Ephraim Radner on Leviticus

…the details of Leviticus, taken within the sacrificial movement of Christ, demand that we draw into a direct relationship of responsibility with God the range of elements upon which our love, ordered to God, is to be exercised. These necessarily include prayer, disease, sexual relations, moral usage of money, animals, crops and plantings, the poor, civic life, and accountability. Thus, Leviticus provides the theological underpinnings…for understanding the material world of creation in which and through which and for which our Christian lives are to be led: the environment, labor, the use of the human body, property, and so on. It does so by naming these things, but also by placing them particularistically in a relationship to the incorporating love of God—in the character of giving/offering rather than of taking; in the character of cherishing for the sake of God alone rather than for our own sake or for the end of their own denial. That all these things are bound up with the sacrificial acts of the people of God before God means simply that they cannot be rendered subordinate to other ethical matters. They are unavoidable matters of faith. [295]

[…] As its Hebrew title suggests, the book is a calling. The book leads us back into the world—which may seem a strange thing to emphasize as a peculiarly Christian calling. But since that world has, for so long at the hands of Christians, been forgotten, manipulated, or abused simply for lack of love of God, that is, for the negligence of sacrifice, the call is absolutely essential. [299]

[…] So Jesus’s response to the sacrificial calling of the law is to present his own body: “Lo, I have come do to thy will,” something accomplished “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” [288]

from Leviticus, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (2008)

when your enemies AREN’T God’s enemies

Link: Radner on the gospel and the perception of enemies

Just over a month ago Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College @ the University of Toronto, preached the following sermon. I hope it reaches a wide audience — it deserves one. You can find it here: “Hope for Our Enemies.” His text was Acts 9:1-20, Ananias’s healing of Saul.

For those who’d prefer an abridged edition, Radner speaks to how “No one is beyond the work of the Living Lord. No one. [Even our enemies.]”

Don’t let this preview prevent you from reading the text in full, though; it’s worth the time to see how Radner reaches this point. It’s both a convicting antidote to self-righteousness and an eye-opening account of the scope of God’s mercy.

(P.S. for extra credit)

For another solid treatment of what the gospel has to teach us about our perceived enemies, consider the following sermon from Telford Work: “Bible Stories You Didn’t Outgrow: Jonah.”

Bruce Marshall on theologians in a divided church

Bruce Marshall on the role of theologians in a divided church

Even in its self-inflicted suffering and want, the divided church remains Jesus Christ’s own body. He can and will give it new life from the dead, in his own good time. As we await this mysterious outworking of the Triune God’s judgment and grace, we theologians cannot save the church. But we can love it, and put our ancient craft to work in the service of Christ’s body as it is, and not as we would wish it to be. What God will make of our efforts we cannot say, and need not know. Here too, as [Ephraim] Radner reminds us (pp. 10, 354), Israel grants to the church its needed prophetic figure: “You will rise up and have compassion on Zion … For your servants love her very rubble, and are moved to pity even for her dust” (Ps. 102:13-14).

from “The Divided Church and its Theology,” Modern Theology, Vol. 16, No. 3, (2000), 395-6.

Ephraim Radner on Church Unity

Ephraim Radner on the unity of the Church

“To live is to give up and give away parts of ourselves. This is not just a comment about the social character of our lives. Giving up parts of ourselves fuels our very being as persons: it is how we learn, it is how we think, it is how we grow, it is how we make decisions, it is how we love. In giving up, of course, we are also gaining something new, although that is not always obvious, just as it is not always clear what we are losing as we live, at least not until the very end of this or that process. To live is to give up parts of ourselves, and to live fully is to give ourselves away fully. This is the simple Christian corollary of the fundamental character of human living, and it is not a novel claim in the least; ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ […]

“These elements of giving up and of fulfilling at once … all pertain to the Christian Church; they describe who she is and thus finally they describe what it means, given who she is, to be ‘one’ Church, the united Church that so eludes her members and whose lack so subverts her life and purpose. To be ‘one Church’ is to be joined to the unity of the Son to the Father, who, in the Spirit, gives himself away, not in some general flourish of self-denial, but to and for the sake of his enemies, the ‘godless,’ for their life. Not that the Church in fact does this. She does not, and hence she is not one, and finally therefore she is not who she is meant to be. But though she is faithless, yet ‘he remains faithful.’ The woefulness of Christian witness in this world is measured by the distance between these two realities; so too is measured the mercy of God.”

from A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church, (Baylor University Press, 2012), 1-2.