Re-posted from last year’s preparations for Maundy Thursday
I was asked by a colleague, “So, if you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, then why bother celebrating the events of Holy Week?” Behind this question lies the assumption that the only way to understand Jesus’ death is to frame it within the context of the theology of “penal sacrificial atonement” ie “we are judged to be sinful creatures, punishment is required, God sends Jesus to pay the price for our sin”. That Anslem’s theory of sacrificial atonement was formulated in the 11th century and continues to hold sway in the minds of so many followers of Christ is a testament to the power of our liturgies and hymns to form our theology. However, Anslem’s theory is not they only faithful way to understand Jesus’ death.
When one seriously engages the question, “What kind of god would demand a blood sacrifice?” the answers often render God impotent at best and at worst cruel and vindictive. I have often said that atonement theories leave God looking like a cosmic son of #%#%# !
Progressive Christian theologians are opening up new ways of understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus that empower the faithful to see new possibilities.
To my colleague, who fears that I am leading the faithful astray, and to those who find little comfort in the theories of an 11th century monastic, I offer the following notes, crafted in my preparation to lead Maundy Thursday worship.
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. And you’re to love one another the way I have loved you. This is how all will know that you’re my disciples: that you truly love one another.”
That we should love one another is not a new commandment. There have been many before Jesus and many who came after Jesus who have commanded, advised, encouraged, implored, and even begged us to, “love one another.”
What is new about Jesus commandment is that we are to love one another the way that Jesus loved us.
Which begs the question: How exactly did Jesus love? Continue reading