Tag Archives: Lamb

Being ambushed

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior,
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth
and for the sake of justice. (Psalm 45:3-4)

In this morning’s reading from the book of Joshua, we have the story of the ambush of the city of Ai by the people of Israel. Joshua gives a sign, and the plan goes into action.

When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. (Joshua 8:21-22)

It’s a pretty straightforward description of the Israelites’ false retreat successfully drawing out the people from the city, then surprising them with a rearguard cutting the people of Ai off so they could not return to safety.

The only thing that keeps the ambush of Ai from being plain history is that the Israelites attribute their winning to the Lord’s leading.

In the Gospel passage appointed for today, we have the story of a different ambush.

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” (Matt. 26:47-48)

Again, at the agreed signal, the victim is drawn out and encircled, and the ambush succeeds. But in a plot twist no one expects, Jesus doesn’t resist. “Put your sword back into its place,” he says, “for all who take the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). He is taken from the garden by the religious authorities, and he is put to death as a criminal.

The only thing that keeps the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane from being plain history is that generations of Christians have attributed their living to the Lord’s dying.

The mystery that Jesus reveals is that God does not lead us in ambushing others. God invites us, rather, to follow Jesus, the “Lamb that was slain,” in being ambushed, not “trusting in our own righteousness, but in [God’s] manifold and great mercies” (BCP 337).

A Song to the Lamb (Dignus es)
Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10, 13

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;

And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.

And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.

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Undefended, humble, and alive to God

Christ our Passover

Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia. (BCP 83)

Victory through sacrifice

In early Christian art, Christ is often depicted as a Passover lamb, sometimes flanked by twelve other lambs representing the apostles.

By the Middle Ages, it was more common to show the lamb holding a banner or pennant symbolizing the resurrection. This is the image commonly known as the “Agnus Dei,” Latin for Lamb of God.

The Agnus Dei is a symbol of victory through sacrifice.

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” we say when we break the bread at the Eucharist. “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again” we sing at Morning Prayer throughout Easter.

Surely trusting in God’s defense

In the Collect for Peace, which we pray on Tuesday mornings, we ask God to “Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord” (BCP 99).

We do not ask to be delivered from assaults; we ask to be defended in assaults.

And we pray that we may not fear any other power, because of the might — the sacrificial, self-offering mighty power — of Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain.

As we “consider ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord” we can embrace the same self-giving love that Jesus demonstrated.

Undefended, humble, and alive to God, we need not fear any adversaries. Alleluia!

Visions of peace

Four Evangelists cross from the Printery House

Four Evangelists cross from the Printery House

Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices with Angels and Archangels
and with all the company of heaven,
who forever sing this hymn
to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord; God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. (BCP 362)

Today the assigned readings and the canticles appointed for the day line up perfectly to create a single unifying image for Morning Prayer.

In the Book of Ezra, we read about the rebuilding of the Temple following the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon. They are restoring the site of their worship, and with them we picture their prayers once more ascending to God, with incense surrounding the golden cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant.

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;
you are worthy of praise; glory to you ….
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
(Canticle 13, BCP 90)

In the Revelation to John, we similarly see a vision of restoration, of worship to God in the heavenly City, the new Jerusalem. John describes his vision of a throne surrounded by 24 thrones, on which are seated 24 elders, in front of whom are seven torches and a sea of glass, and around whom are the “four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind.”

Christian tradition has long associated the four living creatures — “at his feet the six-winged seraph; cherubim with sleepless eye” (Hymn 324) — with the four Evangelists: Matthew like a lion, Mark like a man, Luke like an ox, and John like an eagle.

In Canticle 18, we respond to the reading with the same song the angels and elders are singing around the throne:

And so, to him who sits upon the throne,
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor,
for ever and for evermore.
(BCP 94)

Now, if that were the whole story, that would be enough — a nice symmetry making Morning Prayer extra lovely. Fine.

But there’s even more.

These visions of a restored Temple, of a City with the Lamb at its center, were recorded in order to give comfort to God’s people in hard times. The exiles were struggling to recover their sense of self, and it seemed like the grinding bureaucracy of the Babylonian empire might slow down or stop their building project. The early Christian communities of John’s time were beginning to be thrown out of the synagogues where they had been worshiping and to experience persecution by the Roman empire.

These are not just lovely songs, but visions of peace meant to sustain God’s people in times of trouble.

How will you imagine peace in your life today? What images will help you get through your struggles?

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)