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PayPal Complaints @ April 24, 2014
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Tony Blair runs a faith foundation, and he has a problem. As an abortion-supporting, embryo-destroying, contraception-using, gay-marriage-propagating, war-mongering, communion-abusing, Magisterium-defying convert to Roman Catholicism, he can't even persuade many of his co-religionists that he knows much at all about his own faith, let alone apprehend the theology of Islam. Yet in a keynote speech yesterday at Bloomberg HQ - Why the Middle East Matters - while he explained 'Islamism' via a tour of the 'Islamic world', through Pakistan and Afghanistan, wading through Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon and to Syria, he decreed:
At the root of the crisis lies a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message. The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively.So, it is not Islam which has given rise to the malignant Sunni-Salafi-Wahhabi strain of theology, but a "perversion" of the religion which "distorts and warps" and which "many Muslims abhor". In this, he agrees with the Prince of Wales, though Faith Minister Baroness Warsi maintains that these extremists are not Muslims at all; not even of the perverted, distorted or warped kind.
..In fact it is often the most devout who take most exception to what they regard as the distortion of their faith by those who claim to be ardent Muslims whilst acting in a manner wholly in contradiction to the proper teaching of the Koran.
..At this point it must again be emphasised: it is not Islam itself that gives rise to this ideology. It is an interpretation of Islam, actually a perversion of it which many Muslims abhor. There used to be such interpretations of Christianity which took us years to eradicate from our mainstream politics.
The reason that this ideology is dangerous is that its implementation is incompatible with the modern world – politically, socially, and economically. Why? Because the way the modern world works is through connectivity. Its essential nature is pluralist. It favours the open-minded. Modern economies work through creativity and connections. Democracy cannot function except as a way of thinking as well as voting. You put your view; you may lose; you try to win next time; or you win but you accept that you may lose next time.
That is not the way that the Islamist ideology works. It is not about a competing view of how society or politics should be governed within a common space where you accept other views are equally valid. It is exclusivist in nature. The ultimate goal is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election. It is a society of a fixed polity, governed by religious doctrines that are not changeable but which are, of their essence, unchangeable.
What is curious about Tony Blair's promulgation of Islamic theology is his understanding of religious orthodoxy and "proper teaching". The religion that is acceptable is that which coheres with the modern world - politically, socially and economically. The religion that is unacceptable is that which is "of a fixed polity, governed by religious doctrines that are not changeable but which are, of their essence, unchangeable".
This might explain his particular approach to Roman Catholicism: it is not, for him, Semper Eadem - a constant, catechised Catholic faith composed of infallible doctrines and immutable truths founded upon an unchanging gospel: it is a religion of "creativity" moulded through human "connectivity" and subject to the whims of democracy. For him, an "exclusivist" religion which is "governed by religious doctrines that are not changeable" is a perverted ideology. Ergo, traditionalist Roman Catholicism is a "perversion" of the faith; the orthodox Christianity which preaches "exclusivity" is one which "distorts and warps".
All of which makes one wonder why Tony Blair left the mutable ecclesiology, flexible doctrine, synodical governance and national expression of the Church of England. He appears in spiritual temperament to be far better suited to the shared experience of fellowship through diverse communion: his understanding of koinonia is plural, ecumenical and universalist, rather than uniform, exclusive and centralised.
And this naturally colours his approach to Islam: by making Mohammed more like Tony Blair, the Qur'an, Sunnah and Hadith become the 'Rough Guide to Islam' rather than the epitome of Islamic practice. The Islam that is 'acceptable' is an ecumenical Sunni-Shia chimera infused with Sufi love and peace and syncretised with Third-Way political thought, of which he becomes the self-declared spiritual moral authority and the self-appointed guardian of historical-theological truth. The example of Mohammed is not to be emulated literally, but reinterpreted spiritually in accordance with the enlightened values of the modern era. And there are many millions of moderate and enlightened Muslims who would agree with this, and of the need for someone to do for Islam what Martin Luther did for the Christianity in 1517. Except, of course, that historic reformation was initiated by an eminent theologian from within: Tony Blair is a discredited politician and quite extraneous to the theological and spiritual traditions he seeks to challenge.
