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,