Benediction Online

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Christ Crucified

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom but we but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is talking about how foolish the gospel seems. This is true today too. Often people don’t realize that they are looking for Christ because they are looking for something different. They think they know the Christian message and it isn’t for them.

Today we might say, “Jews demand signs, Greeks demand wisdom and Americans require proof.” My good friend says that she’ll believe in God when God starts answering her prayers, by which she means that she’ll believe in God when he does what she wants and fixes her life. That is not what God is about. God will work in partnership with us when we are ready and willing to turn our lives over to her and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us.

We are used to images of God’s son hanging on a cross. But if we were not, the idea of a Messiah hanging limp, powerless and in agony on a cross would be an absurd contradiction. It cannot be the Christ, the Son of the High God, the one who has dominion over the nations of the earth. If it were truly the Christ wouldn’t he just get down and walk away?

He could have done just as earlier in his life when the people mobbed and tried to stone him, he simply disappeared into the crowd and walked away. Why did the Christ allow himself to be crucified by mere mortals?

Because it was the fulfillment of his mission. A couple of weeks ago we heard that Jesus at the beginning of his ministry was preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. That was what Jesus came to do – he came to show us the kingdom of God. A kingdom which is quite different from the kingdom of the world. Even today after 2000 years of us trying to live into Jesus’ teachings and Jesus’ example, the world we live in every day is quite different from the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of the world is based in the sin-system of violence and fear. A quick look at the news is enough to make the point. We spend our time competing for what we believe are scarce resources. Those who want to be President spend time and vast sums of money trying to prove that they are better than their fellows, not by demonstrating their abilities and arguing policy, but by putting each other down. The country is gripped by fear of an unstable economy, the possibility of attack, of others having as many nuclear weapons as we have. While we are in the clutches of fear we turn on each other and cannot cooperate to address the very real problems of poverty, hunger, homelessness and global warming that threaten human flourishing.

Jesus’ mission was to open our eyes to the possibility of living in another kingdom, the kingdom of God a place of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness. mercy, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Jesus’ mission was to invite us to enroll in that kingdom so that like him we could live free of the downward drag of the sin-system which takes fear and resentment and turns it to anger and hatred and violence.

The path which Jesus took was the path of non-violent resistance. He did not fight violence with violence but taught a different way; to resist violence in every form but to resist it in a way which takes away its power. When the soldiers came at night to arrest him, one of Jesus’ companions made a clumsy attack and cut an ear off the high priest’s servant. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53)

Jesus did not especially want to die but it became the only way forward. He knew that death was not the end and that it was better to die than to fight back with violence. He knew that it was God’s way to accept death rather than resort to violence.

A crucified Messiah. The final victory of the sin-system. The one who claimed to be the son of God dying at the hands of his enemies.

But we know that it was not the end. We know that Jesus the Christ was resurrected. That he won the day, not the powers of sin and violence.

And that is our hope.

We too can resist the sin-system. We too can live not in a violent way but in a strong gentle way like Jesus of Nazareth. Who, we heard in today’s gospel reading, resisted the commercialization of the temple.

The sin-system always attempts to take the things of the Spirit and corrupt them. When we are called to prayer and meditation, there are immediately catalogs of things that we need to meditate – the right cushion, the best bell; when we decide that God is calling us to live simply, there is a glossy magazine to help us buy the right products.

The kingdom of God is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It is not a system to make us feel good and make our lives easier. It is not the key to happiness and prosperity. It IS a hard path of non-violent yet strong resistance to all that seeks to corrupt and distort the gift of God to us in creation and in Godself.

Christ crucified is a symbol of our faith because it is the ultimate image of faith and love. Faith that God will not allow violence to win. Love because it is God’s peace offering to humanity. Christ crucified is the ultimate symbol of non-violence resistance – the God of the Universe allowed himself to be humiliated, scorned and physically injured rather than fight back in kind.

The empty cross is also a symbol of our faith, because we know that the crucifixion is not the end, that resurrections follows, and there is our hope.

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.


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