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Archive for April 19th, 2014

There were words on the Cross: the Titulus, the Title, the Inscription that Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator caused to be affixed, written in three languages: Greek, Aramaic and Latin. Greek was one of the main languages of the Roman Empire since the days of Alexander the Great when he conquered the world in the 4th century BC. Aramaic was the language of Palestine and hence Jesus since Hebrew was no longer spoken, except in synagogues and in the Temple. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire. For some reason Pilate wanted everyone to know that this man’s identity: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. One of my college professors said that Pilate was the first evangelist to publish the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus is King of the Jews. Even more, in three languages, everyone’s King, as in thy kingdom come. The bloodied, suffering, bleeding king. The King who died for His subjects and the Physician who died for his patients, the Master who died for slaves as a slave, the Creator dies for His creatures, the only-begotten Son dies to make us His brothers and sisters. The Sanhedrin did not like the Titulus. They requested Pilate take it down. Pilate responded, what I have written, I have written. Ever more the Lord has written what He has inspired to be written: the Scriptures, His Word.

There were words from the cross, 7 verses:

The First Word: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” The Lord at the beginning of His public ministry taught the disciples, the nascent Church to pray, Our Father who art in heaven…and Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. He forgave His enemies. It’s that simple.

The Second Word: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” The repentant thief on his cross next to Jesus knew Jesus was innocent, without sin, and the thief, the malefactor, was guilty. Remember, me when you come into your kingdom the thief prayed to Jesus. Jesus answered his repentant prayer and all the prayers of the repentant. It’s that simple.

The Third Word: “Woman, behold your son; Son, behold your mother” The only-begotten Son of the Father, knew His mother would be bereft without her oldest son, both in death and in the Resurrection. He formed a new family between Mary and John. He calls, gathers, enlightens the whole Christian church on earth, the family of the Father in the waters of rebirth. His death and Resurrection is our baptism. He baptizes us. It’s that simple.

The Fourth Word: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He cries out in dereliction. He quotes the first verse of Psalm 22, later in the Psalm. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22 written centuries before the Lord’s birth. He suffered. The soldiers cast lots for his clothes. He fulfilled the prophets and all the Scripture. It’s that simple.

The Fifth Word: “I thirst.” He sat by a well in Samaria, thirsty after walking for a long time, and said to the Samaritan woman, give me something to drink. He thirsted for her salvation, yours as well. We are thirsty people. His Word quenches our thirst in His straightforward mercy. It’s that simple.

The Sixth Word: “It is finished.” Accomplished. Jesus had come to the end, the fulfillment. Our salvation is accomplished, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We can bear our own iniquity. He has, pure God and pure Man, not 50%-50%, 100%-100%, all our works can not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone. He has by His grace alone as a gift. It’s that simple.

The Seventh Word: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” His was the commendation of His blood into the holy of holies in heaven, once and for all. In Him there is no condemnation, only commendation, not of our good deeds to save, but His good deed to save us all. By His Spirit, we are commended in life and death. It’s that simple.

Jesus Christ is the “Word made flesh”upon the Cross. He is the Word of God incarnate, nailed to the timber-trunk of the Cross. Cursed be anyone who hangs from a tree, it is written in the Old Testament. The Word of God, love’s pure light, became accursed, the curse of Adam, His blood flowing with this purpose: He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far. as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found No longer cursed, but blessed in faith clinging to Him unto eternal life. Joy to the world.

Words on the cross, His Word from the Cross, as He is the Word of God incarnate, nailed to the cross and lastly His Word from the Cross. Luther:

“If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there.(There is no “old rugged cross”, you can’t take it to the cross. Jesus is present in His Word from, on and on account of His Cross) Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross”

Jesus said to the devil when tempted to turn rocks into bread, Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. His Word from the Cross, in preaching, teaching, Sacraments, praying, serving feeds us His forgiveness. He feeds us His Word within His Church. His Word from the Cross is the last Word, the Word of our salvation, once and for all, today and everyday. We rest in His every Word: the Word made flesh. WE hang on to the Lord’s every Word as He hung on the Cross so that we are his and if he is ours, we fear no powers, not of earth, nor sin, nor death, He sees and blesses in worst distresses, He can change them with a breath.

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In my first parish on Long Island, NY, on my day off I was perusing the stores in East Northport.   There was a sign for an art studio sale.  The artist, Stanley Twardowicz, (Bio) was selling off his all his studio supplies, works of art etc.  I came across a series of black and white photos of which you see two.  This series of photos is entitled, “France-1952 (Christ)”.  The artist  came across one of many road-side shrines in the French country-side.  At this particular one, the workers had taken down the corpus (the representation of the body of our Lord) from the cross and inside was a bee-hive.  Those workers made a bee line away from it!  Mr. Twardowicz then took a series of photos of the corpus on the ground.

Though I have never seen one,  I like the idea of road-side shrines of our Lord’s Crucifixion.  Life in Christ is a journey.  G. K. Chesterton said of the Cross that it is the sign-post for free travelers.  I would tweak his statement and say, freed travelers.  Following Him we are freed. These photos striking and stark as stark as sin and the One Who bore our sin in His Body so that we are freed in faith to love and serve.  Our will always leads to death and damnation.  His will leads to life and salvation:  always, as He is risen! On Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, He took all our death and sin into Himself to the grave.  He rested and now we can both rest in Him so He works in us.  Yet, even in death, as the photo below portrays, He is the Victor.  His arm raised in victory for us.

“It was a strange and dreadful strife
When Life and Death contended;
The victory remained with Life,
The reign of Death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That Death is swallowed up by Death,
His sting is lost forever.
Hallelujah!”

(“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546)

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