Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer & Scott Anderson- and the innocence of Christ

Saturday, the 8th of October, Scott Anderson will be ordained as a teaching elder (pastor). He will be the first unrepentant gay person to be ordained as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since 10-A was passed on July the 10th. Many orthodox/evangelical Presbyterians, including myself, feel extremely sad about the day. We, who are a part of the PCUSA, are all complicit in the ordination because our denomination is a connectional one.

But we are sad about many other sins also. We have too often gone through our day without prayer and the study of God’s word. We have failed to plead for the lives of the unborn and cared little for the poor. I personally have too many times failed to love the prostitutes who live across the street. I am still praying to care for the pimps and the johns who use them.

The denomination, as a whole, including the orthodox/evangelical must all repent. Not just Anderson, but all of us as we stand before our holy God in our failure and our sin. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian who often called the Church to repentance. From his prison cell he sent a letter to his friend writing of suffering, it shows that his time was not unlike our own. He wrote:
The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness, because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world. He suffers because of the destruction of the divine order of marriage and the family. He suffers not only because it means privation for him, but because he recognizes something ungodly in it. The world says: That is how it is, always will be and must be. The righteous person says it ought not to be so; it is against God.
The above is from a small book, Meditating on the Word. It contains a few of Bonhoeffer’s sermons translated and published in 1986. The one that I have received the most help from is on psalm 58, one of the psalms of vengeance. This was written and circulated during the beginning of devastating times for the Confessing Church. The Editor of this book tells the story of a mother who went to visit her son’s friend in prison. The mother wrote, “’Evangelical Pastor’ is written in large letters above the cell door …”

And yet as Bonhoeffer exegetes the psalm he points a finger at all reminding them that only an innocent man may pray this psalm. And no one is innocent but Jesus. Bonhoeffer writes, “No, we sinners do not pray this song of vengeance, innocence alone prays this psalm. The innocence of Christ steps before the world and accuses it.” And then he asks us, “And when Christ accuses the world of sin, are we not ourselves also among the accused?

Reaching into the horror of the text, “The righteous will be glad when they see the vengeance; they will bath their feet in the blood of the wicked,” Bonhoeffer pulls out our very salvation. Christ is the wicked one; he takes the sins of the world upon himself:
Jesus Christ died the death of the godless; he was stricken by God’s wrath and vengeance. His blood is the blood which God’s righteousness required for the transgression of his commandments. God’s vengeance has been carried out in the midst of the earth in a manner more fearful than even this psalm knows about. Christ, the innocent, died the death of the wicked, so that we need not die. Now we stand beneath his cross as the godless ones, and now a most difficult mystery is resolved: Jesus Christ, the innocent, prays in the hour of God’s vengeance on the wicked of the earth, in which our psalm is fulfilled: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34)
Bonhoeffer goes on to speak of how now in our guilt bathing our feet in the blood of the wicked takes on a different meaning. “The blood of the wicked has become our salvation, making us clean from all sins.” And he also reminds the reader that whoever comes to Christ will never be touched by God’s wrath but whoever does not—“the one who despises the cross” will suffer eternal death.

So all of us, including Scot Anderson, in this our troubled and unrepentant denomination, must repent and then we may stand as the innocent in Christ awaiting his coming when all things will be made right.


Stushie said...

Well done Viola and well written.

Dave Moody said...

amen... Jesus Christ, son of God, savior- have mercy on me, a sinner.