For this I was born!

He loved them to the end!
March 26, 2024
Don’t be afraid!
March 27, 2024

Jesus said:

For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ John 18:37

The story of Jesus’ passion is a story of betrayal, arrest, trials, torture, death, burial and resurrection.  The truth of what happened to the Son of God is the truth that is denied in our hearts and minds.  Human beings killed Jesus because we could not bear the truth in the form of a human being, in the Word made flesh, and so God has raised the Word once more, to bring peace and hope to the world through the expression of God’s love and forgiveness for each individual everywhere. 

During Lent we’ve been reciting the Ten Commandments each Sunday to help think through our own pilgrimage with Jesus.  As I’ve been reading the four Gospel passion stories this week, I’ve been reflecting on which commandments we broke as we followed the crowds seeking revenge for Jesus’ betrayal of our dreams of victory, power and might in this world. 

  • We supported, enabled and encouraged the betrayal and death of Jesus. 
  • We did not have only one God, we did have different Gods including the Emperor and the law used as weapons
  • We did not honour God as Father and Mother
  • We coveted, used violence and murdered
  • We bore false witness and lied in our testimony and in explaining our motives,
  • We dishonoured the Sabbath day by using it as an excuse, as we sought death for a brother before the start of the Sabbath; and then demanded the bodies of those crucified to be broken so they could be removed from the crosses so as not to dishonour the Sabbath  
  • We ignored God’s desire for peace, we stole lives, honour, dignity, respect and love from ourselves and from one another 
  • We did not love our neighbour as ourselves.  It is a comprehensive list. 

As a consequence, I have been reflecting on the purpose for Jesus’ life – which he said, is to testify to the truth.  If we want to claim discipleship then we must listen to God’s voice speaking God’s truth into our lives.  Our shared blindness over our own cultural participation in our world, means we choose not see what we have done to other people, with the way we live our lives.  We struggle to acknowledge the human designed world is not aligned to God’s creation or with God’s desires for us to live fully in God’s kingdom.

We can see this in all the conflicts around the world and our sense of impotence in stopping them; in our daily treatment of those whom we despise, reject and judge; in our swiftness to judge and punish; in our desire to see ourselves as better than others; and, in the hypocrisy and selfishness of our living.

At each station of the cross, at each choice we make, the crossroads upon which we stand and decide our ways, God gave us the capacity to make our own choices.  God does not coerce, manipulate or use violence to make us do what God desires for us.  On Palm Sunday I spoke about betrayal, on Maundy Thursday I spoke about God’s love for all people, and today, I am speaking about what we do with this invitation to be emptied out of the world’s demands so we may instead be filled with God’s love, with God’s truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ John 18:37

Easter is the holiest time in the Christian calendar and it implores and urges a reckoning with faith, sacrifice, suffering, hope, love and God.  A reckoning which must not be intimidated or frightened by cynicism and the dismissal or rejection of religion.  It is our wilful choice in refusing to see God, or acknowledge God’s presence and love, which allows evil to flourish everywhere, including in our churches. 

Fleming Rutledge, an American theologian, comments Christianity today comes packaged as an inspirational wellbeing flavoured panacaea and the cross is just a ‘decoration’.  Easter for many, is simply about chocolate eggs and not the wounds of the flesh.  The attacks on faith by a very belligerent and aggressive secularism, have led the church to be content with an insipid, bland, meek and mild presence, shrinking back into personal, privately expressed joy and hope, unshared with others who might need it, and without any sense of agency or commitment to the world. 

Christians should be joyful, but Easter reminds us true joy is pain and suffering made holy, suffering held lovingly by God.  God enters humanity in the form of Jesus.  He was a fugitive at birth, an outsider in life, a criminal and a failure at death.  Christ was rejected, condemned and thrown onto the garbage heap of humanity.   In death, Christ descends into the hell that is the absence of God. The mocking crowds today still cannot see, that God’s gift was in his emptying of himself, defeating evil not with strength, power, might and violence, but with suffering illuminated by love.  

Jurgen Moltmann wrote ‘The True God is not recognised by his power and glory but through the helplessness of his death on the scandal of the cross of Jesus.’   It is God who is crucified.  It is Truth that is killed.  In the fear, doubt and sense of abandonment experienced by Jesus on the cross, (Mark 15:34) and also by ourselves with our own cross, we know God has identified God’s self with those abandoned by humanity, within whom God lives and belongs.

If we cannot see this, accept it and celebrate it, we cannot call ourselves Christian.  If we ourselves create their separation from God along with our own, we have become banal, blinded, deafened and defeated by evil.  As we listen to the story of God, betrayed, tortured, mocked and killed, God’s suffering is our suffering, and God’s redemption is our redemption.   The cross upon which we hung Jesus in order to silence him and kill him, is now ours to bear.  Our work as Christians is to build a world in response to God’s sacrifice and to join together to share in the rise of Christ’s promise of hope.     The Lord be with you

References

Grant, S.  My Easter Prayer: Where are you, God?  The Saturday Paper March 23-29 2024

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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