Archives For Easter

Like you, I’m wrestling with the COVID-19 changes imposed upon us. We’re adapting, steady, and we’re focused. We’re still homeschooling. We’re still reading the news in one hand, and reading the Bible with the other. We’re engaged, determined not to let the bad news sneak past us, or our prayers. We’re also determined not to let the barrage of repetitive, useless speculative analysis paralyze us.

In 1939, Karl Barth, who had long since been exiled by the Nazis for refusing to sign the Hitler Oath, and for opposing the deification of the State, wrote,

‘the Church prefers to suffer persecution at the hands of the State, which has become a “beast out of the pit of the abyss,” rather than take part in the deification of Caesar.’[i]

It’s in the vein of this context that we’re determined to not give in to fear and its consistent demand for absolute fealty. We’re steadfast in our commitment to the current treatment plan, but defiant in our “no” to this silent freedom killer. The virus, its source, and the exercise of political power – through a centralisation of government ruling by fiat, without the limitation of existing checks and balances – require a line in the sand drawn between us, and the totalitarianism attached to it.

Despite fear and powerlessness Good Friday remains Good News.

Its events do not show the clash of two kingdoms, and two kings, they show the affirmation of one King and His kingdom. Pilate asks, “are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You have said so.” (Mark 15:2) And yet, Jesus ‘confirms Pilate’s claim to “power” over Him, as power given from above.’ (Barth) Pilate does not release Jesus. He crucifies Him. The confirmation of Christ as King is affirmed by Pilate’s mockery and Jesus Christ’s death sentence: here hangs, pierced, beaten, spat on, speared and abused, ‘Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ (Matthew 27:37).

The place where God makes His stand before all humanity is on a cross for all humanity. There is no greater line in the sand between humanity and sin – the corruption of absolute power, and the rejection of true freedom, than God’s revelation in Jesus Christ – Christ crucified and resurrected. Whether that absolute be a seemingly unbeatable microscopic parasite or seemingly unbreakable bloated bureaucracy.

Barth writes that Jesus and Pilate (Caesar’s proxy in Judea) confronted one another. What we see is the ‘homelessness of the Church in this age’, and ‘in its demonic form, the State’s authority as the “power of the present age.”

In yielding the Gospel the Church brings to the State a theological critique against all superstition, ideas, imaginations and ideologies, and therefore judgement on any manifestation of an imbalance of power. It can do this because ‘judgement begins with God’s household’ (1 Peter 4:17).

The Church is as a watchman, ‘knowing that it is responsible for the State and for Caesar, and it finally manifests this responsibility, through “the prophetic service of the Church as Watchman,” in its highest form by praying for the State and for its officials in all circumstances.’ (Barth) Both the Church and the State are under the Lordship of Christ.

There was no false dichotomy between secular and sacred. Civic duty for Christians is, as it has always been, holding themselves as individuals, and the Government to its role, function and purpose, accountable, under the Divine Lordship of Christ.

Right through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ Kingship is at work. Healing and exorcism, announce His kingdom drawn near, His kingdom to come; his actions calling us to rethink and repent – for ‘the Kingdom of God is near.’

As Ethan the Ezrahite wrote, ‘God rules over the surging seas; waves rise, He stills them.’ (Psalm 89:9). The shock-waves of Christ’s kingship confirmed by the events of Good Friday, dark Saturday and Resurrection Sunday, spread His authority like a slow tsunami over the Pax Romana, past Rome’s powerful legions, liberating the hearts of the wounded, lame, repentant and humble. Christ’s just rule breaks like a wave over Church and State permeating both. The just who was judged becomes our just judge.

As things currently stand, we’ve had no reassurance from prominent politicians about how civil liberties will be safeguarded during the Coronavirus counter measures. We, the people, seem to be on a Shakespearean rodeo, living as Romeo, liberty as Juliet. There seem to be powerful forces at work to keep both separated, perhaps even on a permanent basis. But Shakespeare’s work isn’t just a tale of woe about oppressive forces that seek to keep man from woman, and woman from man, it’s a warning telling us not to give up hope.

Regardless of how dead liberty might appear to be, or how pathetically silent our leaders choose to remain. Regardless of how intimidated we are by the state flexing its muscles, prancing its ferocious might in our faces. Regardless of how we may suffer under the hands of those who make themselves the enemy of civil liberties, it’s because of Good Friday, we, who are raised in Christ, can say Good Friday, is still Good News.

Liberty may have been crucified, but liberty was liberated and lives yet still!

Though the state may flap and dance about, howl, breathe fire and brandish the sword, in a political thrust and parry against liberty, they cannot win. For although ‘it’s true that Jesus told His disciples to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. It [shouldn’t be forgotten that it] is God who declares what belongs to Caesar.’ [iii]

May God’s wisdom guide us, may His strength empower us, and with defiant humility, may we gratefully embrace the Light from which all true freedom breaks. For the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Happy Easter, folks!

Jesus is Victor!


References:

[i] Barth, K. Community, State, and Church, Wipf & Stock Publishers.

[ii] Barth, K. The Theology of John Calvin, Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[iii] Bell, G, 1940. Christianity & World Order, Penguin Classics.

First published on Caldron Pool, 10th April, 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here:

.

Wings stretch and earth darkens.

From West to East, wrists to wood
From the river of bitter vinegar, to where it merges with blood from the north.

South past open flesh,
.                        before which mockery stood.

To where pierced feet meet;
.                        on branch intersecting branch;
.                        where branch kills the vine,
.                        and the vine is laid to rest.

