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Faces Around the Cross: Bad Guys
by:Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

We are looking at “Faces Around the Cross.” We have already looked at the clergy, and the soldiers. Today we look at the Bad Guys. I have used the term “bad guys” to refer to those who were crucified alongside Jesus. Of course, we might just as easily call them “victims,” for many of those who were crucified by the Romans were arguably kinder, gentler, better people than many of those who carried out the crucifixions.

The tradition of two others being crucified alongside of Jesus is well established. It is mentioned in each of the four gospels.

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Faces Around the Cross: The Soldiers
by: Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

We are looking at “Faces Around the Cross.” According to the gospels an undetermined number of Roman soldiers witnessed the death of Jesus. Matthew and Mark both mention that a whole battalion mocked Jesus while he was still Pilate’s prisoner. A Roman battalion consisted of between 400 and 600 Men. John mentions that 4 soldiers gambled for the clothing of Jesus at the foot of the cross. The number of soldiers who witnessed the crucifixion lies between these two extremes. All three synoptic gospels mentions one officer, a centurion. The very title “centurion” means “leader of 100.” Given the division of opinion about Jesus in the city of Jerusalem during the week before his death—many loved him and many hated him, it may be that the centurion used rather more of his company than less for crowd control as he took Jesus from the place of judgment, through the streets of the city, to the place of execution.

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FACES AROUND THE CROSS:THE CLERGY
by: Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.
Mark 15:31-36

During the season of Lent I invite you to look with me at a few of the faces around the cross. We do not know how many witnessed the Execution of Jesus, we do know that people responded in a variety of ways.

The vast majority of the crowd who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus regretted it and were saddened by it. They thought his death the bad end of a good man. No doubt many of them remembered it for the rest of their lives, like we who lost no loved ones in the tragedy remember the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The twelve, the women, and those who followed Jesus from Galilee took it harder. These were they who regarded Jesus not just as a prophet, but as the Messiah, the Son of God, who would deliver Israel from Roman occupation, and lead the nation into a new era of peace and prosperity. He was also their companion and friend. The grief of this second group was deeper than that of the first group but it did not last nearly so long. As Jesus himself once said to his them:

Truly, truly, I say unto you that you shall weep and lament…you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

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This is the 1st of 8 sermons on The Eight Essentials of the Moravian Church as described by several general synods held in the 19th century. They are no longer the official doctrine of our church, having been replaced in 1957 with a statement of theology known as “The Ground of the Unity.” The Ground of the Unity can be found on this site on the “Parish Papers” page. Though the Eight Essentials no longer represent the official theology of our church, they are still representative of the “kerygma” or “preaching” of the early Church, notably the list of Eight Essentials closely parallels the preaching of the Apostles in the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles. Once learned these essentials are wonderful “pegs” onto which to hand the various doctrines of the New Testament that make up what the New Testament calls ” the Good News,” “the gospel” or “the gospel of Christ.” This sermon is a DVD sermon. The text of the sermon is pretty much what was said on Sunday. The notes add information. I recommend that one read the sermon first, then read the notes, thus gaining additional insights into the texts.

This morning I take up the first of the Eight Essentials. This first essential has been published in various forms since the General Synod of 1818. It reads:

The doctrine of the universal depravity of humanity; that since the fall, no health remains in humankind, and we are powerless to save ourselves.

The first essential makes three assumptions: 1) All human beings are sinners. 2) Sin exercises great power over us, and we are sick with it, individually and corporately. 3) We are powerless to help, heal or save ourselves. If this first essential were an advertising slogan it would read:

“Humankind has fallen, and we can’t get up.”

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When I was on Sabbatical, I spent many hours reading books and essays by skeptics, doubters, and militant atheists. I read them so that I could stand before you in the integrity and sincerity of my convictions to advocate the Way of faith. In my reading, I hit upon a two-fold truth. On the one hand, most agnostics and atheists have abandoned faith in God precisely because they cannot reconcile the idea of a loving God with all the pain and suffering in our world, a wold that lives under a sentence of death. On the other hand, when they begin their attack on God, they always begin by attacking the god of the philosophers and deists, in that they usually begin by attacking the philosophical proofs for the existence of God.

I found this interesting because we Moravians have never bothered to defend the god of the philosophers and deists. Rather, we proclaim the God the New Testament calls, “The God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Consider if you will the 2nd of the Eight Essentials. It does not proclaim “the love of God” for the world. It proclaims “the love of God the Father for the world.” The mere mention of “God the Father” reminds us of “God the Son.”
Continue reading 2nd Essential: The Love of God the Father

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