One Little Word, and Passover

We going to start this post with one of Jessica’s articles. She speaks here of how Christ chose to send the news of His resurrection by Mary Magdalene, whose testimony would have borne no weight at all under Jewish law at that time. Then I want to speak of something else. Here’s Jessica-

Under Jewish Law, the testimony of a woman was no testimony at all. The first witness to the Risen Lord was a woman – Mary Magdalen. She was tearful. There she was, come to the tomb to anoint Him, and there was the stone moved. Her mind went where most of our minds would have gone – someone had taken Him away. That great stone had not moved itself, and dead bodies don’t walk out of tombs. The grave-clothes were bundled up and there was no trace of Jesus. Hard to imagine her feelings at the point. Only two days earlier her world had fallen apart. The man whose feet she had anointed and whom she had followed so loyally had been taken, tortured and then crucified. She knew that; she’d been there (which was more than could be said for most of those Apostles). It was over. All that remained was for her to do a final duty to the corpse. But even that was to be denied her. They had taken her Lord away.

She ran back to where the disciples were and told Peter the horrible news. Typically Peter, he ran to the tomb, and equally typically was outpaced by the younger John. But John stood at the entrance, and when Peter arrived he it was who, impulsive and brave as ever, went inside to see that the tomb was, indeed, as empty as Mary had said. The men went back home, no doubt to tell the others; Mary, as is the way of women, wanted to stay there a moment longer, perhaps to gather her thoughts, perhaps to mourn a moment alone.

She looked into the tomb again, only to be met by the most amazing sight – two angels asking her why she wept. The answer she gave echoes down the ages:  “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” As she turned away she saw a stranger, whom she took to be the gardener and asked where Jesus was. Then the man spoke – just one word, one word which shattered the world as she had known it and which echoes down the ages, even to the end of all things. ‘Mary’ was that word, the first from the lips of the Resurrected Lord. However much her tears had blinded her, that voice was clearly unmistakable: “Rabboni!” She said. Teacher, teacher, that was what she called Him. She went to cling to Him and He said: ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’  He bade her to go and tell the others what she had seen.

The testimony of a woman was no testimony in Jewish Law, and yet it was to a woman that the Risen Lord first came. He had broken the bonds of death, He had conquered the power of death and of Satan, the hold of sin on mankind was broken; and these things He entrusted to the power of one who in Jewish Law could offer no testimony at all.

She was the first. Let us love and honour her for that this Easter morning: ‘He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!’

[From Neo] A remarkable thing, really, especially when one considers that the Angel had spent the time to convince The Virgin Mary to consent to bearing Jesus. Remarkable in that time and place to show such respect to women. So should we.

I also note that Chalcedon touches on this in his excellent post today.


And something that applies to us Christians but comes from our Jewish (religious) forebearers. Bookworm in her Good Friday post has some good thinking for us.

An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as a celebration of freedom (commemorating as it does the world’s first and, for a long time, only successful slave revolt), justice, and morality (insofar as it gave us the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people. What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.

As those familiar with the Bible know, his objection is predicated upon ignorance. The tenth plague, which saw God strike down the first born in every family that did not have the blood of the Pascal lamb above their door, was not a random punishment. It was, instead, divine retribution for the Pharaoh’s own ruling, in effect beginning before Moses’s birth, that all first born Jewish males should be drowned in the Nile.

The Jews of that generation were hiding in their houses, fearing death. Sound familiar?

She’s right of course. And how does that apply today? This way –

The Bible is not so superficial. There is, instead, a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, no matter the burdens placed upon his people. A blood filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on. Pharaoh still held together his government. The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever: As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he could always reconcile himself to the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might have a theoretical concern that a starving and frightened populace could turn on him. However, as long as he was assured that his people, despite the horrors inflicted against them, continued to fear and worship him, their suffering was irrelevant. It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh’s power base was destroyed because his citizens were destroyed and when the plague struck in his own palace, killing his own first born* — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years. Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII. For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over. Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him. Rather than surrendering, the Nazi high command was willing to see its country overrun and its citizens killed. Only when the death toll became too high,when it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, and when the high command realized that the Americans and Russians were coming after them, personally, did the war on the continent finally end.

