Friday, December 31, 2010

I am Thankful for the Atonement - 3rd Entry

I awoke this morning with many thoughts about thanksgiving. Justin, Camdyn, and Charlie were leaving for their home; it was great to have had them here. Karisa and Johnmark volunteered to make breakfast for all of us. Shirley, Mike, Ryan and Andrea were scheduled to drive up today. It was a day for thanksgiving.

It is also the last day of 2010, my year of thanksgiving. I awoke fully aware I have fallen short by thirty six entries, but 329 is not bad. Some entries have been long and some quite short; together they total over 350 single-spaced pages. I have been faithful to my commitment, mostly. [Husbands and persons with addictions cannot get by with that argument, “Honey, I’ve been faithful, mostly.” I wonder why we followers of Christ seem to think we can use that argument and feel good about ourselves?] I plan to make up for the shortfall in Purgatory, I mean next year.

However, as I lay there, waiting for my head to quit spinning, my thoughts focused on the place where I began this journey; I am thankful for God’s grace. Specifically, I am thankful for the atonement of Christ.

He stepped out of His glory

and took on the darkness of fallen creation.

He who knew no sin,

became sin for our sakes.

The Creator became the created

and took unto Himself all the wickedness of His creation.

Love, grace and truth swallowed our bitterness,

bound up our brokenness, and healed our diseases.

It is all too easy to limit the atonement,

both in its history and its effect,

to the events of the cross

and the predestined elect.

In truth, his sacrifice is bracketed by the incarnation

which shall never end

and its effect is for all of creation,

even the damned.

Limiting the atonement to the passion, so called, limits our debt to that covered by a single event and fails to see the intended extent of the claim of grace upon all He spoke into existence. God’s plan was not to stop at forgiveness, redemption, or restoration. His salvation is unto a new order of creation.

Where once we lived and moved and had our very being in Him, by his grace we are now baptized into Him, being His very body. Once, we lived by His very breath, but now we are joined to Him as the extension of His incarnation. His atonement assures the creation of a new heaven and a new earth in which God Himself shall dwell with the sons and daughters of Eve and Adam.

Perhaps we limit the atonement to the crucifixion as an historical event because we cannot bear to gaze upon the cross. To enter the end of our salvation requires that we first behold the essence of His gift as revealed most clearly on the cross. And the cross, not a mere event in history but the eternal fountain of grace, is ever before us. Like the noonday sun it both demands our attention and rebuffs our gaze.

The cross is unbearable to us because of our iniquity. All of our transgressions are nailed to that tree, branded into our Savior, making his countenance despicable. As we look at Him hanging there we become aware that our sins were never impersonal; they were all against Him. Every lie, moment of envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, and greed pierced His hands and crowned His brow.

Parents, spouses, and pastors, indeed all who have lived to adulthood, know the pain of loving while being rejected. In the cycle of life rejection is necessary for development. The mature have a healthy self-awareness, a consciousness of personal boundaries, a sense of right and wrong, the good, the better, and the best. Acquisition of these traits requires discernment and rejection. We must exercise our free will and choose our affections, risking rejection by rejecting the affections and choices of others.

And yet this drive to individuate wars against a greater drive, the quest for intimacy. The desire to know oneself battles with the desire to be known and to know another. In God’s prevenient grace some will discover themselves in the eyes of another; the individual knows him or herself best when discovered in the eyes of another. Yet, even for the most fulfilled of couples the tension between knowing and being known persists.

Thus to gaze upon the cross is not only to see our sins, it is to see ourselves as we are, lost, unknown, and dead, cutoff from all that for which we hope.

If we look intently at the cross and find ourselves there, we will begin to see the glory of the One nailed to the tree. The writer of Hebrews instructs us that “for the glory set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame.” We ere to think the glory set before Him was beyond the cross; no, it began on the cross. The glory that was His before the beginning of time, the glory he set aside in the incarnation, was there on the cross. The glory of the fullness of the Godhead, the glory of the holy other, was present in this singular event of atoning grace. In the cross the glory and grace of God abide.

On this last day of 2010 I give thanks for the glory and grace of the cross. I began the day with images of my sins flowing into my Savior there. I caused His suffering. As I inflicted His shame, He looked at me and loved me without end. In His eyes I find myself and I know myself; I am no longer alone and cut off.  I am a child of the King. In Him I can be salt and light. I can love my enemies and love those who spitefully abuse me. I can smile on those who reject me and offer His grace to them. I am thankful to be counted one with Him.

December 31, 2010

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