Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lenten Musings: Listening at Golgotha

My Bible study group chose Peter Storey's Listening at Golgotha as their Lenten study. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the clarity of his thought and speech. The book originated out of a series of meditations on the "Seven Last Words of Christ" for Holy Week preached at Duke Chapel in 2002.
I missed last week's study for a conference (and last Monday night's "Mamma Mia" singalong), so here are some quotes from the first two readings:
The first word: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
With those words, "Father, forgive them," a new way of life patterned by Jessu has been passed on from calvary to us all. Difficult though it may be, the practice of enemy love lies at the center of our salvation story...
If we claim to follow Jesus, we must believe that love, not force, is God's mightiest weapon; that evil may seem to be rampant as it certainly appeared to be on Good Friday, but it is only the second strongest power in the universe.
Let us pray for the grace to live by these words from the cross.

The second word: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Some tell us that following Jesus is a simple matter of inviting him into our hearts. But when we do that, Jesus always asks, "May I bring my friends?"...
For us to be made right with God, repentance is always necessary, but repentance is not so much a condition for forgiveness as a consequence of it...on the Cross, the word of forgiveness is spoken first; it gives birth to one felon's contrite cry. This truth changes the equation of salvation. When will we learn that we do not repent in order to find pardon? We repent because we discover how deeply we have been pardoned--how much we have been forgiven.

Powerful stuff. I took two classes with Dr. Storey when I was at Duke, and came to admire deeply both him and his wife, Elizabeth, who are truly wonderful people. What strikes me most deeply so far is the notion of pardon begetting repentance rather than the other way around, which mainline Protestantism's insistence on conversion so often gets wrong. I think this is what I objected to so much in a recent workshop on evangelism: we reduce to a work of our own logic this miracle of pardon and acceptance when we forget that it is all about relationships (I am a broken record on this subject). It is not about what we do, but what God has done and our response. And even our refusal to do our part does not negate or devalue the love and grace of God.

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