Fleming Rutledge

 

Fleming Rutledge spent twenty-two years in parish ministry. She is notable for being one of the first women to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. She has written several books, and has many good resources online. Some of her best works are:

  • God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament
  • The Undoing of Death
  • The Battle for Middle-earth
  • Help My Unbelief
  • …and my favorite, Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Quotes

“Paul’s message was a direct assault on the stability of the Roman Empire. The first Christian creed was Kurios Iesous, “Jesus is Lord.” I’m not sure that we can adequately imagine how subversive this was. In those days it was emphatically not the slogan of the winning team. It is hard for us in America, with our cathedrals and mega churches, to understand what it was like for Christians in the city of Rome in those days. We don’t have anything to compare it to. We haven’t had the experience of being a subject population under a world-dominating empire – we are the world-dominating empire (for the moment).” Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“God chose what is foolish, weak, low, and despised in the world precisely to shame those who consider themselves wise, strong and powerful. This is what we call counter intuitive, to say the least. It would have been easy for God to show his power through the powerful. That wouldn’t have been a challenge for God at all. Arrangements would have just stayed the same as they already were. In fact, you would hardly need God for that; God could just add something on to what had already been achieved. Indeed, the American creed is that God helps those who help themselves. “Self-help,” a term that would have been unthinkable for Paul, is part of American religion.” Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“This is human nature; if something unflattering is being said, we would like it to be about some other person or group. That’s why Paul sentence, “There is no distinction; all have sinned,” is so startling. It levels the playing field beyond recognition; there is no advanced placement here, no inner circle, no honor roll. There is no distinction.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“The fraternity of Adam is the most comprehensive community of all, for it is universal. Sin came into the world through one person and death through sin, and so death spread to all humanity because all humans sinned…Human solidarity in bondage to the power of sin is one of the most important of all concepts for Christians to grasp.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“The sacrifice of Jesus our Lord is this: he has gone into the Day of Judgment utterly alone, separated from the Father, taking the sentence of condemnation upon himself, bearing it away from us. This is the Gospel. This is the good news of the Christian faith. There has been an invasion from on high. The landing troops have arrived. Neutrality is no longer possible. Satan is slashing and burning, but he is in retreat. His time will come. There is no longer any room for self-deception, excuses, denial or evasion, for as C.S. Lewis puts it, ‘Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.’ It is the Lord Jesus Christ that disarms us.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“The story of God and his world begins and comes to its consummation in his inexhaustible love.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Our gracious Lord does not wait for us to perfect ourselves. He sees us entangled in Sin and Death, and he comes to meet us and liberate us from the grip of this terrible Enemy. He comes to meet us when we are at our very worst, for when he was crucified there we were, the human race at its utmost worst.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Everyone sings ‘Amazing Grace’ but a great many people who sing it haven’t a clue what it means. The true sign of the grace of God at work is the confession of a redeemed sinner. If you think that you don’t need anyone to die for your sins, then you don’t need Christianity – or rather, you think you don’t, which is another matter. If tonight, however, you know that you need a Savior, then you are blessed indeed. You can go home joyful and renewed. Christ emptied himself out, poured himself out, for you. He himself, God the Son, voluntarily offered himself up to die the death of one who was enslaved by sin and death, because that is exactly what we were – enslaved by sin and death. He took our place, he paid the price, he exchanged our destiny for his, so that we would be released from that dreadful bondage forever.” Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“The unrighteousness of all humanity is no match for the righteousness of God.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“God did not come to congratulate the worthy but to save sinners, meaning you and me…and that means that there is nothing in the universe, and especially not the Wrath of God, that can condemn us, because in the Cross of Christ, God himself – the Father and Son acting together – God himself has found the way to absorb, neutralize, and satisfy his own wrath.