“A” is for Atonement (February 22, 2012)

…Opening To…

The glory of these forty days we celebrate with songs of praise; for Christ, through whom all things were made, himself has fasted and has prayed. (Hymn from the 6th century; trans. Maurice F. Bell)

…Listening In…

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; context)

…Filling Up…

As we did last Lent on devotiONEighty, this Lent we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “A” is for atonement.

Atonement can be a scary word. It is often used in phrases such as “penal substitutionary atonement theory.” Atonement theory covers all the different descriptions of how Jesus Christ’s death on the cross affected creation. They run the gamut, as you might expect. The one I mentioned a few sentences ago says that Jesus suffered the penalty that God put on us for our sins, thereby making it so we didn’t have to suffer it ourselves.

Atonement theories can really color our worldviews because they describe how we view the most important event in history. If someone subscribes to “penal substitutionary atonement theory” then that person is more likely to have an image of God as judge, who has pronounced a guilty verdict over the human race.

The problem with atonement theories is that they are really just simple descriptions or metaphors for what is, at its core, an unexplainable and grace-filled act. By subscribing to one theory, we can miss the fullness of the beauty of the act itself. Christ’s act becomes part of a math equation.

Rather, at its heart, atonement is not about paying for sins. It is about renewing relationship. Whatever description we subscribe to about what happened on that cross and after, the relationship between God and God’s creation was changed in Christ’s act, was made closer somehow. For, in the end, “atonement” is a made up word. It’s a stitched together word. Look at it: “At One”-ment. That’s what atonement is really about.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your Son died on the cross and rose again and somehow changed the course of this world in the act. Help me to live my life as one who is at one with you, through Christ’s love. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glad that you have given me the strength and the will to reflect on my journey with you.

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