Sunday, April 24, 2005

Today's sermon

If you are on our lectionary, today's Gospel reading was part of the dialogue Jesus held with his disciples just prior to his arrest (John 14:1-14). This passage in particular was the part about his going to prepare a place for them (and us, presumably).

My priest said something that I don't think was her point, but it really got me to thinking. She asked, "Where did Jesus go next, that the disciples could not follow?" (the cross). When Jesus says, I am going to prepare a place for you, does he mean he is opening the way of the cross to humankind? He is going first before his disciples as their example in the life of sacrifice and death?

I have no idea if this is something new or old (though I would presume the latter). Still, it struck me. If you want to converse about this, let's have some comments.

6 comments:

The Feminarian said...

My husband just helped to clarify what the priest's point of the sermon was (although I still find the other way of thinking about it compelling too). What she was saying is from Augustine, I guess, and it goes like this: the other times Jesus refers to his "Father's house" (in this passage, it has many dwelling places, earlier, it is where he is about his Father's business, and when he says they're turning it into a den of thieves) he is talking about the Temple. He is never talking about heaven or some other place. His Father's house is the temple. So when he says he's going there to prepare a place for them, he doesn't mean he's going literally over to the temple, but what happens in the Temple? People do things to be reconciled to God. When Jesus goes to the cross, he's going to reconcile humanity to God.

This is why the "many dwelling places" or "rooms" of the verse lead some to believe more pluralistically, because with this interpretation, what Jesus would be saying is that there are many ways to be reconciled to God. Maybe.

Anyway, it seems quite obvious when you lay it out like this. I was just raised to believe that verse (which in KJV is "many mansions") meant we each get our own cool house when we get to heaven. As with most exegesis from my childhood, I fear this is another bubble burst. But it's so much cooler - and Christian - this way, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

When I think of Jesus going to the cross to reconcile humanity to God, I get a quiver of discomfort in my gut--is this really how we are to understand the meaning of the cross? If we take the commonly held understanding of this, it seems to imply that God needed or demanded Jesus' death to reconcile us--this is the classic substutionary atonement model that has been elevated by some churches to be the ONLY valid understanding of the cross. Recently, I have discovered that there are and have always been other voices and other understandings for the meaning of the cross of Christ. I am beginning to think that God did not, in fact require Jesus' death--we did. We live in a world where we all know--after a certain age --that there's no such thing as a free lunch--there is a cost to everything, and perhaps this economic transactional understanding has been carried over into our theology a bit too easily--how can we understand our salvation and the cross in other ways than some kind of cosmic transaction--which is how many doctrinal statements speak of the cross.

The Feminarian said...

I'm no fan of atonement theory and have already spent some time on that topic last fall. I don't think that stating Jesus was reconciling humanity to God necessitates that it was God's fault. He could be reconciling us even though it's our fault. I don't think the cross was the only way - the point was defeating death, and Jesus could have done that simply by living forever. But Jesus considered the time he chose to incarnate, and knew the passions he'd aroused, and being a smart guy, he probably knew that the cross was how things would end up.

This just means he was a good judge of human character and potential outcomes. In other words, I wasn't talking about atonement theory really at all.

kiwi said...

Okay, I was intrigued by Anonymous' comment re: more than one way to interpret the cross. Can you expand? I've always heard the explanation that Jesus stood in substitute for the OT system of sacrifice -- atonement theory, I guess. What are the other ways of understanding the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross?

Anonymous said...

Kiwi, Well, where to begin? There are several other classic models or understandings of the atonement--do a google search on atonement and you'll have plenty to read. I give you this link http://girardianlectionary.net/res/atonement_webpage.htm
as a place to see some of the recent work on the atonement.

kiwi said...

Thanks Anonymous -- you've given me a new perspectiveto reflect on.