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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Manger, the Cross, or the Tomb?

I am looking ahead to Sunday; like preachers everywhere I feel the pressure of the Resurrection Sunday sermon.  It’s a big deal.  So I’m looking at the text from John 20: 1- 8.  And the first thing that strikes me as I read it today is “the tomb”: seven times in this short little pericope and not one mention of the cross.  It’s a small thing.  I know that.  It’s a small thing, but it’s very important. The gospel of John does mention the cross in earlier verses-but the cross is not the important thing.

 “In the Eastern Church, indeed, is wont to gather about the manger, feeling the incarnation to be central; and the Western Church lingers upon Calvary, taking the cross as its symbol, and finding in God’s sacrifice for us in Christ its chief inspiration and compulsion.  But the N.T. itself keeps exalting first of all, most of all, last of all, in the empty grave, finding in that the proofs of Jesus’ victory and that God  is really over all, and that evil and sin, impregnable and ineradicable though they seem, are beaten and doomed.  And if we do not press on there, that is at best to believe a gallant tale that may indeed shame us somewhat out of what we are, even be able to constrain us toward better things, but it is not the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (Gossip 789-790).

As I think about our worship service on Resurrection Sunday, I’m also thinking about what hymns and songs we will sing. Yet as I look through our hymnal-The Salvation Army songbook has an obvious disparity between songs about the Manger, the Cross, and the Tomb.  We have 22 songs in our songbook about the Birth of Jesus, and 36 about the “atoning work” – that is-the cross, and only 15 about the resurrection and ascension – the Tomb. [i]

Gossip, Arthur John. “The Gospel According to St. John: Exposition” in Luke; John Volume 8 of The Interpreter’s Bible. Nashville. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1952.

[i]  We expect a revised, updated version of our songbook very soon – this summer maybe… Will we see this mistaken emphasis corrected?

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