My @ONE series on the Atonement is progressing. On the aspect of Atonement that has to do with Reconciliation, I had come in my thinking to think of things like racial and national reconciliation. That is all certainly in view. Yet the methods of reconciliation among us usually deals with mutual interests, cultural competency, empathy, and other actions that come from us to others.
The need for Reconciliation to God has receded in our cultural thinking, for of course God is love and accepts all people. Yet….
In the key passages of scripture the idea of Reconciliation is centered on the work of the Cross of Christ. God does the reconciling and it is cruciform.
One passage is 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. Here is my syntactical outline. First of all, it is all from God. Then the work is accomplished by Christ (underlined portions) and our part is to be messengers (yellow highlight). Not counting trespasses (v. 19) is not because God does not keep a record, but because he put the trespasses on Christ (v. 21).
At the top of the whole discussion is this statement “All this is from God.”
the yet in-progress sermon is this
I. Reconciliation is God’s work v. 18a
II. God Reconciled us by the death of Christ (underlined)
III. God Reconciles the world by the Gospel (yellow)
Most of us have had a mortgage. We agree to pay for 20 or 30 years an amount each month until we own the house. It goes on every month, every year. Maybe it is extended because of a need to take out a loan in addition. This is a constant repetition, like a drip from a leaky roof.
Hebrews speaks of the repetitiveness of the priestly service in the temple. Each sacrifice did some good. Like each mortgage payment does some good. But each one had to be repeated. Only the payments were not for 30 years. We can imagine ourselves 30 years down the road from signing our first mortgage papers as being free from the burden. Israel began its sacrifices in the days of Moses and they continued, with a 70 year interruption, down to 70 AD. So for 12 centuries Israel made regular payments on it spiritual debt. Over and over, day after day, year after year, decade and century after another they brought their blood sacrifices to the temple.
God gave this as a gift to his people – it held the promise of forgiveness and peace with God. But it was unending.
Then came Jesus. His sacrifice was complete. It is as if he paid the whole mortgage in one payment. His one payment had paid once for all time the whole debt of the sins of his people.
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14
In the book, On the Way to the Cross, the reading was in John 2 where Jesus cleared out the temple of the money changers. There is a quote from St. Augustine (5th C) who spoke of those who came to church not to be redeemed but to make a profit. Origen (3rd C) spoke of the love of money invading the human heart.
How far can the image of money changing in the place of worship be taken? Is it only a historical reference about Jesus view of worship in his time? Can it be compared by analogy to commercialism within the church (profit instead of worship in the place or worship)? How about the individual believers heart (where we are seen individually as a temple, a place where God dwells by his spirit)?
As far as authoritative teaching, we ought to as a rule of thumb travel conservatively – making sure we have a clear path from one location to another. Can we draw a principle that the worship of God should not be derailed by financial gain? but for a meditative, personal reading, we can have more freedom to explore the image.
The Church Fathers, the Medieval Church and even the Reformers were not above taking trips on images. some are justified and some are not. Read some 19th and early 20th Century christian preachers, and you will find the same. However, the books on interpretation (hermeneutics) usually frown on this sort of thing.
When the New Testament seems to do this with the Old Testament. Matthew 2:15 quotes Hosea 11:1 in reference to Jesus being taken as a child to Egypt. But the original reference in Hosea was to the nation being called out of Egypt at the Exodus. Some accuse Matthew of an error. However, it also seems that Matthew along with the Apostles at large made an analogy between the life of Jesus and the life of the nation. (To and from Egypt, 40 years/days in the desert, mana/bread in the wilderness, 12 tribes/apostles, etc). Matthew uses that principle to make his reference “work.”
The long and short of it is to make the leap with thought and care – or your conclusion could take the path of Wile E Coyote, over the cliff and into the void.
”And as ice formed on water covers its surface as long as night and darkness last but melts under the warmth of the sun, so death reigned until the coming of Christ; but when the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of justice rose, death was swallowed up in victory…” Basil of Caesarea
This is a book I am reading for Lent, or as we “low church” types say, “the season before Easter.” This follows readings from John with some Psalms and suggested prayers.
On the Way of the Cross, Thomas Oden, IVP, 2011
The view from my neighborhood on a late winter morning