Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A cruciform city plan

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Sir Gallahad the Chaste stumbles upon Castle Anthrax and sees above it a vision of the holy grail, the cup of Our Lord's last supper. Upon entering its gates, one of the nuns living there sorrowfully exclaims, "Oh, bad, bad Zoot! She must've set alight to our grail-shaped beacon again." As funny as the movie is, it's not far from the truth that the light of the church, the "city upon a hill", must illumine the Cup of Christ: the new and eternal covenant in his blood.

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:18)

"To be sure, he [Christ] was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you." (2 Cor. 13:4)

I've begun studying "Second" Corinthians (actually Paul's fourth letter to Corinth) out of the desire that God will graciously guide my roommates and I this year into true knowledge of him and that we'd serve him rightly in making known the message of reconciliation. Two related quotes have recently stood out to me, embracing how truly we must embrace a "cruciform" existence if we are to actually communicate the gospel in truth, not as false peddlers.

The first is from British Anglican pastor-scholar N. T. Wright's book The Challenge of Jesus (London: SPCK, 2000), as found on my buddy Ryan's Web site.

"When we speak about 'following Christ,' it is the crucified Messiah we are talking about. His death was simply not the messy bit that enables our sins to be forgiven but that can then be forgotten. The cross is the surest, truest and deepest window on the very heart and character of the living and loving God; the more we learn about the cross in all its historical and theological dimensions, the more we discover about the One in whose image we are made and hence about our own vocation to be the cross-bearing people, the people in whose lives and service the living God is made known.

"And when therefore we speak of shaping our world, we do not--we dare not--simply treat the cross as the thing that saves us 'personally,' but which can be left behind when we get on with the job. The task of shaping our world is best understood as the redemptive task of bringing the achievement of the cross to bear upon the world, and in that task the methods, as well as the message, must be cross-shaped through and through" (pp. 94-5).

Over sixty years earlier, German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw equally strongly the need for the body of Christ on Earth to display not glory alone in letting our light shine before men, but the glory of the cross and "the light of the Resurrection":

"Men are not to see the disciples but their good works, says Jesus. And these works are nothing other than those which the Lord Jesus himself has created in them by calling them to be the light of the world under the shadow of his cross. The good works are poverty, peregrination, meekness, peaceableness, and finally persecution and rejection. All these good works are a bearing of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the strange light which alone illuminates these good works of the disciples. . . . It is by seeing the cross and the community beneath it that men come to believe in God. But that is the light of the Resurrection" (The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Muller, rev. ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1959], 133-4).

Dear Lamb of God, may we come to know the very heart of our Father through your sufferings and death, and in this, so know his love for the world more deeply, compelling us to die to ourselves to bring life to the others in our spheres. Amen.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Amen, brother. Cruciform. I like that. You might also want to read this article from Tim Keller, vis-a-vis ministry in urban Istanbul. Good stuff. Look forward to seeing you.