While our recent celebration of the birth of the Christ Child continues and mingles now with hints of the Great Lent to come, it is no secret that profound and complex challenges confront us every day in this Pandemic time. As pastors and teachers and facilitators on the front line of Christian service, we often find ourselves discerning the issues confounding our society with painfully compelling insight. Yet, in the midst of all this chaos and suffering, the Church has kept us spiritually safe, with the assurance of God’s lovingkindness and presence among us.
As we navigate facets of our Pandemic experience, then, our efforts to understand and to help one another heal surely inspire us to offer grateful and repentant prayer for the mercy of God. Is it not the assurance of the presence of God in this time of Pandemic which has fashioned for us a kind of “Ark of Safety” where we are abiding together until the virus trouble passes, each family within the protection of quarantine and, in the tender mercy of our God present among us, are we not endeavoring, like those couples sequestered in the Ancient of Days, to live together in careful peace and harmony during this critical time?
There are indeed many ways in which Scripture is read, and there is also great deal of debate about this, both on a general level and also within scholarly circles. But there is a certain feature of the reading of Scripture which is absolutely fundamental to the Christian tradition, from the initial proclamation of the gospel to the creeds propounded by the Councils. This is so important that Paul repeats it twice within a single sentence: ‘I delivered to you, as of first importance, what I also received, that Christ died in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried and rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15:3–4). The Scriptures here are what we (somewhat misleadingly) call the ‘Old Testament’; and it is by reference to these same Scriptures that the Creed of Nicaea also states that Christ died and rose ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’. It is these Scriptures that provided the framework, the terms, the imagery, and the language by which the Apostles and Evangelists understood and proclaimed the revelation of God in Christ. They were and still are (even now we have the writings of the New Testament) the primary Scriptures of the Christian tradition (they are, after all, appealed to as the Scripture by the NT texts themselves), the primary texts by which we are led into the revelation of God in Christ.
Yet, proclaiming Christ ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ in turn means that the Scriptures are read by Christians in a different manner than they were before the encounter with Christ. Continue Reading…