GOOD FRIDAY

March 25, 2016

View from the cross

View from the cross – James Tissot

Abraham always said, “Here am I”, when God called.  He had said yes when God called him to abandon all that he had known and to follow him into a land and a future and a promise.

Tennessee Williams, “The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the important thing is not to let that scare you.”

Abraham had to be terrified.  It had to be the worst nightmare any person could imagine.

God told him to go into the land promised to him:  And he went.

God promised to make him the Father of a great nation:  And he went.

God told him that after years of childlessness, Sarah would have a son: Isaac (laughter).  And he was born.

Naomi Rosenblatt:  “God has been building Abraham’s faith and trust over the course of his adult lifetime by giving him tangible tokens of their covenant:  the land, sons, a vision of his future.      . . . Armed only with his faith in the future and his trust in God, Abraham confronts his own worst nightmare — the death of his son, his clan at his own hand.”

RATNER, Phillip

Philip Radner

In the Christian tradition, the OT lesson is known as “The Sacrifice of Isaac.  It is known in Hebrew as the “Akedah”  “The Binding”.   In human terms, it is a better name.  Abraham is in a bind, more in a way than Isaac.  Abraham has three long days during his trek to Mount Moriah to consider his choices:

  1. Simply to reject God and His command which would mark the end of the covenant.
  2. To sacrifice his only remaining son to a God whose will he can no longer comprehend, would also negate the dream Abraham has journeyed toward for so long.

 

Thomas Ferguson writes, “As long as your dream (dream as fantasy) is alive you’re not living.  As soon as your dream dies you start living.  The dream keeps you from living.”

On the way to Moriah, the dream may not have died, but it was certainly not the same.  And then at the last minute, the angel of the Lord stopped his hand.

Rosenblatt continues, “When he is asked to give up what he loves most, and then has his hand stayed at the last moment, Abraham learns that God values human life above all else and does not require its sacrifice.” p. 200

We have just begun the yearly remembering that Good Friday (I read recently that originally it was called ‘God Friday”) which is certainly true and what God did that day was indeed good, in consequence if not in method.

That remembering must go outside the reality we understand, situated as we are in time and space.  The sacrifice of the Son, Second Person of the Trinity happened before the “foundation of the world” before Creation.   Then in time and space, the only Son of God was born among us, fully human and fully God, died on the Cross in time and space for our sake.

Alan Falk 2000

View from the cross – James Tissot

  Early,  I suspect within days if not hours of the resurrection,  someone said,  “I’ve been thinking,  “the story of Father Abraham, blessed be he,  binding Father Isaac, blessed be he,  is a type, a pre-figuring of  what just happened to Rabbi Jesus.  Someone else interrupted, “The Holy One, Our Lord called Father, allowed the sacrifice of his son.  God did that thing from which he prevented Father Abraham.

That is why this lesson is read on Good Friday.  Christians have come to see in the story of the old man and his son on the summit of Mount Moriah, the place where the temple stood, a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus on a nearby hill.

The writer to the Hebrews sees the events of Good Friday to be the expression of God’s love for humanity. “Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.”

The mystery of faith is “How can this be?”   How can it be, that God could love humanity so much that He demanded of Himself what He will not demand of Abraham.

Some has said,  “It is Love, not the nails, kept Jesus on the cross.”

Soren Kierkegaard once said, “that if there is one thing that unites us as Christians it is our forgetting — our overlooking — how much we have been loved by God in Christ.”

 It is important on this day to simply be here to remember with power.  We are quick to say that Jesus has died and then move on to Easter, not stopping and being there where it happened.  So let us stop and be here, and reflect in silence on what God has done for us in His Son.

 In hope, in spite of the facts.

John+

 

Feast of Saint Hubert


hubertus
Patron of Hunters & Dogs
October 26, 2014

Hubert (657 – 727 AD)  was the self-absorbed heir of the Duchy of Aquitaine in the 600’s. He was obsessed with hunting and went every day. Hubert could not restrain himself even in Lent continuing the chase during the forty days of self-denial. He crossed the line when he when he chased an enormous stag on Good Friday. With his dogs in full cry he pursued the deer – only to have the animal stop and turn. In the stags antlers was a crucifix – and the animal spoke said essentially, “Hubert if you don’t get your act together you are going to Hell!”

This young man got more than he expected on that Good Friday hunt. He became a priest and then a bishop and followed Jesus as a hunter of Men.

Jame Tissot  "And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright." (Genesis 25:30-31)

James Tissot
“And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.” (Genesis 25:30-31)

In the OT reading, Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob:
Esau was a hairy man’s man – a mighty hunter – a Bubba – with gun-racks (or in this case bow-racks) on his chariot.

