Northeastern Seminary Blog

Hosanna: A Shout of Praise or Cry for Deliverance? ..

Posted on Sat, Apr 04, 2015 @ 10:00 AM

cross_on_scripture“Hosanna!” from two Hebrew words literally meaning, “Save us,” and “cry/pray/beseech.”

“Deliver us, we pray” – “We beseech you, save us!”

On its own, the word is a cry for deliverance. A shout of “hosanna” would not recall occasions of celebration, but of desperation. It would have been a cry born out of great need for a rescuer to come swiftly.

Most of us know “hosanna” only as a word of praise, usually employed to a great extent during worship services on Palm Sunday. Psalm 118 reveals the context which turns a shout of “hosanna” into a shout of rejoicing and adoration:

“This is the day of the Lord’s victory; let us be happy, let us celebrate! Save us, LORD, save us! Give us success, O LORD! May God bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD! From the Temple of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God; he has been good to us. With branches in your hands, start the festival and march around the altar. You are my God, and I give you thanks; I will proclaim your greatness. Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal.” – Psalm 118:24-29 (GNT, emphasis added)

It was this Psalm that the crowds were remembering aloud in their shouts of “hosanna” as Jesus rode toward Jerusalem on a donkey. That moment we remember on Palm Sunday prompts me to consider the crowds and what my own cries would have been had I been among them. With loud cries of “hosanna” they proclaimed the mighty rescuing power of the one they were welcoming into their midst and yet revealed their own desperate need to be saved as they would shout for his death days later.

“Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” is both the recognition of our need for deliverance and a shout of expectation, hope and praise to the God who saves.

Caleb Matthews ( M.Div. ‘12) serves as director of admissions for Northeastern Seminary.

Tags: Lent, reflection

Looking for the Resurrection from the Dead, Life of the World to Come

Posted on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 @ 03:34 PM

I entered into lent this year captivated by the idea of anticipating the resurrection. It has been 10 years since I began to observe Lent. During those years I have fasted from habits and I have fasted from food. I have contemplated dying to self, wrestling with sin, and receiving forgiveness. But this year as I entered Lent I was captivated by the anticipation of the Resurrection.

It began as I lent image thumbwas preparing my homily for the last Sunday after Epiphany. The reading was Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration in chapter 17. I have preached on the Transfiguration twice a year since I was ordaineda priest 4 years ago. The bonus of preaching from the lectionary is that I don’t have to worry about finding a passage to preach on every week. The down side is that certain passages repeat so many times I worry that I will run out of sermons.

As I stared at the passage Matthew 17 I thought this was going to be one of those moments that I dread. I approached the moment where a preacher ceases to delivery inspiration and offers up information instead. In frustration I asked myself why I had to preach on the Transfiguration twice, once before Lent and again in August. None of the other events in Jesus’ life get the same amount of air time. So what makes the Transfiguration so important?

It was at that moment that I had an epiphany: The transfiguration is a foreshadowing of The World to Come. We see this as Jesus is viewed in his perfected body, a point the disciples are forbidden to talk about until after the resurrection. We also see this foreshadowing of the World to Come in Peter’s desire to build tabernacles, a recognition that God is dwelling in their midst and one of the few Jewish feasts that will be celebrated in the Messianic age (Zechariah 14:16).

There is a line at the very end of the Nicene Creed that gets mumbled through as if it were merely a footnote. This line points to the reason the Gospel is truly the good news. “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the World to Come.” That was it! That funny obscure line at the end of the creed was the reason I had to preach on the transfiguration twice a year. That anticipation of the Resurrection and the World to Come is why we read the Transfiguration before Lent. That anticipation of the Resurrection and the World to Come is precisely the reason why we observe Lent.  Sure there is the part about spiritual discipline, of self sacrifice, of repentance and restoration but the reason behind all of those things is “the Resurrection and the World to Come.”

Lent is far more about life than it is about death. Death has been defeated! I can’t wait until Easter morning to shout, “Hallelujah!” 

Fr. Andrew Wyns (MA '08) has served as the executive director of Bridges of New York, a
transitional housing program for addicts and parolee's and as the priest in residence at Christ the King Church in New Paltz, N.Y.  He is currently serving as the Dean of the Cathedral of the Northeast for the Charismatic Episcopal Church in North America.


Tags: personal formation, Lent, resurrection, transfiguration, spiritual formation

Our Struggles—Danger, Punishment, Reward

Posted on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 @ 12:24 PM

iStock candles SmallbO wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24

"By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what precedent can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I can condemn him I am reconciled to him, before I can punish him I bow down to him and feel sorry for him. How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? ... I embrace him. And I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle this mixture of body and soul?" (John Climacus Step 15)

Our struggle can earn a crown or punishment, says St. John. The struggle with the flesh is a real struggle that has been a theological hairball for a long time. We say that grace overcomes all things and indeed it does, but why is there still such a struggle. In us are yearnings of the spirit that are in conflict with the passions of the body. Lust, pride, covetousness, wrath, self-pity, and the like wage war against the gentleness, love, patience, and peace of the inner man. 

In this struggle is the danger of despair which is a precursor of death and is a sin because the soul marries grief and guilt while rejecting repentance. It is the embrace of condemnation. The darkness overwhelms us and swallows us whole in temptation, trials and defeats. The mortal hollowness collapses under the weight of judgment. Our flesh, unruly as it is, is our eternal companion who will rise with us at the judgment to bear witness to our struggle. The struggle matters and that it is won matters too.

