In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders…
…In this descent and ascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends…
…The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 179-181).
Thus, as Lewis goes on to say in a later chapter:
He [Jesus] is the ‘first fruits,’ ‘the pioneer of life.’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened. (C.S. Lewis, Miracles , p. 237).
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that if a willing victim, who had committed no treachery, was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe , p. 163).
Note: When J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t find a word to express precisely what he was thinking, or trying to convey in his writing, he would simply invent a word. As he was a philologist, this is not difficult to imagine. So, when conveying the supreme purpose of the fairy story, what Tolkien calls the Eucatastrophe in his essay On Fairy Stories, he could find no word that suited his definition. This led Tolkien to coin the word, eucatastrophe. It comes from the combination of two Greek words, meaning ‘ eu’ for ‘good’ and ‘ katastrophe’ for destruction. In other words, it is a good catastrophe, the kind of event(s) you never see coming or least expect in a story. The Gospel, Tolkien says, is the story of the greatest eucatastrophe, that joyous sudden turn from death to life. And not only is it beautiful, but it is historically true and reliable. Here is a little Easter apologetics from Tolkien in his own words.
On Fairy Stories
I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction; it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused. (Tolkien, On Fairy Stories, p. 155-156, The Monsters and the Critics And Other Essays )
Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
“I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.” (Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 89)
“Amen” (The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Yes, “Alleluia” of course is the word of the day for Easter Day. We’ve been saving it up all Lent, and now today we finally get to let it loose. And what a day to do so! Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on this day, winning the victory for us over death and the grave. If that doesn’t elicit an “Alleluia,” I don’t know what will. “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word originally, and it means “Praise ye the Lord.” And praise is most fitting for us to render unto the Lord God for the great salvation he has assured us of by raising his Son from the dead.
“Alleluia,” the word of the day for Easter. But today I’d like to suggest another “A” word that works just as well on this day. And that is the word “Amen.” “Amen” also is a Hebrew word that has carried over into English. It means “to be sure,” “to be certain.” The basic idea is firmness or certainty. In the Bible, the word “Amen” expresses a certain affirmation in response to what has been said. And that idea, and the word itself, carried over into the Christian church, and on through all the centuries, all around the world, down to this very day. “Amen,” we say, whenever we want to affirm as solid and trustworthy whatever has just been said, whether that is a prayer or a blessing or what have you.
And friends, there is nothing more sure or trustworthy than Christ’s resurrection from the dead! Therefore Easter is a perfect day for a big “Amen,” as well as a big “Alleluia.” And the reason we can say a hearty “Amen” at the end of our prayers is because God himself has put a big “Amen” exclamation point on the work of Christ on the cross by raising from the dead. Easter is God’s “Amen!” to what Jesus did on Good Friday. And this in turn gives us confidence to say our Amen to the prayers we pray to God, knowing with all certainty that our heavenly Father will hear us and look on us with favor for Christ’s sake.
Listen to what St. Paul says about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 1: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
Did you catch that? “All the promises of God find their Yes in him,” that is, in Christ. “That is why it is through him,” through Christ, “that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
“All the promises of God find their Yes in him.” Everything that God has promised to mankind, to ancient Israel, to the church, to us–all of these promises find their fulfillment and their focus in Christ. Track all of the promises of God in the Bible, and they all come to fruition in Christ. The seed of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head. The seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. The new Moses and the new Joshua, who will lead God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land. The Son of David, the Messiah, who will reign over an everlasting kingdom. The Servant of the Lord, prophesied by Isaiah. All of these Old Testament promises were looking forward to their fulfillment in Christ.
Yes, including that Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53. The one who would suffer for the sins of the people. The one by whose stripes we are healed. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, the one who looked like the world’s biggest loser, scorned by men and seemingly abandoned by God. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him,” to put him to grief. And after he has been laid in a tomb, “he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” This is a prophecy of the resurrection of the Christ, after his atoning work of dying for the sins of the people–for our sins.
