"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Friday, April 14, 2006 Stations 11 & 12 -Jesus is Crucified and Dies on the Cross
Pain and death are abstracts to most of us. The times we deal with them for real stand out and mark us. Real pain. Real death. These are exceptions to the rule of our lives.
A child has died since I started writing this. More than one 5 ... maybe 10. And it is not uncommon -- nor is it abstract. I can write until my fingers bleed and quote statistics until all the numbers are used up and none of it will communicate the reality.
And that's what the cross is.
Jesus' crucifixion has become a theological point ... something about which people argue meaning. But that's not what it was at the time. It was a common event. A common execution of a common criminal who ended up being not-so-common after all. It was pain and death in a world where pain and death were all too much a part of everyday life -- a small occupied backwater of the Roman Empire where the people of Israel were treated scarcely like people at all.
When did we make the transition from being people of the crucifixion to people who mused about crucifixion? Probably about the same time that Christianity ascended to the halls of power. Tom Friedman says America's problem with the Arab world is that an addict will never tell the truth to his pusher. That's the problem with Christianity in the halls of power. Any faith that is borne out of siding with the oppressed over the oppressor can't exist with integrity as the faith of the oppressor. And yet for most of its existence in the Western world, that's what Christianity -- or some pale derrivative of it -- has done.
One Good Friday in seminary a friend of mine, Christine McSpadden, showed me some papers that she said she brought out every Good Friday. They were medical descriptions with drawings of what the crucifixion actually was -- what actually happened to Jesus' body. She said it was helpful for her to meditate on those because it became a little less abstract. I don't know if that's the answer -- the gore of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ didn't seem to do much to help identify Christ more with the oppressed of the world -- but at least the intention is in the right direction.
It doesn't matter what I write in this space. Because in the end what I write will just be words and they will have no connection in reality to what this day is about -- which is pain and death and Christ being in the middle of it suffering and dying.
Maybe what we need is fewer words. Fewer thoughts. Fewer ideas.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."