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Abraham, far from being a model of righteousness, is first and foremost the original justified sinner, the original ‘ungodly’ person who is reshaped by God into godliness, not because of his own deeds but because of the God who does the unimaginable thing – the God who justifies, rectifies, redeems, and remakes the least acceptable, most ungodly person.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“There is not one of us who can claim any sort of special merit for who we are or what we do. Rather, we are a community of sinners who are daily rediscovering our utter dependence on the faithfulness and mercy of God.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“God, looking upon our sin and our need, has had mercy upon us. He has unilaterally reckoned us righteous. We stand on the same ground as our great father Abraham. Our ground for boasting is the same as his – not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Generic religiosity cannot compare to the promise of a transformed future in the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord, a very real human person who is at the same time God, who enfolded friend and enemy alike into his transforming embrace, who stared down Pontius Pilate with a sovereign self-command that still speaks, who gave himself up to the depth of the terrorist infrastructure in the human heart yet emerged victorious on the other side of the grave. Rejoice today. For this is the God who raises the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Only the converted think of themselves as sinners. The unconverted won’t have anything to do with the idea. That’s why we reject the gospel; we don’t like thinking of ourselves as sinners. Let’s get rid of all that gloomy talk about sin, people say. Nobody wants to come to church to hear about sin. We’re all Pharisees of one sort of another, you see. That’s why we resist the gospel which tells us ‘while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for us.’ We don’t like that part about being helpless, so we substitute another gospel, the American gospel: ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ As many polls have shown, vast numbers of Americans think that comes from the Bible. It can’t be said too many times: it does not come from the Bible. The Bible tells us exactly the opposite: When we could not help ourselves, Christ died for us.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Christianity at its deepest center is not religious. The cross is too offensive to be religious. Paul was the first person to put that into written words. He referred to the cross as a scandal. If you look up ‘religion’ in the dictionary, you will notice that all the definitions are about us – human beings. We are the doers. Systems of belief, worship, prayer, rituals – these are the things that we do in seeking after God. But the story of the Bible is not the story of our seeking after God. It is the story of God seeking after us. ‘Adam, where are you?’ Those are the first words Adam heard after he rebelled and plunged the entire creation into Sin and Death. The work of redemption is God’s and God’s alone.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“What is the Triduum? It is the three sacred services of this week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the service of the Resurrection. They go together. If you aren’t here for all three, you will miss the sequence of salvation. Enemies seated around the same table, fed by the same bread, sharing the same cup, falling asleep, abandoning him, running away to hide, denying him three times – yet reconciled by his death, and saved by his life. There is nothing in the world’s religions that is remotely like this story of the self-giving of the Son of God to effect the salvation of the ungodly. What is ‘to die for?’ We are. You are!” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“He didn’t wait until we had clean hands and a pure heart. He didn’t say ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ While we were still helpless, Jesus died for the unrighteous people, immoral people, ungodly people. These two verses from Romans are the very heart of the Bible: Christ died for the ungodly. For you see, in the Lord’s sight all of us are ungodly Samaritans, but while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We don’t even have to wash our hands first. Draw near today with renewed faith as our living Lord speaks to us all in the words he spoke to that outcast Samaritan woman: ‘Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“The only way of victory is through the Cross. That is why the true mark of a Christian is not indignation about evil. The distinguishing mark of Christians is the way we behave when other people are in our power. That’s what makes Christianity different; that is the sign of the one who prayed from the Cross for the ones who were torturing him to death. That is the distinguishing sign of the Crucified One.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Here is the purpose of the Palm Sunday liturgy: for the church to know the things that make for [her] peace, to know the time of [her] visitation. And strangely enough, it is in precisely the agony of the Cross that the church finds her peace.” – Fleming Rutledge

