Bringing the Text to Life

The Outstretched Arms John 2:13-22

This week offers the challenge of confronting the scandal of the cross head-on. In order to prepare for Easter, the Church must first recognize just how shocking Jesus'' death by crucifixion is and be able to make some theological sense out of it.

At almost no other time of the year does the church become such a cesspool of stagnant cliches and phantom phrases as during Lent. Perhaps, then, Lent is a good time for some doctrinal preaching that can help your parishioners come to a renewed appreciation for the scandal of the gospel. If the cross is the "criticism and criterion" of all theology, we had better be clear about what we mean when we sing "The Old Rugged Cross." In the words of Frances Young, whose chapter on the atonement entitled "The Outstretched Arms" provides this Sunday's sermon title: "So how are we to understand the cross? The arms outstretched - are they a demonstration of justice done, victory won, and life begun? Or are they a symbol of pain, anguish, and sin? Or are they a gesture of welcoming love? How could they possibly be any of these things, anyway?" (Can These Dry Bones Live [London: SCM Press, 1982], 22).

Over the centuries the Church has developed three traditional answers to the question of the...

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