Read it all at The news from North Korea reminds is that Passover is always relevant.

That was then, this is now. The threats are ever present and often change, there are plenty of bad actors in the world. But the necessary response remains the same. From Book’s Passover article this year.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, no matter the burdens he places upon his people. A blood-filled Nile River may, at first, seem appalling, but the red recedes and life went on. Pharaoh still holds power. The same is true for each subsequent plague, whether lice, boils, frogs, darkness, or any of the other plagues. As long as Pharaoh realizes, after the first panic, that he is still powerful, he will always reconcile himself to his people’s incremental destruction.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might have a theoretical concern that a starving and frightened populace could turn on him. However, as long as he is assured that his people will continue to fear and worship him, their suffering is irrelevant. It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh the plague struck in his own palace, killing his firstborn* — that Pharaoh is convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways. […]

The only way to destroy an evil institution is to decapitate it. That’s what God did with the 10th plague. That’s what Truman did when he dropped atom bombs on Japan. That’s what the Allies did when they engaged in total war against the Nazis. In each case, the only way to end a tyrant’s rampage of murder, torture, and enslavement was directly hurting the tyrant’s person.

Those who prefer the stability of tyranny to the risks of freedom are the same people who refuse to accept that, under tyranny, the innocents are always going to die, with the only question being whether they will die quickly or slowly. That’s the problem with an evil regime. If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, you’re going to end as cannon fodder. Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned, and China’s leadership will release a plague on the world and let tens of thousands of people sicken and die, both at home and abroad — as long as the tyrant can retain his power.

People of goodwill must sometimes recognize that the generation raised under tyranny is a lost generation that cannot be saved, whether because it will die under the tyrant’s lash, in the tyrant’s war, or in a war against the tyrant. Sometimes, when slaves finally taste freedom, they fear it. The Bible recognizes this problem, banning the Promised Land to those who were slaves in Egypt. They were a lost generation.

For this reason, when one sees a people groaning under tyranny the most humane thing to do is to destroy the tyranny quickly and decisively even if that process causes people to suffer. Most of them were always going to be lost. Our actions are for the benefit of subsequent generations and, if we are lucky, for those who survived both the tyranny and the liberation.

Plain common sense, isn’t it?

Today, the tyrant is China’s government and, as was the case with Nazi Germany or Bushido Japan, China’s tyranny has suddenly started to reach far beyond its borders. No matter how China’s bought-and-paid-for American media work to cover up China’s responsibility for what happened, John Adams was correct: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

We know the facts: COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab, although we do not know whether this was deliberate or accidental. China, in true tyrant fashion, was so determined to cover up its failure that it willingly let people die by destroying anything (e.g., information and doctors) that might have helped battle the plague early. When Wuhan began to see mass die-offs, China continued to deny there was a problem. As the plague spread beyond China’s borders, its government continued to deny responsibility, so much so that both China and the WHO (which we pay for, but which answers to China) lied consistently about COVID-19’s reach, danger, and origin.

Now that the plague is a world-wide phenomenon, China is sending or selling useless masks and test kits to hurting nations around the world. It is trying to blame America for COVID-19. And it’s almost certain that people are still dying in the thousands in China, even as the government insists it’s tamed COVID-19 and tells the world to start readmitting its people and its shoddy products. The Chinese communist government is Pharaoh.

The only way to stop tyranny is to fight tyranny. Despite media efforts to cover for their Chinese paymasters, Trump is calling China out on its lies and other malfeasance.

All based on the Exodus combined with the American character. And remember:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety,

deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

We have been talking this week about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter, this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and its princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid  and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.

As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.

In response to an Easter post of mine, which was long ago, but seems like yesterday, Jessica commented that

I live in the UK, a particularly secular part of a secularising Continent; America has more of a sense of what this day means to mankind, and long may that be the case. For all the effects of the culture wars, America still has more Christians than anywhere outside of China, and Christianity is still vital. The shining city on the hill is no secular vision.

That is true, in my judgment, I have read the most vile attacks on Christians in Britain that I can imagine, and yet, in both our countries our governments have this bleak year closed our churches, leaving us to celebrate the happiest day of the year essentially alone. This too will in time pass, especially if we the people insist it does, and I see that happening. But that leaves us, in any case, with this:

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Washington and Westminster come far behind.

