Mark 14:3-103 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him the money.
I’ve walked down the road where the devil’s been;
Where the kids have seen things they should never have seen.
And the ancient stone that knows the deeper tale;
About a bloody game, they call the holy war.
Heaven is my home and they’ll be no shame.
I’ve walked down a road where the angels been;
Where the kids have seen things that we never have seen.
And the ancient stone that knows the deeper tale;
About a bloody King who won the holy war.
Heaven is my home and they’ll be no shame to bear;
Heaven is my home and they’ll be no refugees.
© 1999 Smith/Garrard. Curious? Music UK/EMI Publishing
Martin Luther (1520): “The soul can do without anything except the Word of God. . . . The Word is the gospel of God concerning his Son . . . To preach Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it….The Word of God cannot be received . . . by any works whatever, but only by faith.”
John Wycliffe (14th c.): “A Christian should speak Scripture’s words on Scripture’s authority in the form that Scripture displays. . . .The pastor has a three-fold office: first, to feed his sheep spiritually on the Word of God . . . ; second . . . to purge wisely the sheep of disease . . . ; third . . . to defend his sheep from ravening wolves . . . . Sowing the Word of God among his sheep. . . All the duties of the pastor, after justice of life, holy preaching is most to be praised . . . Preaching the gospel exceeds prayer and administration of the sacraments to an infinite degree.”
Alain of Lille (12th c.): “Preaching should not contain jesting words, or childish remarks, or . . . that which results from . . . rhythms . . . These are better fitted to delight the ear than to edify the soul. Such preaching is theatrical and full of buffoonery, and in every way to be condemned.”
Hugh Latimer (16th c.): “Though a preacher be well learned, yet if he lacks that boldness and is faith-hearted, truly he will do but little good . . . When he fears men more than God, he is nothing to be regarded. . . . A preacher is like a ploughman who must first break up the soil; then he plants and waters the seed, to produce a right faith, sometimes weeding them by telling them their faults . . . breaking their stony hearts [so as to] tell them God’s promises to soft hearts. . . .Some are negligent in discharging their office or have done it fraudulently, [making] people ill. . . Many are involved in devilish ploughing, saying, “down with Christ’s cross” and “up with purgatory. Only Christ made purgation and satisfaction.”
John Newton (19th c. – on prayer but works equally for preaching): “Even in the exercise of prayer we profess to draw near to the Lord, the consideration that his eye has little power to . . . prevent our thoughts from wandering . . . to the ends of the earth. What should we think of a person who, being admitted into the king’s presence, upon business of the greatest importance, should break off in the midst of his address, to pursue a butterfly?”
P. T. Forsyth (19th-20th c.): “The orator, at most, may urge men to love their brother, the preacher beseeches them first to be reconciled to their Father. With preaching, Christianity stands or falls because it is the declaration of a gospel. Nay, more – far more; it is the gospel prolonging and declaring itself. . . I note that the Catholic revival of last century (19th), is coincident with complaints elsewhere of the decay of preaching. And if this decay is not preaching itself, there is no doubt of the fact in regard to the pulpit’s estimate and influence with the public. Even if the churches are no less full than before, the people who are there are much less amenable to the preached Word, and more fatally urgent for its brevity. . . . But the great reason why the preacher must return continually to the Bible is that the Bible is the greatest sermon in the world. . . . The Bible, therefore, is there as the medium of the gospel. . . . If we ask what is a modern Christian theology, it is the gospel taking the age seriously, with a real, sympathetic and informed effort to understand it. . . . It takes its stand neither on the spirit of the age, nor on the Christian consciousness, nor on the Christian principle, but on the historic and whole New Testament Christ. . . . . This is actually Luther’s test – does this or that passage ply Christ, preach Christ.”
Thoughts of unworthiness can come and go. Sometimes they stay and hover in our mind as though they are the things that matter most, that they are the truth to us being us, or me being me. We lie to ourselves, thinking that this must be what God really thinks about us!
Well, I for one am not immune to such thoughts. I know, as a Christian that I deserve death and hell. I know I do. My own sinful nature tells me, my sins acted out tell me, my sins in thought, word and deed.
I am a Christian. I follow a saving and risen Jesus. He has defeated sin and death and He is Lord. I walk by faith and I live in grace. Not arrogantly, but utterly dependently. Not slothfully, but watchfully. Not as if I have achieved anything for myself, but because Jesus has achieved everything for me that I could never achieve.
It’s all grace. It’s all Christ Jesus.
