Lectionary Scriptures and Comments

The Atonement 011811

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The Atonement  011811

This blog comes to you from the people at

Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO

www.peacemennonitechurch.net (under construction)

Meditation and thoughts follow the scripture.

Psalm 40:6-17

Isaiah 53:1-12

Hebrews 10:1-4

Psalm 40:6-17

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.*
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.*
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
12 For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
14 Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire my hurt.
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.

Isaiah 53:1-12

53Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering* and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces*
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb* with the rich,*
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.*
When you make his life an offering for sin,*
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;*
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one,* my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Hebrews 10:1-4

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

10Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it* can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Atonement  011811

Today’s scripture from Hebrews is evidence of the a most contentious belief since the actual time of Jesus.

The idea is this, basically, and excuse me if I fail to accurately describe it: In the times prior to Jesus, people worldwide believed that sacrifices of animals (or people) were necessary to please the gods, or God. Exactly why human beings came to almost universally believe that a sacrifice was pleasing to a god, I don’t know. Perhaps an anthropologists could explain why this practice arises so often in human cultures.

From my ethnocentric, modernist view, I don’t understand it. Why would a dead piece of meat be pleasing to a god, who presumably is beyond eating, digesting, and so on?

Nevertheless, the Hebrews believed, like many of their neighbors believed it, and made sacrifices to various local gods, including Baal, and of course Jehovah (Yahweh, or YHWH). For the New Testament writers, including Paul, the sacrifices of the Old Testament are no longer necessary, because Jesus made or paid a sacrifice that ‘pays’ for all sacrifices forever, by sacrificing himself (on the cross).

I do understand why Jesus was executed, or maybe even needed to sacrifice himself. It was the result of speaking the truth to the power of the Roman Empire, and speaking the truth to the Hebrew priestly aristocracy and hierarchy. But, as hopeful vegetarian, I still do not see why any god would want a piece of a dead animal, or why Jesus’ father would want or allow his only son to be sacrificed, as if Jesus were a dead animal.

Of course, there are many metaphorical and allegorical allusions in all this. But this idea of ‘Jesus dying for our sins, for all time’, has frankly, never made much sense to me, and as a common sense post modern thinker, I have to tell the truth, or at least my truth. This idea of ‘atonement’ may have rung true and made sense to a culture or cultures that understood animal sacrifice.

But what has made sense to history, does not automatically make sense to me. I have to understand God and Jesus as I am now, with all the faculties that God has given me.

What is most important to me is not how and why Jesus died. It was a state execution of the Roman Empire. It is not a theological event for me.

What is important is how Jesus lived, and the meaning of his life. I’d better focus on that, at least for this lifetime.


(brother) Bill


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