The other day, my old friend Chalcedon had cause to print the General Confession from The Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father;
We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

In that, we can see how we caused Good Friday but we can also see God’s response, made gloriously evident to the world today.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

 

Have yourself a Merry Christmas

This is one that I notice many of you have been reading. Well, I certainly don’t blame you, it’s a wonderful article, one of Jessica’s best, and so here it is back on the front page on the day for which it was meant. Just as she wrote it. Neo

savior-of-the-world_t_nt

And so we come to the day when the world opens its presents – and we do the same, but we celebrate the greatest present ever – the gift of ever-lasting life. Paul is right, our minds cannot encompass what it means, or what it will be like, but we can know what it is to be covered by the blood of the Lamb and to know that our sins are forgiven, and that our souls are being healed; that’s what Christmas means for us all – it’s just that only some of us ‘get it’.

We’ll alll wish dear Neo ‘Happy Christmas’, back with family in the east, and I hope you will all bear with me as I ‘mind the shop’.

The most (in the proper meaning of the word) awesome aspect of what we celebrate today is that the eternal Word, who was with God from the beginning, who created the world, came into it in human form, assuming our flesh and healing it. We say these things so easily, but how marvellous that the Lord of all things should have condescended to be one of us, to share our fate, to live among us, as one of us. It isn’t surprising that early heresies centred around trying to explain that away, because the ancient world was used enough to gods who took on human form, but it was just that – an act, an appearance, a guise for some purpose (often amorous) which was later dropped. The notion of God as one of us (cue the song) – note that contra the song there is no ‘if’ – he was one of us – was and remains revolutionary. At a stroke, in the twinkling of an eye, we poor sinners are rich beyond our deserts – all that was ruined, all that was broken is made whole.

That is why Christians celebrate this day. It is the day God’s love was incarnate, and the Apostles saw Him, they touched Him, they lived with Him – the Word made flesh dwelt with men and though the world saw Him not, enough did that two thousand yaears on, we celebrate it. This is something we can share with Jesus.

The Lord’s first miracle was at a celebration – a wedding – and it was something which helped the celebration along – good wine at that stage of the proceedings must have been greatly welcomed – and there might have been a few sore heads in the morning. If anyone here has been to a Jewish wedding, you’ll know how joyous it can be, and how the dancing and the eating fuse together into a celebration of life itself. That’s a reminder to us all that the new life we have in Christ is a cause for huge celebration. It is good to go to Church and to give thanks to God for all our blessings – and then to go home and be with some of them – our family and friends.

A very holy and happy Christmas from us here at Neo’s place!

Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

We have been talking this week about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and it’s princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid  and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.

As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

 

Palm Sunday, Triumphalism, and Leadership

palm-sunday-jesus-christ-on-donkey

Yesterday was, as mentioned Palm Sunday where we mark Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the authorities will murder him within the week. Like all the events we will mark this week, there are lessons for us to learn. This is a post that we publish for Palm Sunday every year because we all need reminding of the lessons it holds.

On Palm Sunday, way back in the mid 60’s, according to the traditions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, I became a man, with all the responsibilities to God that that carried. It was also when you traditionally got your first suit. The Sunday before was Examination Sunday, the test was verbal, in front of the congregation. This entitled me to take my First Communion on Easter Sunday, as was considered meet and right.

As always the Sanctuary was decorated in palm fronds commemorating Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also as on all special Sundays we processed behind the Pastor and Choir up the center aisle to this, Hymn No. 1 in the old E&R Hymnal.

And so I became responsible for my own everlasting fate, which up until this time had been my parents (and Godparents) responsibility.

Palm Sunday was, of course, the most triumphant day of the Christ’s ministry. With the adoring and worshipful crowds which of course would soon demand and receive his death.

What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks, or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our founders but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.

But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages he died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week he went from the darling of the populace, to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.

The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as he did, the fate that awaited him. But he never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith, if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.

Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality.

And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:

First the Mission

Second the People

Last Yourself.

Over at Jess’s site,  a few years ago Chalcedon talked about going into Holy Week, his thoughts are well worth review.