Here we can see that Good Friday was not a detour from the plan of God–it was the plan of God! It was not a temporary setback; it was instead the ultimate solution. The cross was God’s plan and God’s purpose coming to its goal, its fulfillment: Christ, the Messiah, dying for sinners in order to redeem them, to win their forgiveness and thus their freedom: freedom from guilt and punishment, freedom from the stranglehold that death had on us, freedom to be the people of God in faith and love and filled with the Spirit. This is what Christ did for us on that cross, stomping on the devil’s head, purchasing our release from bondage by the holy blood that he shed. This is the wonderful thing Jesus did for us by his death on the cross. And so Easter, then, is God the Father saying a great big Yes to all that. It is God affirming the work of Christ by raising him from the dead. The Father glorified the Son by highly exalting him in resurrection victory. Easter is God’s Amen to Good Friday.
And dear friends, this is why we now can be bold and confident to say our Amen whenever we pray to God. As our text in Corinthians says, “That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” We can say Yes and Amen to our prayers because we know Christ has given us access to the Father, and so it is right and fitting that we conclude our prayers by saying, “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then adding a big old “Amen” to it.
And that includes of course the prayer our Lord himself taught us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. If ever there was a prayer we can be absolutely certain God will hear and we can put an Amen on, it is that prayer. The Amen we say at the end of the Lord’s Prayer means, as Luther explains it in the Catechism–it means I can be “certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.”
And so we come to the end of our series on the Lord’s Prayer, with the Amen on Easter Day. Can we be sure our heavenly Father will hear our prayer that his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done? Yes and Amen! Christ’s resurrection is how it happens. Can we be sure God will give us our daily bread? Yes and Amen! “If he did not spare his own Son, how will he not with him give us all things?” Can we be sure that God will forgive us our trespasses? Amen! That’s what happened on Good Friday, when Christ bled and died for our forgiveness, and God gave his Yes to that by raising Christ from the dead. Can we be sure that God will give us strength to face temptation and that in the end he will deliver us from evil, including the evil of death? Yes and Amen! Easter guarantees it!
So in the confidence that God has accepted the work of Christ on Good Friday by giving it his Amen on Easter Day–in this firmness and certainty, we can conclude the Lord’s Prayer and all our prayers with our own “Amen!” Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And all of God’s people said . . . Amen!
I’m on the Constitution and Bylaws committee of my church. We’ve had many issues over the past 5-10 years with a set of legal documents that are too complex and detailed in some areas, and don’t say enough in other areas.
For example, it states that the full slate of officers will be presented at the February voter’s meeting; our election meeting is held in May, and the new officers take effect in July. Now I’m sure many of you have been on nomination committees and know that it’s just getting more and more difficult to get people to say “yes” when called on. It used to be that we had 2 (or 3!) people slotted for most of the positions; now we struggle until the weeks prior to the election meeting to fill the slate. So the last time I was on the committee, I stood up at the February meeting and said we are working on it, and basically begged people to be open to saying “yes” if we called them. We had very few positions filled at that point.
My point is that our constitution has several things like this where it goes into details that change over time and are no longer relevant.
So … what I would like is to open this up to as many people as possible — can you send me your church constitution and bylaws? Can you discuss below what types of things should be found in them, what should not be there, what works well or works especially poorly in your church documents? What do you wish had been there?
I’ve asked this a few times in different areas of facebook and gotten some good comments back, including to look at the Synod Recommended Guidelines for constitution and bylaws. We are also looking at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville’s Constitution and Bylaws .
From Francis Weiser’s Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs :
“But Deliver Us from Evil” (The Lord’s Prayer; Luke 23:32-49)
“But Deliver Us from Evil”: The seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. And how appropriate that we should come to this petition on this particular day, Good Friday. For the greatest evil that has ever been perpetrated on this earth is the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, really, Good Friday could just as well be called “Evil Friday,” that is the magnitude of the evil committed against this wholly innocent man, the most innocent man who has ever lived–indeed, the only truly innocent man to have ever lived.
But the reason we insist on still calling it “Good” Friday is because out of that monstrous evil God has worked the most marvelous good. It’s like what Joseph told his brothers after they had committed a terrible wrong against him. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” So also, in an even greater way, God has brought good out of the evil committed against Jesus.
