Tuesday, March 1, 2016

LENT IV 2016

Christ in Silence
‘From now on’ St Paul tells the Corinthians in this week's Epistle,  ‘we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way’. What does he mean that we no longer know Christ from a human point of view?
Prominent among the many ways that people have seen Jesus, are these three -- as an inspiring example of service to others,as a great moral teacher who exposed the hypocrisy of his times, and  as a social revolutionary who fought for the poor and oppressed.
Though there is not much Biblical warrant for the third, over the centuries all these images of Jesus have proved attractive.  In writing to the Corinthians, though, Paul rightly sees that thinking of Jesus in this way is importantly limited because it sees him from a strictly human point of view, and not as the Christ -- God Incarnate. Jesus was indeed an exemplary human being, but far more than that, he was One with the God who made us, redeems us, and will pass final judgment upon us. So, in the parables of Jesus it is really God who is talking to us.

Colchester Prodigal
The Gospel for this week is possibly the most famous of those parables -- the story of the Prodigal Son. Interestingly, although it is a story of sin, repentance and forgiveness, it does not end with the prodigal's embrace, but with his brother’s resentment. What is the significance of this little tailpiece? Is the elder brother at fault just because he still thinks badly of the prodigal's behavior? That cannot be quite right. As Jesus tells the story, the father does not rebuke him for this. On the contrary, his own contrasting honesty and decency is powerfully affirmed when, in the face of his anger, his father tells him: ‘You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours’. Even true repentance like the Prodigal’s cannot wipe out the past, and it does not put everything to rights. The inheritance has still been squandered.
Still, these understandable judgments are made from a human point of view whereas 'from now on', Paul has told us 'we regard no one from a human point of view'. That is because 'if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation . . . everything has become new'. It is certainly hard to move beyond regarding others from a human point of view. Yet, at the heart of the Gospel is the belief that Christ's redeeming love has the power, in any human life, to make the image of God evident again.

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