God has given many aids to overcome this situation. There is confession and contrition, a medicine of antiquity. There is the brotherhood where prayers are offered. Additionally there are the scriptures, vigils and contemplation. If we are successful in faith the flesh will enter the glory of Christ with us.  If we indulge the flesh, it will bear witness that and lead us to perdition. So the struggle is not the success; rather, it is in the outcome of the struggle we are rewarded. We succeed in faith through grace which enflames, illuminates, and enables our lives. It is Christ who saves us, after all. We are called to make the sojourn here complete by struggling for the spirit and against the flesh for the lifespan of our years. Glory be …

Fr. John Mark McMonagle, D.Min. ’11, is pastor of Saint Brendan the Navigator Western Orthodox Mission, Honeoye Falls, N.Y.


Tags: personal formation, Lent, spiritual formation, redemption, personal stuggle

A Call to Repentance

Posted on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 02:18 PM

describe the imageIn the Old Testament book of Joel, we see the author warning the Israelites about a plague of locusts which will come and overtake their lands, destroying their crops, and leaving them with no food. This coming locust invasion is the direct result of their disobedience to God. But it’s not too late, this invasion can be stopped if the people will just repent of their sins and follow God. 

In 2 Corinthians, we also see a call to repentance. Paul is telling the Corinthians that they too need to be reconciled with God. There is one big difference between the two, however. Had we kept reading in Joel, in verse 28 we would have seen the promise of the coming Savior. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” The difference between the two is that the Savior had come. God’s Spirit has been poured out on all people. 

Still, the call to repentance was just as real for the people of Corinth in the 1st century, as it was for the people of Israel 900 years earlier. And that call to repentance is just as real for us today, too. Because even though we know Jesus as our Savior, even though the Spirit has been poured out on us, we too struggle with sin. We still struggle to do the right thing, and not do the wrong thing. The ways of the world still look so inviting.

Paul knew all too well what it’s like to struggle with sin. He was no “holier than thou” prophet that didn’t understand what he was asking. He knew first hand. He confessed this in his letter to the Romans, in Chapter 7. He wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing.”  Does it sound like Paul was struggling with sin? You bet he was. At times in his life he struggled with doing the right thing. Sin was ever around him tempting him. 

Does his description of his struggle with sin sound like your struggle with sin? He doesn’t tell us what sin he struggled with—it really doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that he struggled too. He could relate to us all to well in this regard. What did he do? Did he give up? He was a preacher, an apostle, who struggled with sin—he should have given up, shouldn’t he? I mean, really, if he couldn’t get past this sin struggle, what hope do we have? We might be tempted to think that because we struggle with sin that we should give up. No. Paul didn’t give up because as much as he knew the power of sin, he also knew the grace of God. And so he kept going. And he urged the Corinthians to keep going. And he urges us today to keep going. Because God’s grace is stronger than the power of sin.   

Steven Dygert (M.Div. ‘02) is pastor of Almond Union of Churches in Almond, N.Y.

Tags: personal formation, Lent, spiritual formation, redemption, personal stuggle

Growth in the Night Times of Life

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 09:45 PM

bud sproutIn the Deep South, although the first day of spring is still officially a few weeks away, the plants and trees around my neighborhood are beginning to show signs of re-birth. Winter is slipping away. Shoots and blossoms, while mostly dormant at present, will soon burst forth with glorious expression.

Shoots and blossoms also appear in an interesting story in Numbers 17. Aaron’s rod that budded and that was later placed in the Ark of the Covenant, may be something of a metaphor of the resurrection of our Lord and of the fruitfulness of His gospel ministry. Like a “root from dry ground” and the “the stump of Jesse,” He became that “shoot” that grew up and that “branch” that sprouted (Is. 53:2, 11:1).

Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the meeting tent. The next day Moses entered the covenant tent, and Aaron’s staff of Levi’s household had sprouted. It grew shoots, produced blossoms, and bore almonds (Numbers 17:7-8).

From the context, this was God’s way of revealing the family and person He had selected to be priest. God’s lesson to this rebellious element of His people is that no one could take the honor of priesthood or service upon himself. The priest was to be chosen and appointed by God. As W. A. Criswell said many years ago, Aaron’s rod “had been quickened and made alive in the night, in the tomb, in the dark; and it had buds and blossoms and fruit upon it.”[1]

In similar fashion, God has shown the world that only His Christ, His Son, would be the firstborn from the dead, and that no person on earth is capable of such powerful demonstration. God’s Son, Jesus Christ became the firstfruits of all who would rise from the dead. He would blossom, bloom, and produce almonds, (fruitfulness), because He was God’s choice for man’s redemption.

What strikes me about this story in Numbers is that something happened—during the night, in the darkness. As we are now on a journey, the journey we call the Lenten season, we enter a time when we remember the passion of our Lord. This is a season wherein we seek to identify with Christ’s renunciation of self; a time, so to speak, of darkness, a dark period, a dark night, one in which we contemplate our Savior’s loneliness, rejection by men, and denial of himself. Embracing our cross as He fully embraced His, spending some time in solitude, alone, recalling his rejection and suffering, may enable us to bud with the Spirit’s fruitfulness. Oh, that we might blossom with shoots of grace and like Christ Himself, burst forth with glorious expression!

Gary Brady (D.Min. ‘12) is pastor of Newberry United Methodist Church in Newberry, Fla.



Tags: personal formation, desiring God, Lent, growth, spiritual formation, fruitful