However well-meaning he may be, a Blairite epistemology of Mohammed and appraisal of Allah are never going to have influence or effect change in any aspect of Islamic thought - any more than his personal beliefs will ever challenge the ecclesiology, res sacramenti or a single ex-cathedra pronouncement of the Church of Rome.
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 24, 2014
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PayPal Complaints @ April 23, 2014
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From the quill of William Shakespeare comes the only line in Renaissance literature which links England with St George. It could not be more appropriate that the Bard’s birthday falls on this day, for it becomes a cause of celebration of England’s (and the world’s) greatest writer. To borrow from Hamlet: "He was a man, take him for all in all; we shall not look upon his like again." And today we mark the 450th anniversary of his birth.
That a humble son of a glover, with an education no higher than a grammar school, should tower above the university-educated; should have such insight into morals, manners, economy, philosophy, religion, taste, and the conduct of life, is a cause for wonder. That an Englishman was blessed with great knowledge of the greatest mysteries, understood the politics of high office without having held any, and could articulate with profound accuracy the emotions and needs of the common man, is a cause for great celebration – yea, a national holiday.
But we shall not get it - for fear of 'English nationalism'.
Saints Andrew, David and Patrick may be celebrated with a secure national identity and respectful chippiness. But George is vulgar, and represents the bunting-strewn, beer-swilling worst of what it is to be English. It ought to be cancelled on 'Health & Safety' grounds alone.
Like Guy Fawkes' Night - offensive, sectarian, divisive and dangerous.
But it's only English culture and tradition which needs to be subsumed and sidelined: Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism are wholesome manifestations of historical defensiveness and political identity. Even on Shakespeare's birthday, the cry to honour England or laud the English is 'racist'. Even in this second great Elizabethan age, we may not receive from or observe in Shakespeare's nature the peculiar impulse and impression which he, best of all, bequeaths to us. He is not just of England or for the English: he belongs to the whole world and is for all time. And yet he is English and of England, and at his quill patriotism becomes a virtue and a blessing.
The greatest human mind ever to walk the earth writes eloquently of love, friendship, marriage, parenthood, jealousy, ambition, hatred, revenge, loyalty, devotion and mercy. And into these he weaves the national life of England, caressed with extravagant sensibility: "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm", which is"possessed with rumours, full of idle dereams." And our national life is identifiably Christian: "Is this Ascension-day?"
He is not concerned with doctrine, but with the state of the human heart, will, intellect and soul. In this new age of limitation, restriction, deficiency and injunction, William Shakespeare liberates us to think what we may not, feel what is unmentionable, and be what is forbidden.
Happy Birthday, Will.
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 23, 2014
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Apparently, No10 had no intention of releasing a transcript of the Prime Minister's speech to Christian leaders last week: unlike other faith gatherings, it was an impromptu declamation, spoken spontaneously from the heart, and some there felt that the content didn't merit courtly promulgation, not least because it wasn't honed, crafted or filtered by aides to extinguish any hint of offence.
But His Grace agitated and agitated, and the oration was made public. And it was seen that the Prime Minister spoke intimately of the loss of his son, Ivan; and of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land; and of his quiet times in church; and of the need for Christians to do more "evangelism". He is a politician; not a theologian: his words were those of a layman, but no less sincere for that.
And then he released an article in the Church Times - My Faith in the Church of England - in which he demanded the right to speak about his faith "in this ever more secular age". And he dared to refer to the United Kingdom as a "Christian country", and again called for Christians to be "more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives".
And all hell broke loose.
Some 50 self-important secular-humanising bigwigs wrote to the Telegraph, accusing the Prime Minister of "fostering division" by daring to invoke Christianity: "Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a 'Christian country'," they declared.
