Chaplain’s Letter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As I write this, we are preparing ourselves for the culmination of Lent with Holy Week, the pilgrimage with Jesus to Jerusalem and to the Cross, before we can celebrate with joy on Easter Eve and Easter Day Christ’s resurrection.

I have been leading a series of classes for students preparing for confirmation and we are looking through the Catechism of the Anglican Church, found on p. 289 of the Book of Common Prayer. Last week we were looking at Who is God? – a question that we could and should ponder every night for the rest of our lives! But the Church has helped us with gathering up at least a few core things that we can say with certainty about who God is. They are summarized in the Creeds, which include short statements, each coming from the Bible. The Catechism says that what we learn about the Son of God is that he has redeemed me and all mankind.

To be redeemed, is another way of saying that we are saved. But how does that redemption or salvation happen?

I recently found what I think is a very helpful video by Bishop Kallistos Ware, a metropolitan bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Great Britain. You can find the link by clicking here: “Kallistos Ware – Salvation in Christ Part 1”. There are three videos (Parts 1 (22 min), Part 2 (22 min) and Part 3 (16 min)) totalling one hour. Bishop Ware has a gentle fatherly manner and a very pleasant dry English humour!

In the videos he goes through 6 models or allegories that are used in the New Testament to speak of the saving work of Jesus Christ. You might find it helpful to watch the 3 short videos as we go through Holy Week this year.

The six models Bp Ware considers, giving the biblical references in the Old and New Testaments to these models throughout, are:

  1. Christ the Teacher: Enlightening us about the truth about God
  2. Christ as the Ransom: Arduous reparation made on our behalf
  3. Christ as the Sacrifice
    1. Christ as Atoning Sacrifice
    2. Christ as Satisfaction for our sins
    3. Christ as Substitute, punished for our sins
  4. Christ the Victor: Over sin, death and the devil
  5. Christ as the Example: Love in action
  6. Christ as Exchange: God to man and man to God – our deification

What Bishop Ware wants to emphasize in his talk are that each of these models are helpful in understanding the saving work of Jesus Christ and we should not limit ourselves to one model or understanding. He also wants to show us ways in which each model should not be pressed too far or misunderstood, that it breaks down if wrongly understood and that on its own it would be insufficient. He also suggests that these are not the only models, but that one might also find other models in the Bible.

He suggests four helpful questions that we can ask ourselves to assess each of these models or metaphors used in the Bible:

  1. Does the model suggest a change in God or in us? It should not suggest a change in God!
  2. Does the model separate Christ from the Father? It should not!
  3. Does it isolate the Cross from the Incarnation and Resurrection? It should not!
  4. Does it suggest Christ just appeals to our feelings, just a subjective change – or did He change our situation objectively? It should suggest an objective change in our situation.

Bp Ware begins by recalling an incident in his early life when he was a priest and travelling on the train in England. As an Orthodox priest he would have been wearing his black cassock and a cross on a chain around his neck. He was asked by a man sitting across from him on the train, “Are you saved?” And he has a good answer to that question, but I won’t tell here – you will have to listen to the video to hear his answer 🙂

This time of year, Holy Week and Easter, is a time for us to particularly reflect on our salvation in Christ and what it really means for us. How has the teaching about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done – his coming to earth to become one of us, his life and teaching and miracles, his death and resurrection and ascension – impacted the way we live out our lives today? How would you answer these questions if you were asked by a stranger: “Are you saved?” and “Tell me how this has affected how you live your life today?”

I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and joyous Easter, in the love of Jesus Christ!