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April 21, 2013 | 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.

Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble

J. Randall O’Brien
President, Carson-Newman University

Isaiah 9:2, 6−7
2 Corinthians 5:15–21
Revelation 7:9–17

 

God is re-creating the world through Christ in the church.

Richard Hays



The Easter season calls us to sober reflection, to spiritual renewal.

Let us return to the cross and stay awhile, and not leave the cross behind
in our rush to Easter joy.
For we know the Risen Lord only through Christ and him crucified.

Let us stay awhile at the cross.
It is finished.
But it is not over.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

When I think of the beautiful and good creation God intended . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Eden. Paradise. Peace.
Beauty. Truth. Goodness.
Creator and friends . . . walking together in the cool of the day.

Intimacy. Love. Joy.

Still waters.
Green pastures.

Butterflies winging.
Bluebirds singing.

Happy trees handing out juicy fruit.

Justice rolling down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Harmony. Heavenly Home . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

When I think of the corruption God got . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Vile rebellion. Alienation. Sin.
O Garden of Life, now our Chamber of Death.

Something has gone terribly wrong!

From the apple lodged in Adam’s throat,
to the blood of Abel on Cain’s hands soaked.
From Canaanite pagan altars,
to David’s and Bathsheba’s falters.

From Auschwitz,
to Hiroshima.
From Saigon,
to Tehran.
From Newtown,
to our town.

Something has gone terribly wrong.

From terrorists and road race bombers,
to murder and rape numbers.

From sex trafficking, drug abuse, and ubiquitous crime,
to sinful, hypocritical Randall O’Brien.

Something has gone terribly wrong!

     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

When I think of the Horror of the Cross . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

“Were you there when they nailed him to a tree?”

Judas. Barabbas. Pilate.
You. Me. We?

Jesus murdered.
Christ tortured.
Quivering ribbons of flesh.
God nailed to a tree.

“Sticks ’n stones may break my bones, but words hurt worst of all.”

“Save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!”

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He’s the King of Israel;
let him come down from the cross; then we will believe in him.”

“He trusts in God; let God deliver him, if he delights in him; for he said, ‘I am
the Son of God.’”

“Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

When I think of the Love of Christ, and the Power of the Resurrection . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”

“Alas and did my Savior bleed
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?”

O my. “While we were yet sinners, God loved us and Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“Not my will,” he prayed, “but thy will be done.”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If anyone is in Christ—New Creation! The old is gone, the new has come.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Ah, New Creation community! God is re-creating the world, through Christ,
in the church.
Sweet Colony of Heaven on Earth!

“He is risen!
Jesus is Lord.
Let us love one another,” exclaimed the early church.

Ah . . . Sweet Paradise regained.
Home. 

      Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

When I think of the church today  . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Are we once again drinking madly from the cup of death?

What has gone wrong with the New Creation?
O New Humanity, born of labor pangs of the Christ, where art thou?

Why is 11:00 Sunday yet the most segregated hour in America?
Where might be found racial justice, gender equality, sanctity of life—
all life—all God’s children?

Where might one find “God’s will being done, on earth as it is in heaven?”

O justice where are thou?
Brother or Bother?

Black. White.
Gay. Straight.
Alien. Citizen.
Prisoner. Free.
Christian. Muslim.

How lingers our fallen-ness.

Christ rejected then, rejected now—by the world.
Not by the church! Please tell me, “not by the church!”
Is the Bride of Christ faithful? Or adulterous?

Dare we transform the gospel, rather than be transformed by the gospel?
Blessings for wars and rumors of wars: Is Caesar Lord?
Greed ignores need: Is Mammon god?  

Is the church today the cross upon which Christ is crucified?

     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

When I think of the Creation to come . . .
     Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

O Glad Grace!
O Hopeful Journey!

O what a God!
O what a story!

O what a plot!
Creation—Corruption—New Creation—Creation to Come!

God wins!
The Church wins!
We win!

God, not evil, has the final say.
Christ takes the victory lap.

“He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21.5)

“I am the resurrection and the life!”

“Write, for these things are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21.5)

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne
     and in front of the Lamb. . . .
And never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
     . . .  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7: 9–17)

Ah, but let us not leave behind the cross—as we rush on to Easter joy—
nor sing with amnesia, our Hallelujah Chorus.

Let us return to the Hill called The Skull.
Let us stay awhile at the foot of the cross.
Let us be still and reflect . . .

And repent .  . .

Each of us.

For we know the Risen Lord, only through Jesus Christ crucified.
And it is we who crucified our Lord.

So we sing. And so we pray:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to a tree?
Were you there when they laid him in a tomb?

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Sometimes it causes me to tremble.