Fostering division? As Bishop Nick Baines has eloquently observed, that is the very nature of politics:
First, if politicians were to refrain from saying anything ‘divisive’, they would be silent. Any stated viewpoint or priority is by definition ‘divisive’ as there will always be people who strongly disagree. The use of potential ‘divisiveness’ as a charge against anything inconvenient is ridiculous. Presumably, the divisiveness caused by publishing this letter is to be excused?And Jesus Himself said:
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:But the liberal enlightened media set aside such reasoned christological inquiry: who is Bishop Nick Baines? And who, indeed, is Jesus?
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
In candid disinterested neutrality, Sky News wheeled out the ubiquitous anti-Tory atheist Owen Jones to debate with the equally anti-Tory Christian Vicky Beeching to weigh up the Christian claims of a Conservative prime minister, and in unison they both railed against the "cuts" and the "bedroom tax", neither of which (apparently) Jesus would support. Was there no Christian Tory available, or were they simply not telegenic and pretty enough for the TV studio?
And then on Channel 4, Vicky Beeching (..again..) stressed "as a theologian", that she looks at David Cameron's policies and looks at his claims and, for her, they "don't add up".
Well, "as a theologian", His Grace would exhort his readers and communicants to weigh very carefully indeed the utterances of any theologian who prefaces a partisan pontification with "as a theologian", for their theology is invariably cajoled to pander to their politics. In the Christian mind, the Bible precedes all matters of polity and questions of policy, and any assessment or judgment is offered in humility. The fact that the welfare reforms are designed and being implemented by one of the most devout Christians in Government appears to escape Miss Beeching. But then she speaks "as a theologian": what could Iain Duncan Smith possibly know?
Alastair Campbell famously didn't "do God", or, rather, didn't allow Tony Blair to "do God" while he was in office. Like Owen Jones and Vicky Beeching, he is persuaded that the Prime Minister's "religious ramblings" are "insincere".
And you may very well agree with that: after all, an election looms, and Ukip is biting at Tory heels.
But is it not possible that David Cameron's faith is maturing? Is it not conceivable that he is moving from a faith of watery milk to red meat? Is it not imaginable that the death of his son caused such a crisis in his spiritual life that he is journeying to that place where God leads, and in that presence the melancholy façade of religiosity is giving way to authentic renewal and regeneration?
You may agree with Alastair Campbell and the socialist-atheists and the secular-humanists and the liberal-lefty Christians that David Cameron is a PR-obsessed political fraud. But doesn't St Paul exhort us to welcome even the half-way conversion from neo-platonic spiritualism toward Christianity? Shouldn't we rejoice over the sinner who moves from infidelity to orthodoxy? Isn't it an act of Christian love and humility to (at least) consider that David Cameron has subconsciously incubated the seeds of faith, and that now he finds new strength and boldness to declare the gospel of salvation?
You may quibble that he hasn't used the word 'repent'; you may mutter that he doesn't have a clue what 'evangelical' means. You may deride the motive or question the timing. But David Cameron has received grace and gained assurance. And now he seeks to bring about a moral change, which his opponents condemn as "divisive".
You may side with spin-meister Alastair Campbell, atheist Owen Jones and theologian Vicky Beeching and judge the sincerity of the Prime Minister's faith. But His Grace will look to Scripture: "Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters" (Rom 14:1). His conscience may not be overly sensitive, but it is not to be condemned. We are exhorted and encouraged to accept other Christians wherever they are in their pilgrimage of faith; however imperfect their learning; however flawed their understanding.
And that includes a Tory prime minister.
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 22, 2014
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PayPal Complaints @ April 21, 2014
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Her Majesty the Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, celebrates her 88th birthday today, in commemoration of which this new portrait has been published.
It is undeniable that our Queen is admired and respected all over the world, and very much loved by her loyal subjects throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Where there is disapproval or antipathy, she is dignified in the presence of contention and gracious to her opponents. And she endures as our greatest national asset: While here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians win and lose, rise and fall, and come and go, Her Majesty provides a reassuring spiritual continuity and political stability in a world of frequent unthinking change and paralysing uncertainty.
