Saturday, March 17, 2007

Speak truth

While others are examining the lack of consents for the bishop-elect of South Carolina and others are debating the proper use of secular material at funerals, I am sitting in an Atlanta hotel room, waiting to feel well enough to even go home. This is not self-pity because the hotel room is quiet, comfortable and doesn’t have two beloved cats crawling all over me. I get fed and watered and pampered.

Dennis, Grandmere Mimi and Rev Sam debate why Jesus died on the cross, and all I can think is “It’s the Incarnation that matters, not the resurrection.” But, that puts me clearly in a heretical viewpoint when I deny substitutionary atonement. I just want to get that poor tortured man down off that cross. Like some who commented on Wounded Bird, I believe that Jesus, the Christ, died for us but not necessarily as a sacrifice to God so our sins would be forgiven. I've put away my many crosses because I think "that's not what this is all about; it's about Jesus life and ministry."

God’s been forgiving sins for a long time, and, at various places in the Bible, God says that sacrifices of animals and such are not good – a contrite heart is. So here comes Jesus to lead us into this contrite heart business by bringing us closer to God and by letting God know what it is like to be human. Jesus is saying and doing things contrary to the majority opinion at the time – secular and religious. So, like a lame-duck informant, Jesus has to go. Crucifying him as a common criminal would likely stop his following, they thought.

Unfortunately, they did not recognize that Jesus was the Christ, God incarnate. And, so, God lives within our hearts and minds and souls much closer than if the Christ had not come. Jesus’ death on the cross is a stark reminder of the lengths to which God will go to maintain a relationship with us. It is truth spoken to power with terrifying results of crucifixion.

Christians in many places are speaking this same truth to power with similar terrifying results. I am not now though I did for a number of years. I’m tired, and I’ve been sick for a long time, and all I want right now is to feel better enough to tell some friends who have asked about Creation Theology. I have a little energy left to keep telling the Good News to those who wish to hear. The rest of you will have to deal with the lack of signatures on consents, the handling of funerals, and the heavier theological issues. Not that I don’t have opinions about things nor that I don’t enjoy the debates, but I don’t have the energy to preach to the choir. Y’all are doing a good job of keeping us on our toes and our voices in good order.


Nina said...

My prayers are with you, too. This is wonderful writing. Thank you for it.

Cecilia said...

I have always been troubled by the fact that the creed goes from "born of the Virgin Mary" directly to "suffered under Pontius Pilate," with no mention of the life between. I think if that life had not been so extraordinary, so filled with acts of healing and standing up to the powers and principalities, we never would have heard of Jesus of Nazareth-- he would have been just another crucified victim of the Roman empire. Instead, by his living as well as dying, he is the face of God to us.

Pax, C.

Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

Try it this way:

born of the virgin Mary,
under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and buried...

Suffering is not passive. The Eucharistic Prayer in Apostolic Tradition says "In order to fulfill your will and make for you a people, he extended his hands when he suffered, that he might deliver the suffering ones who hoped in him; who was betrayed to suffering in his own will, that he might destroy death, and break the chains of the devil, and trample hell, and direct the saints, and fix the boundary, and manifest resurrection...."

Three items I notice here. His suffering is an identification with all who suffer. His suffering is a suffering he is delivered to by his own choice. And nowhere here is the effect of his suffering (note-- the word here is suffering, not sacrifice) said to do anything about sin... but rather about deliverance from all sorts of powers, leadership and protection for us, and the manifestation of resurrection before the whole world.

And from another angle, if you read sermons from the period that gives us the Apostles' Creed, the life and ministry and teaching of Jesus is nowhere in doubt, and everywhere in plain view. One didn't need to say much more about it in the creed, because it was most of what one learned and heard all the time.

Peace in Christ,

Dave said...

Prayers for you, and I'll need to think more about incarnation vs. resurrection. I still find it odd, after Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac, that God would ever desire a human sacrifice for anything.

sharecropper said...

Thanks, Journeyman, for a different perspective on the creed. And, truly, we all suffer.

Paul certainly dwelt on Jesus' life and ministry, even if he distorted it by his own biases (don't we all?). But, Paul expected Jesus to return within his lifetime, as did most of the apostles.

Resurrection was a major part of their worship of Father and Son. The Holy Spirit seems to have been added a bit later. And, for most people in those times, the afterlife was as unknown as it is to me now. They were concerned with relief from suffering of all kinds - much of it to do with patriarchy and the Romans. Resurrection provided a reason to go on - afterlife with God, the promise of golden streets and many mansions.

As we interpret scripture with a different eye now, we may need to revisit the creeds, not only with new interpretation (which you have given us) but also with new words which have more meaning for our lives today.

I believe the resurrection has an important place in that credo, but I like the eucharistic prayers that empahsize Jesus' ministry and love so much. They speak to me where I am now. Even the crucifixion speaks to me more than resurrection - although I believe that we are resurrected when we repent and turn toward God. Bodily resurrection after death is a concept that holds no appeal for me.

Thanks for your comments, and please keep them up!