As it was in the beginning…

  1. Philip Cary

We could say: in Christ, God has entered the drama of human history. But it might be more accurate to say that through Christ human history is caught up in the drama between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unfolding in the Gospel. For to receive Christ in faith is to participate in his story and share his life. By faith alone we abide in Christ as he abides in us, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God, and when he appears we shall appear with him and be like him. Being incorporated into Christ’s body, we are brought into the drama that is the eternal life of the Trinity.

from The Meaning of Protestant Theology (Baker, 2019), 310.

2. Donald Fairbairn

We can understand and appreciate the various aspects of Christian teaching and Christian life in relation to the fundamental relationship between the Father and the Son. God created us to share in this relationship and gave us a share in the communion of the Trinity at creation. This is the primary thing that we lost through the Fall. God’s promise after the Fall, around which one may organize the entire history and teaching of the Old Testament, was ultimately a promise that the Son of God would come to bring human beings back into a share in the communion of the Trinity. In fulfillment of this promise, God the Son personally entered human life by becoming man while remaining God, and in his human life he showed us both God’s love and perfect human love. At his crucifixion, God the Son bore in his own person our estrangement from God; as man he was crushed by our sin, and as man he was forsaken in our place by his own Father. Through his resurrection and ascension, he was restored as man to the fellowship of the Trinity which he had always shared as God, and in the process he opened the way for people who are united to him by faith to be restored to fellowship with the Trinity as well. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father and the Son sent to earth, dwells in believers, uniting us to the Son and thus granting us the participation in the Father-Son relationship that became possible through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Through the Spirit, Christians are called to live—both individually and as the church—so as to anticipate the time when God will transform the entire created world and bring his dwelling here to be with his people for eternity.*

from Life in the Trinity (IVP Academic, 2010), 232-233.

*one of the better single-paragraph summaries of Christian faith I’ve come across in a while

John Calvin on this troubled life

In the end, we rightly profit from the discipline of the cross when we learn that this life, considered in itself, is troubled, turbulent, attended by many miseries, and never entirely happy, and that whatever things we consider good in this life are uncertain, passing, vain, and spoiled because they’re mixed with many evils. And from this we likewise conclude that we should expect and hope for nothing other than trouble in this life, and that we should set our eyes on heaven where we expect our crown. So, indeed, we ought to realize that our souls will never seriously rise to the desire and contemplation of the future life until they’ve been soaked in scorn for this present life.

from A Little Book on the Christian Life Trans. Denlinger and Parsons (Ligonier, 2017), 91-92.

Martin Luther on the present Christ

See how different Christ is from his successors, although they all would wish to be his vicars. A man is a vicar only when his superior is absent. If the pope rules, while Christ is absent and does not dwell in his heart, what else is he but a vicar of Christ? What is the church under such a vicar but a mass of people without Christ? Indeed, what is such a vicar but an antichrist and an idol? How much more properly did the apostles call themselves servants of the present Christ and not vicars of an absent Christ?

from “An Open Letter to Pope Leo X” (1520) in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Ed. Tim Lull (1989), 594.

[Polemically stated, to be sure, but worth bearing in mind the distinction between serving a present Christ and standing in for an absent Christ.]

Phillip Cary on Remembering Sermons

Here’s what I think success in teaching looks like. I remember how my life was changed when I repeatedly witnessed a man in the act of loving a poem. My English professor in college, Dr. Richard Stang of Washington University, kept delving so deeply into the poems he taught and showing us how to do likewise, that I no longer remember much of what he said. In part because of his example, I’ve had so many encounters with poetry since then that I can no longer tell what I learned from him and what I learned later. I no longer remember his words, but I do remember the poems. They have been part of my life ever since he first introduced me to them.

That’s what a teacher’s success looks like. It works the same way, I think when you’re teaching the word of Christ. The congregation doesn’t need to remember the words of your sermon. What matters is that God’s word has once again made its way into their hearts and etched itself a little deeper there, so that Christ himself may dwell in their hearts by faith. That’s the ongoing formation of the heart that makes the really lasting change in our lives. 

from Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do (2010), 188-9.

PS from Gilbert Meilaender

We should not aim at a sermon that people can remember and discuss over the dinner table. That notion–“What was the sermon about today?”–encourages us to think of the sermon as something to be remembered: a piece of teaching and application. But it is not. A sermon is a moment of proclamation within the worship of the congregation. A moment in which to seek a way to let God’s love for us be spoken.

from “Forde, Jenson, and Preaching,” Dialog 30.1 (1991), 59.