Saturday, February 20, 2016

Understanding the death of Jesus...

Remember those days when women couldn't preach or write books of their own sermons?  Amazing, what they do today! Fleming Rutledge is one of those women who has been given freedom to both preach and provide collections of her sermons. She is a well-known Episcopal priest, and preacher throughout North America and the UK. Rutledge has a new book, The Crucifixion, Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, from Eerdmans.  Her books have been appreciated across denominational lines and this one will be no exception. But this one is different. It's not sermons, but it's about Jesus.

Among Rutledge's goals for this book are to "expand the discussion about what happened on the cross of Christ" and "to encourage the return of that subject to the center of Christian proclamation." She has designed her book for "potential readers, both lay and ordained, Catholic and Protestant, and for members of all denominations." She doesn't want to leave anyone out and she does have in mind "busy pastors, lay people who want to understand their faith better, seminary students, and especially those who are 'drawn to the figure on the cross,'" but are not sure what to believe about him.

Her book has two parts. Part 1 is called The Crucifixion, and sections are on the primacy of the Cross, godlessness, questions of justice, a special section on Anselm and his story for our time, and finally the gravity of sin. Part 2 is called The Biblical Motifs and she discusses many phrases, dominant ideas, and central themes and how those who were there interacted, and some later wrote what they were feeling and thinking about Christ on the cross.

Rutledge asserts that "the crucifixion is the most important historical event that has ever happened," and the "resurrection ratifies the cross as the way 'until he comes.'" There is also much good information about the four Gospels and the letters of Paul. Without Paul, Rutledge says that we might struggle to understand the parables and other happenings in the Gospels. She advises that this quote from Paul can be our hearts' comfort and joy: "Christ lives in me, and the life I now by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20, NRSV).

---Lois Sibley,

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A book for forty days of Lent...

The forty days of Lent started on Feb. 10, and if you have not yet found the special book you would like to read during Lent, here's one: Meeting God in Paul, Reflections for the Season of Lent by Rowan Williams and published by It's a small book, just three chapters followed by helpful portions like questions for personal reflection and/or group discussion; a Lenten reading guide with a brief Sunday reflection and prayer; and notes and suggestions for further reading.

These lectures were given by Williams during a Holy Week at Canterbury. For ten years he served as Archbishop of Canterbury, and now is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Williams uses portions of Acts, and New Testament  stories and parts of Paul's letters to help us learn more about Paul's concerns. He thinks that for many "regular churchgoers Paul's time remains a closed book," and many of us are not understanding how important Paul and his ideas were in his day. We may have heard of him, and we may have gathered assumptions about him and his teachings. And perhaps we have thought of him as a trouble-maker, as we remember his history and experiences with the early church.

Paul was a Roman citizen and a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. Williams thinks of Paul as "really interesting and exciting," and he has written this book to "Sketch in a bit of the background" to help today's Christian community understand those early years. So chapter 1 is called Outsiders and insiders: Paul's social world. In this, Williams brings up the question: did Paul write this? or that? and some might say, "it's a forgery." Williams accepts that "most of the literature under Paul's name, actually does originate from him." Sometimes, perhaps with a helper.

Chapter 2 is called The universal welcome: Paul's disturbing idea. Could it be true that God, the Creator, welcomes us to be a part of his people, his community? Why and how could he do that?

And Chapter 3 is called The new creation: Paul's Christian universe. Williams says that because of Jesus' death, we have been welcomed into relationship with God so that we may boldly say "Abba, Father," And we who believe in Jesus Christ must remember that "our hope in Christ is not just a future event. It's a future that has already started." And it grows on into the "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God."(Rom. 11.33). Enjoy the read.....

---Lois Sibley,