And she is acutely involved in leading her people to salvation. As Richard Hooker explained in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, church and society are one: "A gross error it is, to think that regal power ought to serve for the good of the body, and not of the soul; for men’s temporal peace, and not for their eternal safety." If the state were concerned solely with economics and the material, it would cease to be concerned with people’s welfare in respect of a right relationship with God. Hooker’s articulation of the prerogative of the Crown over its subjects’ religious welfare is the same as that which underlies the role of the Monarch in relation to the Church of England today.
From Article XXXVII
The Queen's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other her Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.There are two distinct spheres of authority: i) the political, in which the Queen as Head of State has supreme and God-given authority under the law over every sector of society, including the Church. In the words of Canon A7: "We acknowledge the Queen’s excellent Majesty, acting according to the laws of the realm, is the highest power under God in his kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil." And ii) the spiritual, in which authority belongs to the Church and to its appointed ministers, and not to the Queen. But as she is responsible for the welfare of her subjects, she is tasked with ensuring that the Church as an institution is in a state to perform its spiritual tasks properly so that right relationship with God may be possible for all.
Where we attribute to the Queen's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.
The Royal Supremacy in regard to the Church is in its essence the right supervision over the administration of the Church, vested in the Queen as the champion of the Church, in order that the religious welfare of the people may be duly provided for. We are truly blessed in having a Supreme Governor who submits to the headship of Christ, and proclaims His Lordship daily in her dutiful and dedicated service.
Happy Birthday, Ma'am.
God Save The Queen!
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 20, 2014
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He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me (Mt 28:1-10).God died on Friday, and the world ended. Yesterday, He was lying in His tomb; all hope and promise of the coming kingdom buried with Him. Today, He is risen: God has irrupted into the present, and now we look forward to the eschatological fulfilment in the transformation of the world order, the ultimate redemption of the believer, and the final judgement.
No matter how hostile, antithetical or 'secularised' the world becomes, nothing will change this immutable truth. Jesus is alive. The resurrection of Christ is the "first fruits" of the full harvest - the resurrection of all believers. The risen Lord is the "firstborn from among the dead". The power of sin has been conquered, but the consequence - physical death - remains, awaiting a future consummation. The Spirit is a "guarantee" of our ultimate redemption.
The resurrection of Christ split history in two; it divided BC from AD. It isn't politic to say so in this age of religious equality, but Moses, Mohammed, Buddha and guru Nanak are all dead and in their tombs. Only Jesus is alive. Of course, to the superior intellects and enlightened ones, this is but a fairytale, a fantasy, an hallucination, a delusion.
But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain. The Christian faith stands or falls with Christ's resurrection. His death on the cross is historical fact brought about by man. His resurrection is an eschatological event brought about by God. Just as God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, so He delivered mankind from sin and death that we might have eternal life. The blood of the first Passover which spared Israel’s firstborn foreshadows the second Passover and the Lamb who died that we might be born again.
To have mourned at the cross, despaired at the death, wept at the graveside, and then to have met the Risen Christ must have been an inexpressible joy. That joy is now ours. And yet the world is still shrouded in night: we suffer, grieve and feel unbearable pain. As the Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us today in his Easter sermon:
"With Mary there are so many that weep. In Syria mothers cry for their children and husbands. In Ukraine neighbours cry because the future is precarious and dangerous. In Rwanda tears are still shed each day as the horror of genocide is remembered. In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt. Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families. Mary continues to weep across the world.He is risen! Hallelujah!
"But listen, hear the announcement... The one who was dead, is now alive! The one whose body had been a corpse, lying motionless in the grave, inert, lifeless, lying flat on the stone ledge of the borrowed tomb – he now stands before Mary, speaking her name. This day he speaks everybody’s name to engage them with the news that he is alive...
