21 March 2008

The Crucifixion and Love

What great love we have been privileged to celebrate on this Good Friday! Here's a meditation from Pr. Berthold von Schenk that goes to the very heart of our Good Friday hearing, praying, and singing, as we ponder our Lord's great love for us sinners. And if you can find a salutary application of these words to the Issues, Etc. travesty, all well and good. That's my secondary purpose for offering this quote. :-)

When we appreciate how the Cross accomplishes our destiny of union with God, we also realize how essential the Crucifixion was and is. What is the Cross? It is man against God. It is Self against Love. Calvary was selfishness closing in on Love to crush it…. If we want to get at the meaning of the Cross, we must find the interpreter’s stone. During one of Napoleon’s campaigns, a stone was found which made it possible to read the ancient inscriptions. Thus the ancient world was revealed to man for the first time. We, too, must find the Rosetta stone. We must find a word. We must find four letters and put them together so that they spell LOVE. To discover this word is not easy. We must spend years in Bethlehem, in Gethsemane, on Calvary. Not merely as historical events, but we must enter into fellowship with Bethlehem and Calvary. Love cannot be anything else but love. We try to define it but it is as futile as painting a rose. What does love do? Love always gives itself. When love meets self, what happens? Love just keeps on being love. That’s all. Love cannot be cruel, or hate, nor attack. All that love, divine love, can do when it meets its foe is to bare its arms and go straight to the Cross. Suffering is loves only weapon. What happened 1900 years ago? What always happens when men love? From the world’s point of view they fail; they go down; they are defeated.

Just that happened to our Lord. Draw aside the veil. What a failure! His friend betrays Him. His enemies hang Him on the Cross. He dies and is put into a grave. “That’s the end of love,” they conclude. Even His friends thought that He was a failure, for they complain, “We thought He would redeem Israel.” We imagine a crowd standing around the Cross, saying, “There He goes. There goes love.”…

But wait. The grave was not the end. From man’s side it was a failure, but not from God’s. Love cannot die. Like the traditional phoenix, the Christ rose from the ashes of His apparent failure. On the third day He rose again and thereby showed that divine love triumphs over self. From that time on it was possible also for men who love to triumph. The sins of men were expiated on Calvary. But Calvary which unites men with God also draws them up to divine love, so that it now becomes their love. This love, the divine love, the Calvary love, is the only love worthwhile.

From all this we draw a mighty conclusion. Why is it that we so often fail our fellowmen? Why is it that we fail in our church work? Why is it that we fail in our witnessing, in our mission work? It is because we lack the one thing which will save the world—divine love—Calvary love. It does not radiate through us.

It is not our human love that the world needs. This is what the world has been trying to tell us church people for a long time. But we will not agree. We place the blame for our failure everywhere but the right place, and then we keep on trying to foist our human love, tainted with self-interest, on the world, to which it says, “We don’t want it; we don’t trust it. We can be just as good, if not better, outside the church.”

Why was it the early Christians showed such power? It was because Calvary love, the divine love, radiated in their message and in their lives. That love was irresistible. The fascinating story of the martyrs fertilized the acres of the Church. That love alone will build the kingdom of God on earth. That love is the only missionary policy for us to follow. The pure Calvary love will draw men up. It is the only love which achieves a final victory. It is the only love which has an Easter. Any other love leaves just ashes (Berthold von Schenk, The Presence, pp. 70-72).

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