WORD FROM THE PASTOR:
Blast from the past...Last week it was hard to pick up a magazine or newspaper without seeing an article about “Mad Men”. The popular show about the advertising industry in the 1960s is returning for a new season, and the “buzz” in the media was everywhere. (Newsweek, in fact, dedicated an entire issue to the 1960s in celebration of “Mad Men”).
I’ve never actually watched “Mad Men” (I picked up a few seasons on DVD ultracheap at a Black Friday sale last year, but haven’t yet had opportunity to screen them). But I can understand the show’s appeal. It projects us back in time to an era that was crucial in our country’s history–and, for us Baby Boomer types, an era central to our personal history. The show is celebrated for its painstaking attention to authentic period detail (the director once stopped filming a grocery store scene when he realized that the oranges on display were larger than they would have been in the 1960s–he sent someone out for smaller oranges). There is something appealing about entertainment that can recapture the past, and project us back into an interesting and important period.
That’s kind of how I feel about the services of Holy Week. They project us into the past–not an era as recent as the 1960s, but two thousand years ago...right around 30 A. D. The time they project us into is not a time we personally lived through...but it truly is a time central and crucial to our lives. For around 30 A. D., in Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus Christ offered a complete and perfect sacrifice for our sins. It happened long before any of us was born...but it affects us more deeply than anything that happened in the 1960s, or 1970s, or 1980s, or yesterday or today! It gives us hope, and a new life with God!
Holy Week takes me to the room where Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples...and I hear Him speak those wondrous words, “This is my body given for you...This is my blood, shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And I know that this happened for me, so that I can be nourished and strengthened through the Holy Supper.
Holy Week takes me to Mount Calvary, where Christ suffered and bled and died...where He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” to show that He was taking the full punishment for my sins...where His side was opened and blood and water emerged, the blood and water that wash away my sins in Holy Baptism...where He cried out “It is finished!” to show that His work of saving us was totally completed.
Holy Week takes me to the garden where Jesus was laid in a tomb. Death arose in a garden once, as Adam and Eve disobeyed God...but now life wondrously arose in a garden as Christ defeated the power of death and emerged new and alive from the tomb.
During the services of Holy Week, the years melt away...and we are there. We are there with the One who died and rose again for us!
If you’re a “Mad Men” fan, I hope you enjoy the new season, and it really does give you the sense of reliving the 1960s–an era when our nation changed. And I invite everyone to join us for Holy Week at St. Paul’s. The services take us to the sacred time when our lives changed–when despair gave way to hope, and gloom was overtaken by joy!
Ask the Pastor. There haven’t been a lot of “Ask the Pastor” questions lately, but here’s a good one: “If God has always been there, where did He come from?” And the answer is that God didn’t come from anywhere–He simply is. He has no beginning. There has to be something that is eternal, something that has no beginning, something that stands outside the universe and gets the universe started. I once illustrated this for a child by setting up a row of dominoes and knocking the first one over, so that all the others fell. The first domino could not knock itself over–something larger, outside the row of dominoes, had to do it. That’s the function God has for the universe. He stands above the universe and creates it.
A fancy term for this is self-existent. An even fancier term is aseity (from the Latin a se, “from itself”). This simply means that God has no cause outside Himself and has always existed. People used to think, “Well, maybe the universe itself is eternal, without beginning or end. Maybe the universe is the thing that has always existed.” But the Big Bang theory has demonstrated that the universe has both beginning and end. So we’re back to God as the reality with no beginning and no end.
The dominoes have to stop somewhere. There’s an old poem that says:
Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and ad infinitum.
But it can’t be that way with the universe. There has to be an Ultimate Cause, a place where the cosmic buck stops, so to speak. There has to be something that simplyis, something that has no beginning. And that Something is God.
This is all very philosophical and impersonal. That’s why it’s important to turn to the Scriptures, where we see the personal face of God. He’s not just the Ultimate Cause, not just the One with no beginning or end...He’s also the One who came into our world in Jesus, the One who gave Himself for us on the cross, the One who loves us with a profoundly personal love. He is indeed “self-existent”, and He’s got all that good “aseity”...but He also loves me and gave Himself for me!
God loves you and so do I!