All within the borders
.            of an empire, and an empire’s hornets’ nest.

To where silent spaces are professionally sealed
For fear of blind and impassioned zeal.

Before the scarlet X.
That marks the scarlet spot;

To the place where men and women,
.                  embalm the unforgettable
.                  with a burial cloth.

Look to the place forged by Light;
.       to the heart of where the darkened,
.       once received their sight.

To where the sudden presence of the messenger
disturbed the guards and the still of night.

There you’ll find that death
.         and boulder was no match for Light from Uncreated Light.

There the fire-born, who stands inside this broken enclave.
turns to humanity and sets its gaze.

“From God comes His own humiliation.
This; God’s self-limitation, now become your exaltation.

This unforgettable vertical collision,
lifts the now forgiven.

Therefore, rise as you are raised.

For I tell you the truth, He is Risen!”


(©RL2017)

‘In the person of Jesus Christ, in the death of the Son of God on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. God allowed this humiliation to come upon Himself and this exaltation to be the lot of the other, humanity […] God could not be more glorious as God than in this inconceivable humiliation of Himself to humanity, and the no less inconceivable exaltation of humanity to Himself.’ 

-(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 pp.662-664)

Ash & Ambrose

February 10, 2016 — Leave a comment

Cross Ash Wednesday Word Art

bonhoeffer_lent-and-easter-relfections

The day before Ash Wednesday is Pancake day. It announces the first day of lent.

It means that we get to eat pancakes. More importantly it’s a time when we commit to giving up a luxury for forty days. This year we’ve chosen to fast from console games. That said, we’re not all that religious about it. For instance, because our fast is not food related we count Sundays, whereas traditionally those days are free from the Lenten commitment. Our aim is simplicity. We draw out the material and spiritual benefits of lent for our kids in the hope that they will see and experience them in a healthy way.It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Participating in Lent also connects us to the broader ecumenical Christian community, both past and present (hence the Bonhoeffer book in the header). Lent lends itself to us as a challenge to participate in something greater than ourselves. To be shown that life without some non-essential things is still a life well lived. The season officially marks out a time for remembering the importance of grace, forgiveness, repentance, gratitude, and self-denial.

Barth makes this same point in one of his later sermons on 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:

‘What is Easter?
Easter is Jesus as he is, Jesus as Victor.
Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:
Thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is not enlightenment, nor a model to imitate, nor a religion, nor a church that gives us victory.
It is Jesus…by God’s act Easter happens and Jesus is revealed as victor, there the promise is fulfilled that death is consumed in the victory…because Easter is, because Jesus lives, because the last trumpet sounds, because the all-deciding Word of God has been spoken. We can know the why, and we can take the admonition to heart. Or should we really not know it? Then let us seek, ask, and knock at the door until we know it, much better’ [i]
(Karl Barth, Sermon April 4th, 1920)

Barth reaches for the theological ground he shared with Johann Christoph Blumhardt and his son Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt.

The latter who wrote:

‘Even if our age has become riddled with evil, even if death runs rampant on the earth, we will not accept these as final facts.
We must not sleepily say, “It is the Lord’s will. What will be, will be.”
No, we must resist and, like Moses, throw ourselves into the breach […] Salvation and healing are the will of God. To the devil and to all powers of hell, which accusingly proclaim the hopelessness of our situation, we will cry out, “You will not win! We know this because we know Jesus, who is victorious over every devil.” [citing Matthew 4:4] [ii]

If we fuse the two quotes into one. Together they formulate, frame and direct the Lenten road.

Paul, Barth and Blumhardt set the tone by helping us kick-start our journey.

Traditional Shrove Tuesday prayer:

Mercifully hear our prayers oh, Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that they, whose consciences by sin are accused, by your merciful pardon may be absolved; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
[Source]

Sources:

[i] Barth, K. & Willimon,W.2009 The Early Preaching of Karl Barth: Fourteen Sermons Westminster John Knox Press, pp.133-139

[ii] Blumhardt, C.F Jesus is the Victor Kindle Ebook ed. Copyright 2011 by the Plough Publishing House. Used with permission.

Three pierced.

Wrists. Feet. Side.

Three days.

Bruised, whip-shredded. Dead. Crucified.

Three words.

Jesus is alive!

Holy Week_three nails_RL2015_2

‘For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him…This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil…But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
– (John 3:16-21, ESV)

Or, as summarised astutely by Karl Barth in C.D. II:1, page 274:

‘God does not will to be God without us, and He does not will that we should be without Him’

RL2015

{My original haiku, before I had the idea of pushing myself to only use 16 words, can be read over on my instagram page: here}

IMG_20130413_001123IMG_20130413_001123

Resurrection

Title: My Lord and my God, the resurrected Jesus in lead light.

Process: I used oil pastels and then took a photo. The next step included turning the photo into a black and white pic. using Instagram on my phone. An all original work.

Purpose: This is a semiotic work in progress that fits with my current colourful theological wrestling over the traditional label attributed to Thomas as being ”the doubter”. The inspiration for this comes from the Christian East, particularly Byzantine frescos, related to Greek Orthodox Iconography. The real focus in this picture is on the eyes.

IMG_20130415_161900IMG_20130415_162943

I am also trying to explore the deeper socio-political impact that labels and symbols have on us, both privately and publicly.

My focus here is on how they can be an affront to a theological worldview, and how in return, theology can be a critique of such stereotypical pigeon-holing. The scriptures that relate to this are John 8 and John 20:24-31.

Example:

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...