Happy Easter, April 5, 2015

… they took Jesus and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull … There they crucified him …

Jn 19:16, 17, 18

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In the Sangre de Christo Mountains there is a Stations of the Cross laid out on a dusty, high desert mountain path you can walk.

On that path, under the desert sun, you encounter life-sized bronze statutes of men and women who play a role in the crucifixion narrative.

Jesus is there, of course, and you can stand in front of a depiction of a Roman soldier nailing Christ to the Cross. Large, pointed wooden spikes piece His hands. Pierce His hands.  He is laid out on the Cross as the soldier raises his arm to drive the spike deeper into His hand.  The hammer is at its apex and Christ awaits to receive the blow.

This past week we had a dust-up here in Indiana in which loud and angry protesters assembled to howl and scream about a state law designed to protect the religious beliefs of faithful people – Christians, and others.

Those in the crowd reminded me of the mob assembled before Pilate who shouted, out of their voices of selfish advocacy, “Crucify, him.  Crucify, him.”  More to the point, the protesters and media commentators entertained, without any reservation, the view that religions, indeed Christianity, killed people – brutalized them … that Christ and Christians are the enemy, the oppressor.

Where do these thoughts come from?

They come from people.  Misguided people.  Those, like the crucifixion mob, seeking self-interest, self-interest rooted in mortal desire, sensation, pleasure, self-proclamation, their “benefit” at all cost.

There is nothing attractive about selfishness that is sought at all costs, that crucifies.

People have long quarreled with God, rejected God.  But why?

God is too powerful for them.  They see God as a threat to their own desires, as one whose mere existence challenges their own interest, their own dominion, their desires – even the disordered desires humans entertain.

They see God as reducing them to human size.  How quaint!  Imagine: humans as mere mortals, imperfect images of the Divine Creator.

Yes, in the street we have those who rebel and they clamor from age to age, protest all that is more than them, anyone who is other than them.  Ego over all; God over none.

To mortals with their own self-interest as a guide and goal, a crucified God does not look too powerful, or rich, or omnipotent.  So we crucify.  That is, unless we hold our ground and in patient kindness and wisdom distinguish and explain the mistakes of the mob and the cost on all they would impose.

Ah, but God triumphs from age to age.

The God who is crucified arises.  Christ is the story of Jesus suffering, of suffering overcome – of suffering to prove the depth of human existence and God’s inexhaustible love and devotion to us, even those who would crucify!

If the good Jesus had served but never suffered, was not rejected and crucified, we would not know the depth of God’s love.  Our task is to preserve that message and to love as God loves … and to witness and teach those who would crucify. And yes, to suffer as Christ did.

Had Jesus been but a good and faithful servant who died quietly in His sleep – we would not know what we know – we would not know God, and God’s commitment to love us always and forever.

Rejoice today.  Stand tall.  Be ever faithful and brave.

Shalom.

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