Jacob was a momma’s boy – staying at home reading cook books, while there is nothing wrong with cooking and many of the great chefs are male, the little brother has not yet begun to move from the nurture of childhood into the journey toward man-hood.

Esau and Jacob are the twin issues of men not leaving home and not growing up AND leaving home but not growing up either.

Esau comes home down and very hungry from a hunt having bagged nothing. Jacob has cooked up a pot of red lentils which must have smelled better than I imagine, so he says he’s dying can he have some of the, literally, red-red stuff. Jacob says sure big brother, it’s yours if you will give me the birth-right making me the eldest of the two of us and the heir. So Bubba did it despising his birth-right.

Esau could read the signs in the field but he could not discern the signs in his own life, does not connect to the deepest issues of his heart. In this we, especially men, are the sons of Esau who sell our treasure without considering its value.

The twin’s grand-father, Abraham, was a great hunter. Although there is no mention of his hunting game – he stalked a greater prize – a country promised by God and left everything behind to go and hunt the place that God promised. By faith he left home not knowing where he was going – and he went

Faith is the evidence of things not seen – Abraham is the type of this for believers ever since – today the religions count him as their spiritual ancestor. Abraham is the grand-father of hunters and from him the lore and the art of spiritual hunting is our legacy and our inheritance.

emblemWhat are we hunting when we go hunting and who is hunting us when we go hunting? Hunting is a metaphor for growing up and going on adventure – the goal being maturity and wholeness.

Jesus is God’s best and most complete attempt to come and hunt so that we and all who have ever lived and ever will live may be saved. After all, he said he came to seek and to save that which was lost. He of course tended to bring them back alive as he told the fishermen by the lake, “come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men;” of course he could just as easily told a party of hunters to follow him and he would make them hunters of men.

This hunting metaphor becomes the metaphor of evangelism. While hunting and feeding on the animal becomes the language of sacrament, “behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” AND Jesus’ admonition, “eat my body and drink my blood” has been practiced by Christians ever since. In matters of faith as in nutrition you are what you eat.

Zacchaeus

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is passing through Jericho, the oldest continuous human settlement on the planet. Here the trade routes from Africa, Asia and Europe intersect. And wherever the trade goes the tax-collector follows.

Rome said, “Come and follow me and I will make your taxers of men.” Tax-collecting was a franchise with a stated amount required by the state, whatever else the tax-man could squeeze out of the traffic was his to keep; and trust me they could squeeze quite a lot – Zacchaeus was the head-taxer and therefore filthy rich.

He goes out to see Jesus and he is a little man so the crowd no doubt made sure he couldn’t see (the sort of petty revenge taken by the weak on the powerful). But Zac didn’t get where he was because of his dignity or passivity so he shinnied up a sycamore tree. As Jesus came along he looked up and realized that he has treed something or this case someone.

Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come on down, I’m inviting myself and a bunch of my closest friends to lunch.” The text doesn’t record the reaction of Mrs. Zacchaeus when her husband showed up with all those strangers.

After lunch, Zacchaeus – I will give half of all I have to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone [of course he had], I will pay them four times as much. You see that when you are hunted and treed by Jesus things change, they change for the better and they they change in a hurry.

In 1492 Columbus set sail to the west to find the orient only to run into the Americas, and in that case for the explorer, as the tax-collector in Jericho, what he found turned out to be better than what he was looking for.

The Vision of Saint Hubert - Jan Brueghel - after Rubens

The Vision of Saint Hubert – Jan Brueghel – after Rubens

Saint Hubert heard the call of God and laid down his bow and took the hunt for souls, even as Jesus called the disciples. Let us seek God knowing that we find be found by Him and know that he sent his Son so that we might be…

…brought back alive – in fact more alive than we have ever been before – to have life and that life abundantly; may that be the ultimate concern of all hunting. In the name of God… Amen

The House of God & Gate of Heaven … & I did not know it

 

Blake 2

After the painting Jacob’s Dream by William Blake and Genesis 28: 11-17

A young man leaving home
For long years to be gone
Might fall asleep and dream,
His head upon a stone.

A stair appears that bends
In spiral toward the light,
The bright Orb where it ends,
Though he sleeps through the night.

Darkened, below the stars,
Angels in constant motion
Walk up and down the stairs.
Delight and clear devotion

Make graceful all they do.
The light and dark are bound,
Heaven to all below,
Bright stair and stony ground

Inn one light joined. In sleep
The dreamer wakes. He sees
Above the stars the deep
Of heaven opened. Is

He living, then, his part
Of Heaven’s earthly life?
And what shall be the art
By which this sight can live?

Darkened upon the earth,
He fills with light, is made
A witness to high Truth
And so a man afraid.

His land – this meager sod,
These stones, this low estate –
Is the household of God.
And it is Heaven’s gate

Wendell Berry,  2004