19 February 2008

passion meditation

N. T. Wright. Christians at the Cross: Finding Hope in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Ijamsville: The Word Among Us Press, 2007.

Although it would have been more appropriate to read this work daily during Holy Week, as a pastor I am constantly on the lookout for fresh perspectives on the church's appointed times of meditation, so I read through this over the last week and a half.  As expected, it is a wonderful collection of sermons given by Bishop Wright suitable for daily reflection throughout Holy Week.  No, there is nothing particularly new in his work (if you are familiar with NTW), but it is framed and explained in a manner more fitting for laity, sermon, devotional, and the like.

The collection comes from Wright's week long journey with the congregation in Easington Colliery in 2007.  This community, which lies in County Durham, has experienced tragedy and hardship in the past few generations.  As the village now lies in somewhat of an eclipse, Wright takes the message of the cross and resurrection as a challenge to the fear and dread and a proclamation of hope and life.  This certainly makes for some interesting coloring upon his well-documented theological beliefs of the resurrection, resulting in a powerful and poignant message of salvation.  I know of many communities (my present one especially) who can relate to much of what lies in this work.

On a more subjective note: I felt that the book/sermon-series reached a particular climax on the Meditation on Holy Saturday, entitled "Waiting."  Here Wright brings together the themes of suffering and death with hope and resurrection in a unique way, for it is the in-between of the passion narrative.  And we who participate in the church today are in a similar situation (being those who mourn and who are, simultaneously, filled with joy).  Reading the chosen text from Lamentations with this setting, one can better reflect the tragedy of this life and the call of hope which has gone forth.

To quote from this chapter: "And if we want to find God's way forward for this community, for ourselves, for this church - and we are, in  many respects, a microcosm of where so many churches up and down our country are today - then we must learn to wait, to be quiet, to affirm God's order in our chaos but not yet to understand it" (67).

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