Sunday, October 8, 2023

Vineyard Restored, Vindication Of The Son

The parable of wicked tenants and the vineyard is told as a prophecy and a promise, not as a perennial life lesson for all people. For us today it is a lesson about how Israel is God's family, but how God also reconstituted Israel around Jesus, who is both the murdered Son and the rejected Cornerstone of the story. After the vindication of the Stone in the Resurrection, the vineyard (God's family) is under new management, the Son, and not under the tenants anymore. The people of Israel are still invited back into the vineyard, but with the new badge or passcode*, for there is "salvation for everyone who believes, the Jew first and then also the Greek." (Rom 1:16)

The horrific news out of the Holy Land this weekend, and the horrors that have afflicted that region for years, remind us of real, physical struggles that have marred the Promised Land for millennia. These were contests about land, ethnicity, power, independence, historic rights...the very concerns on the minds of many visitors to Jerusalem during that first Holy Week. We always must "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." (Psalm 122) But love and solicitude for the people living "between the Sea and the River" must not make us uncomfortable to tell the story of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, for the Prince of Peace and His family are the greatest hope to end discord in our world, even two thousand years later. 

* “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what are we to do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:36-39)

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Kenosis Creed

Good Friday before Easter Sunday. Crucifixion before Resurrection. Fast before Feast. Darkness before Light. Weeping before Rejoicing. Death before Life. 

These pairs, and their this-before-that emphasis, sum up the Christian mindset on many things. They also contain (implicitly or explicitly) the sum of the good news, which we call the kerygma, the distilled and powerful proclamation of the apostles: "For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 

Philippians Ch. 2 adds more terms to the pairs: Humility before glory, debasement before exaltation, human scandal before divine vindication. It also takes the kerygma and widens the timeline of cross-before-crown. An eternal God surrendering his majesty and emptying himself, becoming a weak baby and a crucified rebel, but his Father loving the Son's humility and sacrificial love, exalting him not just in time and on earth, but for ages unending throughout the whole universe. 

And while St. Paul is telling the story of the paschal mystery, he ends up giving us a creed as well, the Creed of Kenosis, a tableau of a self-denying diety as proof of God's power, of a Father glorifying a Son for his abject defeat. This, he says, is the inner life of God. Paul pens a creed, proclaims a scandal, and tells his dearest companions to imitate that scandal because they cling to that creed. 

(The last part is me wrapping this back around to our annual appeal to support our seminarians, in case that part is confusing.)