I know I know, I am supposed to be writing a blog on books, and I am very late. But somehow I have been distracted by Lent and Easter!
And I would like to just say a few words about these special days.
I conducted the Good Friday service at my church, and usually that would be the end of it, assigning the service to only those who were in attendance.
However, a friend of mine, a minister in the Community of Christ Church in Melbourne and now the Director of Mission put up a post on Facebook. In it he was completely honest about his understanding of the death of Jesus and it has inspired me to do the same, for I don’t want you to think I believe something I don’t.
My service opened, after a song and prayer, with an introduction that went something like this …
Jesus was a non-violent revolutionary who practiced non-violent resistance to the powers of injustice unto death. So says Dominic Crossan. Or as Bill Loader describes him, a revolutionary without a gun. A man of God who brought God’s creative and life giving message into a world of power and injustice.
While there remains a divine mystery about Easter Sunday, I don’t think there is a mystery about the death of Jesus. He was killed not because of what God wanted, but what men wanted. They wanted to be rid of someone who challenged them and their ways. Who would risk death for all he believed and lived out. Who stood at the cross and said “Yes” to love and non-violence, and “no’ to hate. Jesus died not for our sins but because of the sins of those in his world, who loved the dark rather than the light. Who loved hate rather than love. As Bill clearly states, the Romans killed Jesus because he threatened their very existence.
The problem is, today his message is still being killed off by those who love the dark rather than the light. Both inside and outside the church.
So this is a different type of Good Friday service.
This service of worship is based on one developed by American Christians for the Abolition of Torture. It has been designed to assist faith communities relive the crucifixion journey and remember that the sufferings of Jesus continue through the plight of the poor, the oppressed, and the persecuted throughout the world. It was originally made up of a series of reflections based on the final seven words or statements of Jesus found in the gospels. However, in keeping with the ideas of Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, Bill Loader and many others, I have replaced the seven statements with passages that reflect the passion that animated his life.
And what was the passion of Jesus? It was the Kingdom of God, found not in some heavenly realm, but here on earth and here and now. It was a new world order, where the hungry are feed, where wars are no more and the persecuted and oppressed find freedom and justice. Where the love and life of God would be seen in all people and be for all people. As Borg and many others suggest, it is this passion that got Jesus killed. It was this passion that is found in his stories and parables, the most radical parts of the bible. His parables challenge us to turn things upside down and to join him. We hear him saying, the kingdom is already here awaiting your participation. The future is here, “Don’t you see you have been waiting for God but God has been waiting for you”.
When we view Good Friday in this light, we are asking ourselves some important questions, questions we have already started to face. From our palm sunday service the questions were about gates and parades. Which gate do we choose, which parade? Now it’s about a man? Do we really follow Jesus in our daily lives, are we really committed to his vision of the kingdom, contributing in whatever way we can, or is the cost too high? Ouch!
Do we find ourselves with the marginalized and the outcast, with the disciples, or with the crowd doing the crucifying? Double ouch!
Things to seriously reflect on as we enter the service. Because the answers will affect life now, both for us and for our brothers and sisters. And for the planet.
I went on with the service after this introduction, using the reading from Mark about the death of Jesus, followed by a reading from his life about the kingdom, and then a reflection focusing on the world and ourselves today, in this time and in this place. If you want a copy of the reflections let me know.
I ended the service with a Carrie newcomer song which I have included at the end.
But although I have a different understanding as to why Jesus was put to death, the end product is the same. We are called to be voices of compassion and love and justice in this world. To work for peace and to improve the lives of all people regardless of where they sit on the social ladder, what colour they are, what language they speak or whether they are gay or straight. Or whether they came to Australia by boat or plane. This is the kingdom of inclusion and whatever you say about Jesus this is the message he brings to us from the 1st century.
As my friend Ben writes at the end of his post,
“I believe that all are worthy. So today, on Good Friday, may we join hand in hand to celebrate humanity. Whether you eat chocolate, are preparing for Passover, believe in the substitutionary atonement theory or look to the rolling hills and wide blue ocean for spiritual insight; this day is about celebrating the passion and dedication to bringing about a peaceful world, and I believe we are all part of that pursuit, whatever the cost.”
All I can say is amen to that.