“We cannot deliver ourselves from the demons and worse nature. Left to ourselves, we will feed the carnivorous wolf every time. But we are not left to ourselves. The deepest meaning of the Christian story is that we have been delivered by the self-offering of the Good Shepherd, the one who, as he said to himself, lays down his life to keep the wolves from destroying the Sheep.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“We come together on the Lord’s Day to be the people of God, to enact strategies of hope, to bear witness together that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” The church is you and me, not as isolated individuals, but part of an organic whole, all of us together, representing God’s suffering creation with all its disappointment and cruelty and pain, but, at the same time, bearing a message of hope.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“In Jesus Christ we are set free! No wonder people started pouring in these doors. This is the message we want so much to hear. The verdict has been dramatically reversed by the only one who has the power to reverse it by the One who will come to be our judge. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for when Jesus gave himself up to death, he himself became “The judge judged in Our Place.” When Jesus submitted to crucifixion, he, the only innocent one, took upon himself the judgment that we spend our lives trying to “evade,” and in so doing he “set us free from the law of sin and death.” – Fleming Rutledge (Not Ashamed of the Gospel)

“Christianity is unique. The world’s religions have certain traits in common, but until the gospel of Jesus Christ burst upon the Mediterranean world, no one in the history of human imagination had conceived of such a thing as the worship of a crucified man.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“The particularity of this God is startling; the God of Israel aligns himself with specific mortals with individual’s names who live in identifiable places on the map. They have life stories unique to themselves, by no means always edifying. This God, unlike the gods of the religions, has chosen of his own sovereign free will to do so. The irreligiousness of this election is that is has nothing to do with any spiritual attainments by the chosen ones. The opposite is true – they are selected, we might say, in spite of themselves…” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“There is a fundamental syntactical distinction between saying ‘we question the Bible’ and ‘the Bible questions us.’ It is common, in congregations, to hear of subjects like ‘Using the Bible in Small Group.’ But we do not ‘use’ the Bible; if we attempt to do so, it will slip away from us, leaving something opaque and very much less dynamic in its place. Contrary to the story line in many ‘spiritual’ journals, the biblical narrative does not tell of our journey toward God; it is the other way around. The right approach is not ‘What questions do I have to ask of the Bible?’ but “what questions does the Bible have to ask of me?’ God does not wait for Adam to start looking for him; it is God who comes looking with the question, ‘Adam, where are you?’” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Much of what is taught and celebrated in church life today – creation, incarnation, spirituality – is not always anchored in the preaching of Christ crucified. We have noted that this can result in a triumphalist form of congregational life that is disconnected from pain, deprivation, and the dehumanization that Jesus suffered.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Incarnation without crucifixion will not do the job by itself. The cross can never be merely assumed but must always be interpreted and re-placed at the center. There is a centrifugal force at work in human nature; we want to spin out and away from the offense of the cross.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“When we say that Jesus Christ took upon himself the sin of the world, it means quite specifically that he suffered the shame and the degradation that human beings have inflicted on one another and that he above all others had done nothing to merit.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“The message of the cross of Jesus Christ is that only the Creator of the universe can make perfect justice come about in the world that he created, and that he has done so in the body of his own Son, and that he will do so in the future Day of the Lord. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“The Messiah came, not to a purified and enlightened world spiritually prepared for his arrival, but rather to a humanity no nearer to its original goodness than on the day Cain murdered his brother Abel. Indeed, the barbarity of crucifixion reveals precisely that diagnosis. From beginning to end, the Holy Scriptures testify that the predicament of fallen humanity is so serious, so grave, so irremediable from within, that nothing short of divine intervention can rectify it.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“God’s justice is not in competition with his mercy; both are manifestations of his redemptive purpose. If we can understand that God’s righteousness is liberating and restorative, not crippling and retributive, then we can discuss sin with a more open mind and heart.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“It is with a sense of lightheartedness that one comes before the mercy seat of God, but none can understand this until the light of grace dawns upon them. The light of Christ reveals sin by the brightness of the redemption already accomplished.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“We recognize that love, moreover, not from the depths of the hell we were bent on creating for ourselves, but from the perspective of the heaven that God is preparing for us.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Wherever sin is unmasked and confessed, God’s redemptive power is already present and acting.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“The grace of God prepares the way for the confession of sin, is present in the confession, and even before the confession is made has already worked the restoration of which the confession is not the cause, but the sign.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“When foreign service officer Mike Kennedy – a churchgoing Episcopalian – was released from his long ordeal as a hostage in Tehran and was invited to give speeches in churches about the experience, he would begin by addressing his audiences not as ‘fellow Episcopalians’ but as ‘fellow hostages.’ This was both amusing and pointed. Whether consciously or not, he was echoing Paul’s declaration that all are held under the Power of Sin.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“This is a crucial theological point, namely, that the sacrifice of Christ was not God’s reaction to human sin, but an inherent, original movement within God’s very being. It is in the very nature of God to offer God’s self sacrificially.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“God’s justification of sinners is not forgetting. nor is it simply forgiveness. It is a definitive, wholesale, final assault upon and defeat of Sin, understood as a Power, and the creation of of a new humanity.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Every Christian is summoned to see herself among the perpetrators for whom Christ has substituted himself.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Our universal condition, being born into “Adam,” means to be under the lordship of Sin and Death; in Christ, however, Sin and Death can no longer “lord it over” us. Their rule has been displaced by the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ the Kurios. To be “lorded over” by Jesus Christ is to be truly free for the first time.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ)