The following was said by that tortured soul, the Reformer Martin Luther. He had depressive tendencies, he had dark thoughts, and he knew he was a sinner, yet he said this…..
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, then tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know one who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf, his name is Jesus, the Son of God, and where he is, there I shall also be!”
So of course we deserve death and hell. That’s why Jesus came to rescue the world, to save it. Full of sinners as it is, people like you and me. Jesus ensures we always get what we don’t deserve. This is the bold confidence we have.
Because of Jesus. Where He is, there I shall also be!
In a really well written article in Themelios by Uche Anizor that draws together various ecclesiological strands of Colin Gunton’s thought from multiple sources, we see some really practical outworkings of what the church is and should be and will be in the light of a robust doctrine of the Trinity. Anizor writes, “Gunton’s relentless attempt to root the nature and calling of the church in the being and action of the triune God opens up a way for a more concrete and realistic perspective on the church than is common, while offering a potentially more fruitful starting point for ecumenical dialogue regarding the nature of the church.”
“a more concrete and realistic perspective on the church than is common.”
We all know things could and should be better; some are disillusioned to the point of desertion; others remain but function in a spiritual wilderness akin to the effects of Ritalin; whilst yet many more recognise a “concrete and realistic perspective” is the only way to live in reality and eschew fantasy.
Thus Anizor opens with these words,
“Conflict in relationships is often rooted in inappropriate or unmet expectations. This commonplace wisdom regarding everyday relationships is no less true of one’s relationship to the church. Our conduct and feelings toward the church are governed largely by our expectations of what the church should be. These expectations, furthermore, are rooted in our understanding of the church’s nature. Ministers who weekly find themselves disappointed with the failings of their congregations would do well to attend to their understanding of what the church is. Laypeople who find themselves regularly frustrated with their community’s shortcomings are advised to do likewise. Disappointment (among other negative feelings) often flows from unrealistic expectations, which sometimes betray an unbalanced view of the church. Therefore, a healthy understanding of the nature of the church is of utmost practical import. Is the church the kingdom? If not, what is it? In what ways, if at all, is the church (and actual churches) a sign of the new Jerusalem? How can we theologically describe this imperfect reality we call the “church”? Colin Gunton provides one helpful response.”
The way forward is offered positively thus,
“First, we examine three related areas that contribute to a fuller understanding of the trinitarian heart of his ecclesiology: (1) the ontology of the church, (2) the place of pneumatology, and (3) the role of a proper Christology. Then we provide a constructive appraisal. The hope here is that Gunton’s contribution might help free pastors, teachers, and congregants to live and serve in the church with a love and compassion rooted in realistic expectations of what the church is and will be.”
The essay really weaves a fantastic theological tapestry integrating the Pneumatological, Christological and Ecclesiological threads. We need to know who this God is before we build on ecclesial foundations. That is why I enjoyed the comments right at the end just before the conclusion, aimed at those pastors and lay people who are tempted to disillusionment at the ontology of the Church:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me:
As it had to be for Jesus, so it has to be for us.
That the Spirit of God must be ‘upon’ us before anything is said or done.
The Spirit being ‘upon’ us speaks of God’s own desire to be present with us.
The Spirit being ‘upon me’ or ‘upon us’ is our recognition that God is near and not far.
Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor:
The Holy Spirit of God is ‘upon me’ for a reason.
There is a job to do. That job is primarily an announcement.
“And here is the evening news…death, destruction, lies, greed and war…”
This is what happens when the Spirit of God isn’t ‘upon’.
‘To proclaim Good News…’ is to announce the end of death, destruction, lies, greed and war.
To proclaim anything of God is always proceeds the anointing of the Spirit.
‘To the poor….’ isn’t merely an economic phrase. It’s a human quality-of-life-phrase.
The poor are those who do not have the Spirit of God ‘upon’ them;
Because they are being robbed by the evening news.
“As the third century drew to a close, the tensions within the church were becoming more explosive. Eusebius looking back on the situation as he had seen it as a young man could write,
‘But when as the result of greater freedom a change to pride and sloth came over our affairs, we fell to envy and fierce railing one against the other, warring upon ourselves so to speak as occasion offered with weapons and spears formed of words, and ruler attacked ruler and laity formed factions against laity, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense pursued their evil course to the furthest end.’
It was a grim picture of ecclesiastic strife at the moment of Christianity’s triumph. Paganism had indeed been defeated. The world was ripe for religious change, but not for religious peace.”The Early Church by W. H. C. Frend, Page 114
“They would have to sing better songs to make me believe in the Redeemer: his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra