Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jesus held by rage

The Rev. Dr. David A. Van Dyke, in a sermon, "Boo Radley's Porch," placed on the Covenant Networks site writes of Jesus’ reaction to the need of a leper in Mark 1:40-45. The text states that Jesus was moved out of pity but Van Dyke states that could be translated anger. He writes:

And why was he so angry? Because the man was sick? Perhaps in part. But I think what really angered Jesus that day was the unfair treatment of that leper by society and the religion, and the irrational fear that used its sacred texts and traditions to justify and validate its exclusion and demonizing of one already vulnerable.
Van Dyke of course goes on to equate the leper with all marginalized people whose problems cannot be hid from society including LGBT people. He then turns the subject about and castigates those who are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
I look at the Presbyterian Church today and see those who are promoting schism and going to great lengths to leave—those who are guilty of the sinful stewardship of everyone’s time and resources just because they don’t agree that all churches should be free to discern the Spirit’s leading in electing their own leadership.
There is more but I want to focus on Jesus’ reaction to the leper and to something much more serious but nonetheless something that is connected to the leper. The New Testament text often speaks of Jesus reaction to the miseries around him. And undoubtedly Jesus’ pity for the leper was also anger, but not at sacred texts or even people. John’s gospel recounts another time when Jesus reacted with great anger. That was at the death of his friend Lazarus.

When Jesus confronted death in the body of Lazarus the text states that he was “deeply moved within.” R. V. G. Tasker, in his commentary on John, clarifies this in great detail using Warfield who uses Calvin. Referring to Paul’s description of death as the “the last enemy that shall be destroyed,” Tasker writes:
To bring about his destruction was the chief purpose for which the Son of God had entered the human arena. B.B. Warfield’s comment on this passage may therefore well be right, ‘It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, “as a champion who prepares for conflict”. The raising of Lazarus thus becomes not an isolated marvel, but … a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. … Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. …’
The healing of the leper and every healing by Jesus was just a foretaste of his final victory over the enemy. Jesus’ forgiveness of sins was an even greater part of that final work. That is part of what he wanted the people to understand when he forgave the sins of the paralytic before he healed him. (Mark 2: 1-12) Healing, forgiveness, new life, eternal life: given because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

The Scribes refused to accept the forgiveness because they did not believe Jesus was God. “Only God can forgive sins, they said. But what we often fail to see is the great transformative divide; not only are we transformed by the work of Jesus but he, through the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see what his great battle entails, the agony, blood, grief and yes, anger toward sin and death that he carried for us. We are divided from all unbelieving scribes by the knowledge of Jesus’ great redemptive battle on our behalf.

Dyke writes of how Jesus touches the leper before he heals him thus taking “into his own being the man’s situation.” Truthfully on the cross he “bore our sins.” And this is why some are turning away from the PCUSA, so that they might feel freer to minister and proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to all sinners rather than ignoring some in their own particular leprous condition and allowing them to go on suffering.

And this is why some are staying-it has nothing to do with dialogue-but rather that the good news that Christ died for all sinners may be heard anew. They want the leper who does not acknowledge her need to turn back to the one who shed his blood for the forgiveness of sin.

21 comments:

dhollifield said...

I have always liked what Fleming Rutledge wrote of Jesus' grief at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus: "It is more than grief for Lazarus; this perturbation of spirit is caused by the presence of the Great Antagonist. God is revealing, through the Son, that God hates Death and pities us because we must bow our necks under its terrible stroke. Jesus...is gathering his forces for this mighty confrontation with the exceeding great power, the Supreme Enemy of all that God has purposed."

God does not suffer with creation in a limited human way, but in the kind of identification with creation that is infinitely beyond anything possible for human beings. Jesus can lament the sin of the world in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you-that is a wonderful quote. I wonder if we will understand a little more when we are finished with the battle.

Mary E said...

Viola,
I am no Bible scholar but I do know a little, and for the life of me I have been amazed how they make these leaps to associate stories in the Bible to those who choose the GBLT lifestyle. Van Dyke's attempt to compare the plight of the leaper to someone who chooses to be gay, is borderline insulting. They have nothing in common, which makes the entire article pointless.

It just gives me a headache.

Mary E.

Anonymous said...

It was a terrible sermon all told. It does not occur to him, apparently, that the Spirit may be leading some congregations to depart the denomination or at least consider it. No, these congregations are simply wrong. No forebearance for them. Poisonous hypocritical nonsense.

And how disgraceful he would boast about his involvement with Planned Parenthood. Disgusting indeed.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...

"Truthfully on the cross he 'bore our sins.' And this is why some are turning away from the PCUSA, so that they might feel freer to minister and proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to all sinners rather than ignoring some in their own particular leprous condition and allowing them to go on suffering."

Yes and amen. Beautifully said and well put. Thank you.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Anonymous said...

There is always something vaguely...ironic about a Protestant objecting to others leaving an ecclesiastical organization because they believe said organization has been unfaithful to Scripture. Said Protestant will be scurrying back to Rome in 3, 2, 1....

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

Whatever ones thoughts on the sermon, there was a note in the blog that should be addressed.

While some may feel called to stay, and I support them in this, and persinally disagree with the inclusive ordination standards of the denomination, which are finally just and right, when they try to tell someone who is GLBT they are in a "leprous" state, they 1) will be appropriatly corrected before the insult can continue, corrected with love and patience, but corrected nonetheless, and the discussion, which requires two sides/people, will be at an end, even if a monologue to an empty room continues on the part of the conservative. Hopefully in time they will see the error of their ways and accept their GLBT associates in ministry/fellow members. This is my great hope for my conservative associates in the denomination. I am happy to say I have seen much of it occuring in the last several months among those who plan on staying.

They will then 2) be reminded, kindly, that as ordained (or laity) persons in a connectional church, like it or not, their continued presence in said denomination is itself an acceptance of GLBT ordination. Absolutely Nothing less, as many a conservative who has left, or written from their home in the PCA or OPC has correctly pointed out.

Those conservatives who choose to remain in a denomination that IS every bit as much theirs as it is the progressives or moderates, do need to be aware of the first point, and reminded of what they know but may deeply dislike, the second point. There is no anamus here, just an acknowledgment of reality, which will be necessary for going forward, whatever ones thoughts on the matter.

Gene ATLANTA GA

Viola Larson said...

Gene,
You do not understand, But thank you for giving me a chance to explain. This wording, "own particular leprous condition" refers to the "particular" sin of practicing same gender sex, but leprous condition refers to all sin. All of us are like the leper excluded from each other and God because of our sin. Jesus died on the cross for our sin and through him we are forgiven and reconciled to God and each other.

But for a denomination to insist that what is sin is not sin leaves the sinner (leper) in their sin.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Larson, you make your point, as you believe it, well. But, I do understand, truly. I was merely pointing out that we are members of a denomination in which the standards of ordination make it clear that we as a Church do not consider same gender relationships sinful in of themselves. One can argue from scripture or confession otherwise, but, such arguements WERE made, and the vote still went as it did. The Rubicon, once crossed, was crossed.

On issues that we DO as a denomination collectively consider sinful (from murder to slander to theft to not honoring our parents, etc.) we agree completely with you.

To those conservatives who choose to stay in the denomination, the quick response to a statement that same gender relations ships are inherently sinful or a bar to ordination will be the reaction I described in my earlier post, and those who espouse such opinions will be grouped with those oppose female ordination, or diversity. One may personally hold any of these three opinions, but they will not be the rule of life in the church, and those espousing them are mistaken if they think the discussion of any of them will not be promptly and firmly, though I hope always politely, ended by the person being addressed.

I appreciate the tone and wording of your posts. At times, when I have presented "facts on the ground" as an older (and as it happens very conservative) associate of mine calls them, I have been accused of being abrasive. Such is not my desire here ( or ever...abrasiveness seldom wins the day ). I am merely pointing out that the state I have described is the one we, as a collective denomination, will be living with, whatever our personal congregations stances are on this issue. Even if the majority of the voters in Presbytery were not of this opinion before the last vote (which they were, obviously) the number of conservatives who have left since, which while not massive in terms of congregations or members, has not been insignificant either, has assured that in future Presbytery voting our ordination standards are not going to change.

On a purely practical point, working with someone in Presbytery will require a certain level of decorum, which is a very Presbyterian thing. There is a point where progressive and moderates in the denomination will say (are currently saying) "we heard you, you lost the vote. Now, We need to work on the other business of the church, and will have to agree to disagree if you want to remain a part of this body, which I hope you do, and to be very forthright about it, I don't intend to listen to that argument again. I find it not only wrong but insulting and hurtful. These are the rules we have agreed to live with if we remain a part of this body. Next topic of business please"

I have heard a pretty much close to quote of the above conversation myself just a few weeks ago. There has come a time when those who believe GLBT relationships are sinful need to realize the other side sees the issue as settled. We do not belive they are sinful. And we have no intention of furthering the discussion of if they are or not. If conservatives want to share a denomination with us, great. But it takes two to have a discussion, and as a corporate body, we have spoken on this topic, and it is very improbably we will be reverting to the other view. Demographics and former conservatives who have changed their minds make that clear.

Thank you again for the opportuity to post.
Gene ATLANTA GA

Anonymous said...

Gene from Atlanta writes in a nice way. But his nice style of writing cannot change the core of his message to evangelicals in the PC(USA): We won. You lost. We're moving on. Shut up.

It will be revealing to see how many progressives follow that mentality. One cannot simultaneously decry "schism" while telling evangelicals that they are not allowed to exercise their rights of conscience under our polity. That rises to a Diet of Worms situation.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...

John, I had just lost a lengthy comment I was writing in response to Gene's, but yours summed up most of what I said, so I will not try to recreate what I lost. I will say that it just boggles the mind that the "vote" was never final all the years when it went the opposite direction. This attitude of "put up and shut up" will continue to drive those of us who are of a more conservative bent right out of the PC(USA). In droves... And I suspect that is exactly the intended result.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, I did not intend to try to hide behind the anonymous label.
The comment including "put up or shut up" is mine.

Rev. Patti Beckman
Hillsdale, MI

will spotts said...

Gene -
I genuinely appreciate your tone, and what you're trying to say - i.e. what the situation actually is. (Particularly in your most recent comment).

But from a conservative viewpoint that is sometimes hard to take. Most of us - and I'm sure you - remember that the self-same question was asked and answered the other way nationally six times when I was an elder in a PC(USA) congregation. Before that, it was the longstanding view. And in all that time it was never considered 'settled' by the progressive wing of the church.

What I'm saying is this - for a conservative it is very hard to be told to accept this one-time decision by many of the same people (I refer to the comment you almost quote) who refused to accept all prior decisions. It creates a great level of frustration and distrust - even (wrongly) resentment.

will spotts said...

I see the comment thread has moved on before mine actually posted.

Anonymous said...

Gene,

If this summer's GA were to reverse the previous GA's changes to the Book of Order (and the presbyteries were to approve), somehow I don't expect from you and your side what you're preaching to me and my side.

Not a chance and you know it as well as I do.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Anonymous said...

I will respond to your thoughts in a few days. I am dealing with a family illness, and do not have time to respond with the detail your comments deserve. I do want to just say this, Rev. Spotts, your words are appreciated, and while I don't have time to explain this as I would wish, please know that many of us on my side of the debate do realize that what we have celebrated, has been nothing less than a traumatic loss for you.

That, I swear, I do not celebrate at all.

Should anyone care to read them, and Mrs. Larson set fit to post it, I will write my responses to the well stated thoughts here on Monday or so.

Till then, please pray for my family. Thank you.

Gene Atlanta

Anonymous said...

Gene,

I will be praying for your family. That's an easy thing about which to agree with you!

God's peace to you all.

Rev. Patti Beckman
Hillsdale, MI

Anonymous said...

Prayers arise for your family situation, Gene. I completely agree with Rev. Beckman.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...

Yes, prayers incoming...

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Viola Larson said...

I will be praying for you today Gene. May Jesus be with with you and bring healing to the family member.

Sherry L. Kirton said...

I am in the boat with you. However, they don't believe that they chose it, and sometimes not even that it is a lifestyle. Believing that 'God made them this way' they forget that all of us have a sin nature that leaves us needing The Savior's blood to cover everything, lifestyles, natures, desires, and all.

As far as I can tell, it only matters that we were born with the need for Salvation, that we accept it, and then abide in Him. By His Holy Spirit we can have victory in Jesus over all our sin. Unfortunately, calling sin, not sin, only changes what we see, not what He sees. And then, trying to lead others to Him, our blindness drives us all into a pit.