5/17 Readings: A Vertical Line and Concentric Circles

6 Easter

Acts 17:22-31
Ps. 66:7-18
I Pet. 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

We read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. We pull out dictionaries, lexicons, and commentaries.  Reading scripture is slow and patient work in which insights come like sparks, though usually after considerable work and reflection.

Today’s lessons inspire two simple drawing assignments. The first is a vertical line with an arrow at the bottom and top, symbolizing the descent and ascent of Christ, which is the saving work of Christ as described in First Peter. The second drawing is a bull’s eye, set within three concentric circles. The bull’s eye, the center, is the Holy Spirit. The space between the dot and the first circle is humanity (you); the next area is God the Son, and the next space is God the Father. Beyond the area of the Father is nothingness, for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the source of all being. This picture is drawn from John 14. It shows how we know and love God. The two images are related. We are rescued and saved so that we may know and love God.

We are to explain our salvation when a defense of the faith is “requested” or “demanded” (I Pet. 3:15). The case is to be delivered with “gentleness” and “reverence” (I Pet. 3:16). Additionally, when facing abuse, we are to defend the faith and shame our persecutors by “[our] good conduct.” Living godly and peaceable lives, speaking with gentleness and reverence, we are to tell of the great work of Christ in coming to be among us, suffering for us, dying for us, and descending into hell to deliver the captives.

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the flesh, and made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison” (I Pet. 3:18-19). This calls to mind the phrase from the Apostle’s Creed, “He descended to the dead,” as well as a sentence from the Easter Exultet, “This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell and rose victorious from the grave” (BCP, p. 287).

On scriptural evidence alone, the precise meaning of the descent of Christ to “the spirits in prison” may be debated, but the pulpit is not a debate stage. It is the place where the consensus fidelium is announced with confidence, though with a spirit of gentleness and reverence. Christ sets the captives free! “If he did not assume it, he did not save it.” This remark, aimed at those who denied that Christ had a human will, is more broadly true. If Christ did not break the bonds of death and hell, which he did, then he is not the Savior. He went to the depths, even to hell, to complete his saving work. He went down to draw us up. He is a vertical line.

After our rescue, Christ poured his Spirit into us. The Spirit is the love of the Father that eternally generates the Son and the absolute love of the Son for the Father. Their shared love freely proceeds into creation and uniquely into those who, by adoption and grace, are united to Christ as a New Creation. The Spirit is in you, the center of your being. The Spirit bears witness to your spirit that you are a child of God. You are embraced by the Son, who is embraced by the Father. Moving from the center outward: The Spirit is in you, and you are in the Son, and the Son is in the Father. In this way, we love and know God.

Look it Up:  Read John 14:20

Think About It:  Overlapping.


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