It will soon be Palm Sunday; Lent is coming to its appointed climax. In Sunday’s Gospel we get the first sign of a something which will become more prominent on Maundy Thursday – Jesus’ fear of what awaits him: ‘Father, save me from this hour’. He would have seen crucifixions; he knew what there was to fear. Crucifixion was intended to instil fear; it was brutal, bloody and fatal. Yet it was for ‘this hour’ that Jesus had come into the world. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us so that He might be raised up as the propitiation for our sins. He died for our sins.

There is this something against which our notions of justice rail. How, we ask, can it be right for an innocent man to die for the guilty?’ What sort of Father, we wonder, sacrifices his son for rogues such as ourselves. Of late I have found praying the Sorrowful Rosary next to impossible; the envisaging of what happened to Jesus unsettles my prayer, and it is only by thinking on what was to come that I get through. But, as St Isaac reminds us, this is an act of love. There were, he tells us, many ways God could have chosen to save us, and by choosing this one, he shows us the extent of His love; I think He also shows us the extent of our sins.

Soon, then, we shall be following the familiar story of the Passion of the Lord, Perhaps its familiarity robs it of its power for us, so we might want to spend more time meditating on it. Every stripe applied to His back is a sin of mine; that Crown of Thorns he bears, they are the sting of my sins; and high on that Cross on Calvary my sins are forgiven, and through Him I am saved from my sins.

[First published on 24 March 2013]

Have yourself a Merry Christmas

savior-of-the-world_t_nt

As I look back on the year, and the years, many of them are marked by Christmas, as indeed this one is. I find myself missing my sisters and brothers in law. That’s what happens as we get older. Well, I’ll see them again, in the next world, and that day isn’t so far off, and as for my old partner and dearest friend, well never say never. I have my memories and a few pictures, and yes, some tears will be shed. But this day brings that promise, that I shall see them again, and it provides a good excuse to read Jessica’s words once again because she wrote it so beautifully. And so the Christmas post that has become traditional here. I will again be with my nieces, as I prefer to be, and so you will be mostly on your own.

And so we come to the day when the world opens its presents – and we do the same, but we celebrate the greatest present ever – the gift of ever-lasting life. Paul is right, our minds cannot encompass what it means, or what it will be like, but we can know what it is to be covered by the blood of the Lamb and to know that our sins are forgiven, and that our souls are being healed; that’s what Christmas means for us all – it’s just that only some of us ‘get it’.

The most (in the proper meaning of the word) awesome aspect of what we celebrate today is that the eternal Word, who was with God from the beginning, who created the world, came into it in human form, assuming our flesh and healing it. We say these things so easily, but how marvelous that the Lord of all things should have condescended to be one of us, to share our fate, to live among us, as one of us. It isn’t surprising that early heresies centred around trying to explain that away, because the ancient world was used enough to gods who took on human form, but it was just that – an act, an appearance, a guise for some purpose (often amorous) which was later dropped. The notion of God as one of us (cue the song) – note that contra the song there is no ‘if’ – he was one of us – was and remains revolutionary. At a stroke, in the twinkling of an eye, we poor sinners are rich beyond our deserts – all that was ruined, all that was broken is made whole.

That is why Christians celebrate this day. It is the day God’s love was incarnate, and the Apostles saw Him, they touched Him, they lived with Him – the Word made flesh dwelt with men and though the world saw Him not, enough did that two thousand years on, we celebrate it. This is something we can share with Jesus.

The Lord’s first miracle was at a celebration – a wedding – and it was something which helped the celebration along – good wine at that stage of the proceedings must have been greatly welcomed – and there might have been a few sore heads in the morning. If anyone here has been to a Jewish wedding, you’ll know how joyous it can be, and how the dancing and the eating fuse together into a celebration of life itself. That’s a reminder to us all that the new life we have in Christ is a cause for huge celebration. It is good to go to Church and to give thanks to God for all our blessings – and then to go home and be with some of them – our family and friends.

If you get bored enough, I’ll likely be around some today, I’ll be with some friends, but will probably be in and out some. Going to be rather quiet here today, I expect.

A very holy and Merry Christmas from me! Neo.

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