24 Mar 2021
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8: 31 – 32 (NIV)
There is no escaping the fact that the writers of what we call the New Testament saw the events that they described – the events associated with the story of Jesus of Nazareth - as being ‘according to the will of God’. The story seems to be about Jesus as the presence of a new reality, in which in and through him, one might even say around him, like a force-field of divinely given energy, there was present the Kingdom of God. A way of living made possible by God in which justice, wholeness and graciousness were replacing fear, sickness and resentment. And it was coming into being through Jesus as he fulfilled his calling – to heal, to teach, and to forgive. But as the story unfolds, it darkens. The darkness came as a collision between Jesus’ vision of God’s claim and his righteousness on the one hand, and the scheming, political and religious machinations of the authorities on the other hand. It seems as if Goodness is destroyed by humanity at its worst.
However, for the gospel writers, the events of Jesus’ passion are grounded not in the depressing inevitability of the sinful ambitions and evil actions of men but in the gracious inevitability of God’s ordaining and enacting. The passion – the utterly complete giving by the Son of his life for all is the very inner life of God revealed on the stage of history. God is himself the dynamic, irresistible, overflowing essence of self-giving in order that through the event of Calvary that which has its being only because of his over-flowing self-giving – creation itself, may be re-made and directed towards its perfecting.
That is why we can say that the cross is the portrayal of the love of God – God’s love made visible. And therefore God’s own being made visible. To say that God is love is to say that love is defined by Calvary. Calvary is not an event in the history of God. God is the Event within which Calvary can be found.
But more than this I would claim that such contemplation – of what Calvary really says about God - yields a huge benefit to anyone prepared to open themselves up to these deep and mysterious truths. That benefit is the assurance that even though the heart of Christian truth as it is found in the cross is, humanly speaking, preposterous, unbelievable, ridiculous – it is utterly trustworthy, fit for purpose, and effective for salvation - because it is rooted and grounded in the ultimate security of God himself – who he in fact is.
Dear God, Thank you for who you are. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh, holding this truth close.
Excerpts from Revd Paul Sermon, St Thomas 19th March 2021