And because of the incredible good that came out of the enormous evil done on this day, this is how and why we can pray “But deliver us from evil.” And we can be sure that God will do it, as we will now see.
Yes, Good Friday was the day on which the worst evil ever done was done. If ever there was a man who did not deserve to die, it was Jesus of Nazareth. He went about only doing good: Preaching repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Teaching the truth of God’s word, in all wisdom and authority. Unfolding the true meaning of the Law, cutting through the wrong ways that the scribes and Pharisees had taught. Forgiving sinners who knew their need. Healing the sick–the blind, the deaf, the lame. Delivering troubled souls from the clutches of the devil. Feeding the multitudes. All these things were good, immensely good.
All good, and nothing wrong. “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, and Governor Pilate declared, “I find no guilt in this man.” Again he told the crowd, “After examining him, I do not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” But the religious leaders who hated Jesus stirred up the crowd, so that they shouted, “Crucify, crucify him!” Once more Pilate said, “Why, what evil has he done?” Indeed, what evil has Jesus done? Answer: None. Even the criminal crucified next to him had to say, “This man has done nothing wrong.”
In contrast, you and I have done a lot of things wrong. The Bible calls this “sin.” It’s our general condition, and it comes out in specific acts that we can identify. Things that we do wrong, say wrong, and think wrong. Things we fail to do right, or think or speak right. It’s our lack of love for God, the fact we do not trust him as we ought, the ways we do not take his word and his commandments seriously. These are offenses against God and deserving of his punishment. Then there are the wrongs we do against our fellow man, especially to the people we encounter in our life. Our sinful nature shows up in the ways we fail our neighbor, the hurtful things we say and do, the ways we avoid helping people when we have the opportunity to do so.
But Jesus? There’s nothing wrong that he has done. No reason for him to be up there on that cross. He has every right to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Couldn’t God have stopped this, this outrageous injustice? Why are you letting this happen, Lord? This is your obedient servant up there on that cross! The bad guys are getting away with this! Why? Why?
Sometimes we search for answers, and we don’t know why. Even though we’re not perfect and sinless like Jesus was, still there are times when evil is committed against us. People do us wrong, unfairly. And sometimes they get away with it. Our reputation is tarnished, or maybe we take a financial hit. Then there are other times when evil things just happen to us, and there may not be anybody specific to blame. A flood, a tornado, a disease. Bad things happen, to bad people, good people, and everybody in between. Evil happens. And, when it does, we wonder if or when God is going to do anything about it.
It’s at times like these that we especially need to pray what our Lord Jesus has taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “But deliver us from evil.” Our faith is in our heavenly Father, in his goodness, and in the final deliverance he has promised us for the sake of Christ. Even when it looks like evil is prevailing–especially when it looks like evil is prevailing.
For that is exactly what Jesus himself prayed, when it looked like evil was having its way with him. Christ’s confidence in the Father’s deliverance did not waver. He summoned up what little strength he had left and he cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Here this seventh and final word from the cross echoes the seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Saying “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” is simply another way to pray “But deliver us from evil.” Jesus here is entrusting himself into the hands of his Father to deliver him, body and soul, from this evil that is being done against him, this evil thing that’s happening to him. And in so doing, Jesus is providing for us the greatest model and example of prayer, prayer that is borne of faith.
And Jesus’ prayer was answered, of course. The Father did deliver his Son from evil. That’s what Easter will show. As Isaiah prophesied: “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Yes, God has delivered Jesus from evil. And for you who trust in Christ and are joined to him in Holy Baptism–you can be sure that in the end God will deliver you also from whatever evil or evils you face in this life.
Good Friday could really be called “Evil Friday,” because of the horrible evil done on that day. But in what was literally his last hour on the cross, in his last moments, Jesus’ last word from the cross was “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” This was his way of praying the petition he had taught his disciples, “But deliver us from evil.” And because of the great good that came out of that evil–the good news that our sins are forgiven and we are put right with God–and because the Father did deliver Jesus, this is how we can pray now, “But deliver us from evil.” For we know that our Father will do this for us, just like he did for Jesus. “Our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, he will give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven.”