"Someone wrote recently ‘Joy might be a greater scandal than evil, suffering or death’. This is what I have been moved by in Christian communities around the world who face the most devastating of conditions. Their certainty that Jesus is alive enables them to face all horrors with joy. Not happiness, but joy. Joy can exist alongside mental illness, depression, bereavement, fear, because the joy of Christ comes from knowing that nothing and no one less than God has the last word.
"I remember sitting in a room with the Bishop who had come over from Pakistan soon after the attack in September on a church in Peshawar. I asked how Christians were coping with the fear that such attacks brought, and wondered if there had been anyone in church the week following the attack. ‘Oh yes’ the bishop replied, ‘there were three times as many people the next week’. Such action is made possible only by the resurrection. The persecuted church flourishes because of the resurrection. I think of women who I met earlier this year who have survived unspeakable sexual violence, yet who lift their arms in prayer and praise to God. I think of teenagers I met in Luton who have hope and joy, in lives that were dominated by self hatred and harm. This has only been made possible because Jesus is alive.
"The announcement that Jesus is alive changes everything; not simplistically or even instantly do circumstances and situations change. But it changes us. It gives us hope where we were in despair, faith where we were lost, light where we were in darkness, joy where we were entirely in sorrow."
His Grace wishes all of his readers and communicants a blessed Easter.
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 20, 2014
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Archbishop Cranmer @ April 18, 2014
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Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.For Mark, Jesus is the Son of God; for Matthew, He is King; for Luke, He is Saviour. But for John, Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God who was led to the slaughter; ritually bled so that no drop of blood remained in him. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, who was with him at the creation of the world, to die the agonising death of a cursed criminal. The cross that killed the Son of God blotted out our every sin: that which was torture for Him was a sweet gift to us – the path to eternal life.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand (Jn 19).
On this Good Friday, take a moment to look at the man hanging upon that cross. Consider that our every selfish thought, our pride, our fits of anger, our lies, jealousy, greed and intolerance drove those nails into His feet and hands. Even in His deepest agony, He was forgiving us.
Jesus died the death of Israel's Messiah at the hands of the Romans, at the request of the Sanhedrin, by the will of the people. Far from God's fellowship, abandoned and forsaken, He tasted death for us all. The darkness, fear and agony are unimaginable. The death of Christ brought His disciples to the very depths of despair: they were abandoned, mocked and disillusioned. And yet they possessed within their hearts the peace which passes all understanding: an assurance, a hope that their time of testing might pass and that the curse of death might be conquered. They did not know; they believed. And the message they believed has been central to the Christian faith for almost 2000 years. It is one that has to be continually reinforced at times of stress, despair and danger; at moments when faith is tested and the will to overcome is undermined.
This is why Good Friday is so central in its symbolism: the descent of darkness, the portents of destruction, the expiry of vision and hope. It is the Good Friday that comes to every person at different times, when failure robs life of all meaning, joy and love. It is the collapse of enterprise, confidence, relationship and dignity. It is the descent into hell. God-forsakenness is something we might all feel, but, unlike Jesus, never actually experience. At His moment of mortality, He was nothing but an outcast and humiliated slave. When our moment comes, we are sanctified in His Shekinah and our fellowship will be consummate.
Christians endure what Josephus referred to as "that most wretched of deaths" on Good Friday because of the sure and certain eschatological hope of the Resurrection, which sustains us through the despair. This life does not promise the joy and ecstasy of the Easter event: that is for another place. All we can expect on earth is to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness: the world will hate us, but watch this video and consider that it hated Him first.
Today is a time to reflect, remember, re-enact how our sin brought Jesus to his death on Calvary and what that death meant for our sinfulness and redemption. The gospels present the death of Jesus in the light of His life and the gospels He preached. God delivered up His Son – surrendered Him – quite deliberately: the first person of the Trinity cast out and annihilated the second in order that we might be redeemed. In the infinite grief of that self-emptying is perfect love. How can we not be grateful? Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, our lives, our all.
Archbishop Cranmer @ April 18, 2014