So, we had a little fun with pictures last week. See below if you're more visual.
We were talking about the Atonement, which, by itself, can be a very stale topic, stale and cerebral.
The Atonement, in Christian theology, is God's work of restoring relationship between himself and us.
The word probably derives from the Middle English, one of the few theological words to do so. As such, we can make out the etymology without resorting to our Latin or French (which is good, because my Latin is horrible and my French needs to be pardoned).
Think of Atonement this way: [at][one][ment]. Two warring parties, put at one with each other, sitting at one table.
The Biblical story talks about a God who created the world and everything in it. This is the God that we are separated from. Something has come between us and Him, a dark cloud, a black rift has formed. This same division also separates us from each other. We are no longer on the same team.
God's work of Atonement blast holes between these divisions.
When we think of atonement, we often think of sacrifices: animals killed on altars, virgins thrown into the mouths of volcanos. But atonement isn't sacrifice. Sacrifice was a means of making atonement, an attempt at restoring relationship.
Our tendency in America is to resist atonement-via-sacrifice in the religious arena.
We like to think that no atonement is necessary, so no sacrifice is necessary. God loves us and is always there for us and will always be willing to help us as long as we have recent, unwrinkled moral currency to put into the cosmic vending machine. Or God doesn't exist at all. There's no division if there's only one side (the human). We think no atonement is necessary.
In the realm of human division, we think that atonement can come through education (if you just get to know each other, you'll like each other). Or maybe through public policy (if we just free people up to do their thing, they'll all just get along). But we sacrifice people all the time: the soldier to bring peace, the voiceless immigrant to make a political point, the gay man to make a religious point, the pastor to make a headline.
The Biblical narrative tells of atonement coming through Jesus Christ: his arrival, his life, his sacrificial death, his resurrection and ascension and return.
The Bible's strange answer to "How do we breach the separation between God and us?" is this:
through and with union to Jesus Christ.