Lent 2022 Readings
by Reverend Lynn Santulli | March 16, 2022The Christ, The Cross, The Atonement and You
Meditations for Lent 2022
Reverend Lynn Santulli
Week I – The Christ
Welcome to the first in our series of Lenten reflections for this year, The Christ, the Cross, The Atonement and You. This is the first time we are offering a mid-week, mid-day service, a sort of trial run to see if works better than an evening program. I hope you will find it helpful during your Lenten journey.
A bit about the program first. This series resulted from readings I was doing on the doctrine of atonement, a central doctrine to our Christian faith. What brought this doctrine to my attention once again was the emergence of various doctrines on this topic which directly counter some of our core beliefs. So with questions such as ‘What are these new theories?’ and ‘How do they impact what I and other reformed theologians believe--because all of us are theologians in some respect?’ The more I read, the more I became concerned. Hence, this series which for me will not end with our four sessions together but will continue.
So, a little groundwork first. What do I mean when I say doctrine of atonement? What is a doctrine? Who decides with it should be? Why is it important? And what then is atonement?
Doctrine is a set of beliefs taught by the Church. Other organizations can have doctrines as well, but we are just interested in church doctrine at this point. When we read the Bible there are all kinds of things in there, various teachings, quotes, principles, rules, etc. Doctrine is a way of extrapolating out of the text certain guiding principles or teachings that help us make sense out of these various verses.
Jack Rogers writes in his book on Presbyterian Creeds, ‘When we state the meaning of a biblical idea, we have created a doctrine. Doctrines comes from the Latin word doctina, which means the content of what is taught. For Christians, a doctrine is the teaching of Scripture on a particular theme. For example, the doctrine of God would be the teaching of all things that the Bible says about God. That would be a pretty tall order, of course. So we tend to break down a vast topic like the doctrine of God into subtopics.’
Carefully examining these topics emerge doctrines, general concepts, derived from a synthesis of many biblical passages on a particular topic.
“Dogma and its adjective, dogmatic, tend to be unwelcome words in our contemporary vocabulary. We use them to refer to ideas and people who are, in our judgement, narrow, inflexible and probably biased. In its Greek origin the word expressed a pleasant idea, ‘that which seems good.’ In Greek philosophy, a dogma was an axiomatic principle which seemed settled forever. It referred to that which seemed so obviously good to everyone that no further discussion about it was needed.
Religiously, the word ‘dogma’ was used to apply to a doctrine which had been formulated by some authoritative ecclesiastical body, like a church council, and which had been declared, by that body, to rest upon divine authority. (Councils of Nicaea, e.g.) The Nicene Creed was derived from statements of these two councils.
This work of developing doctrine and dogmas evolves into systematic theology or the orderly study of doctrines and dogmas in an attempt to state all that we may learn from Scripture. (Rogers)
Of the many topics of interest to faithful Christians, topics such as grace, salvation, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, the list goes on and on—and the one we will be focusing on in our sessions together is that of atonement, the reconciliation of humankind with God through the work of Jesus Christ. We ask questions such as what does that mean? How does it affect us as Christians? Why do we have to be reconciled? Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? How do we know that Jesus is the one who is the true Messiah? And the list goes on.
So, with definitions out of the way and our overarching topic or field of questions for our series laid out for us, let us turn to our topic for today, The Christ.
Where to begin? How do we even begin to tackle the immense topic of Christ? And Jesus the Christ? What other figure in history has had a greater impact on the world? Even people that don’t believe in Him still are forced to acknowledge His presence, His person, His impact and His influence.
Adam Johnson writes in his book, The Reconciling Wisdom of God, “What was Christ’s purpose in his death and resurrection? Can we limit it to just one? He came to seek the lost, heal the wounded, feed the hungry, fulfill the Law and the Prophets, triumph over Satan, complete the role of the Temple, cleanse the defiled, satisfy the honor of God while bringing honor to the shamed adopt us, bring to completion the work of Adam, restore creation to its Edenic state, pay our ransom, descent into hell, be the propitiation and expiation for our sin, fulfill the sacrificial system once and for all, reconcile Jew and Gentle, share with us His Holy Spirit, bring to an end the groaning of creation, be our bride price, bear in himself the covenantal curses and promises, suffer the exile of Israel—and is this list complete? Far from it! How then can we speak adequately of Christ’s purpose in his death and resurrection A moment’s thought leave us speechless.”
(Boettener in his “The Reformed Doctrine of the Atonement”)‘In numerous places in Scripture Christ’s work of redemption is declared to have been accomplished through the payment of a ransom. Nowhere is this set forth more clearly than in our Lord’s own teaching. “The Son of man cane not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28. ..Paul proclaims that Christ ‘gave Himself a ransom for all’ in 1 Timothy 2:6, to the Corinthians Paul wrote, ‘You are not your own; for you were bought with a price’ I Corinthians 6:19,20. Over and over again in Scripture we read of the sacrifice of Christ, necessary for our salvation. Too many scripture citations to list fully here.
Jesus came into the world to die…and to overcome death and sin. Jesus is the one that proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand, here, now, for those that see and believe. The promises of Scripture are fulfilled that God is fulfilling His promises and will redeem and re-create creation, a world order that is aligned with God’s will, while not eliminating our own.
Our story as Christian begins at the very beginning, in Genesis, but the promised hope of salvation finds its fulfillment in Christ. Perhaps the Magnificat really does capture it best: (Luke 1:46-55)
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Our season of Lent is our call to participate in the economy of God, not of the world. Recently Bill Entriken asked me about who the rich were that are referred in this passage. Who are the rich? And why are they being sent away empty?
With the arrival of Christ, Jesus Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah, we are called to listen to hear God’s Word for us this day. The playing field is leveled, all are welcomed to come and listen, to listen and to learn, to learn and to be transformed. Not everyone will, those who are aligned with the economy of the world walk away empty because they feel they already have it all. It is the ones that are humbled, or have been brought to their knees by life, who understand and see that there is an end to themselves and a limit to their power that have the vision to see what God is doing.
The Christ is the one to whom we are drawn and we draw closer to in order to breathe in the life that is eternal, to reorient our lives that we seek to be rich not in worldly possessions but in spiritual gifts The Christ is our living hope and salvation because He overcame all because we simply could not do so on our own.
In the next few weeks we will reflect on His sacrifice, His mission, His ministry and His victory and challenge ourselves to witness to how His truth transforms our lives and the way we understand life.
Thank you for joining with me on this journey. I pray it will be a blessing to all.