“Here is the purpose of the Palm Sunday liturgy: for the church to know the things that make for [her] peace, to know the time of [her] visitation. tion. And strangely enough, it is in precisely the agony of the Cross that the church finds her peace.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“How Jerusalem had abandoned her holy calling! For a thousand years God had been preparing her through the prophets to meet her Messiah, her Savior, her Redeemer; now, as the Messiah at last appears, she is going to arrest him on a trumped-up charge, try him in the middle of the night, flog him nearly to death, and execute him the way we execute serial killers and terrorist bombers, though in an infinitely worse manner. Yet Jesus does not weep for himself. He weeps for the city. He weeps for those who will soon shout ‘Crucify him!’ In other words, he weeps for us.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“All these tears and every tear that has ever been shed by anyone anywhere are rolled up into the tears of Jesus. Jesus weeps for us. The Son of God weeps for you.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“In the tears of the one man Jesus, God’s complete solidarity with human pain, yes, but also with human sin is shown.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“Why is it that we don’t like the Cross? Why would we just as soon skip Good Friday and come back to church on Easter Day when everything will be beautiful? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the one that becomes clear on Palm Sunday is that really coming to terms with the Cross means understanding that the good religious people, you and I, are responsible for our Lord being there.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“Easter cost the greatest price that has ever been paid in the history of the universe. And yet – miracle of miracles – for us, Easter is free. It cost us nothing; it cost God everything. We did not deserve God’s ultimate sacrifice, but God paid it out of his vast storehouse of unconditional love. Your tears and mine are merely sentimental most of the time, but the tears of Jesus are wrung out of God’s inmost heart of yearning compassion. The Messiah weeps for the sin that brings him to Jerusalem to die for her redemption. It is our complicity in sin that brings him there; it is our sin that he bears away from us like the scapegoat going into the wilderness. He weeps for you and for me.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“Were it not for the ancient liturgical wisdom given to the church, it would be perfectly possible to go to Sunday services two weekends in a row – Palm Sunday and Easter Day – without ever having to face the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was abandoned, condemned, and put to death as a common criminal on the Friday between. Our historic liturgy, however, guards against this fatal misunderstand.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“If the truth about Jesus Christ cannot be uttered in the face of such unspeakable and hopeless suffering, then it should not be uttered at all.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“Jesus’ Cry of Dereliction on the Cross is not just the heartbreaking lament of an abandoned man. It is that, but is not only that. What we see and hear in Jesus’ death is not just his identification with the wretched of the earth. It is that, but it is not only that. What we see and hear in Jesus’ death is the decisive intervention of God to deliver his children from the unspeakable fate of ultimate abandonment. It is the strangest imaginable teaching on this most strange of all days. The testimony of the four evangelists, the testimony of the Christian church, is that in this event, in this godforsaken death, the cosmic scale has been conclusively tipped in the opposite direction, so that sin and evil and death are not the last word and never will be again.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“On Good Friday – and here we are going to mix the images to the nth degree – he became two things at once: he is the one-man anti-terrorist team, and he is the hostage who steps forward and volunteers to be killed. He is both at the same time.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“The creation is not free; nature and human beings alike are not free; we are all under the sway of occupying Powers: Sin, Evil, Death. Only an invasion by the Creator himself can save it.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“Only by looking at the Cross of Christ do we learn the magnitude of the forces that held us in bondage. We escaped; He was immolated. The size of the ransom is equivalent to the size of our enslavement. That is the payment of equivalent value. That is what we are worth to him.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

“The myth of human moral progress died in Auschwitz. The best thinkers among us know that optimism about human nature is, as Ecclesiastes says, the sacrifice of fools.” – Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death)

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