and the quiet work of your Holy Spirit.

We thank you that we are permitted to know that we do not pray and will never pray to you in vain. We thank you that you have let your light rise, that it shines in the darkness, and that the darkness will not overcome it. We thank you that you are God, and that we may be your people.
– Karl Barth, 2005, 2008 Fifty Prayers, Westminster John Knox Press pp.4-5
(I agree, in Jesus name. Amen)

The fast approaching festive season has prompted me to initiate a list.This list includes twelve of what I consider to be the best Christmas music, reproduced, created or improvised.

I have limited myself to twelve, but only for the sake of brevity. The actual playlist ”Christmas-ish” contains a lot more.

Not just being a student of theology and popular culture, but a consumer also. I present to you my 2013 Advent/festive guide to Christmas Musica:

1. Casting Crowns: I heard the bells on Christmas Day –  (Peace on Earth, 2008)

2.  MercyMe: God rest ye merry gentlemen – (The Christmas Sessions, 2005)

3.  Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd: Mary Did You Know? –  (The Gift, 1996)

4. Sting: Soul Cake – (If on a winter’s Night, 2009)

5. David Crowder*Band: Angels we have heard on high –  (Oh for Joy, 2011)

6. Johnny Cash: Joy to the World/Away in a Manger –  (Classic Christmas, 1980)

7. Kari Jobe: O Holy Night – (Where I Find You: Christmas Edition, 2012; in my opinion this one stands alongside Bing Crosby’s version – Yeah, I think it’s that good.)

8. Celtic Woman: Carol of the Bells – (Silent Night, 2012)

9. Bill Miller: The First Noel – (Sacred Gift, 2005)

10. Sara Groves featuring Toby Groves: Its True –  (O Holy Night, 2008 – ‘Toy Packaging’ tied with this one)

11. Jars of Clay: Gabriel’s Message – Christmas Songs, 2007 (Bonus Track Version)

12. Bobby Helms: Jingle Bell Rock (1957 version)

In addition, what is probably the best ROCK version of Carol of the Bells in the history of eclectic guitars (see what I did there? eclectic instead of electric… DC*B: )