Thursday 31 August 2023

A Symbol of Something More

Imagine, for a minute, that you’re Jesus.

Now, I know that I frequently talk about how we are Jesus, that the spirit of Jesus is alive in the world because it’s alive in us. I’ve said the life of Jesus is meant to show us how the divine spirit and earthly humanity that is Jesus is in all of us, and Jesus is showing us how to reconnect with the divine spirit and live it into the world. I even called it “Jesusing” because Jesus is a verb. I’ve talked about that at length elsewhere, but that’s not what I mean this time.

Imagine you’re Jesus back in the day. Imagine the world of Jesus, if you can, that would have been challenging, to say the least. A 1st century life wouldn’t have been easy to live in that part of the world. Roman oppression was just the cap on an already difficult life. Jesus spent his time with the marginalized, those who found themselves broken and hurting, the poor and sick, struggling through each day. And don’t forget the sinners. Jesus spent a lot of time with people judged by religion and society to be cast out for their sins, whatever those sins maybe.

So you collect around you a small group of ordinary, everyday people who live in that world. They follow you, learn from you and work with you, even live with you. And then, one day, you ask them “who do you say that I am?” One of them answers “you’re the messiah, the son of the living God.”

Okay, so they’ve learned something. This is great, so you go on to explain what’s happening next, how it’s going to be a tough road ahead, people will turn away from your message of love and grace, and the religious authorities, in particular, will feel so threatened, they’ll have you killed. And then, just when you thought they understood you were the messiah, that same follower tries to rein you in and stop you from what you’re doing. Sigh. It’s like he got the label right, but not the content.

Look, you say, it’s a real temptation to be that old-time messiah that raises an army, goes to war, overthrows the oppressor, defeats all our enemies and makes the country great again, just like in the good old days, but that’s not what this messiah brings. This isn’t about the power of one, but of everyone, it’s not about power over, but power with, it’s about relationship, not control. And that journey’s going to be challenging, there’ll be struggles and suffering and hurt, just like life, but it will be worth it because we’ll be doing it together. We’ll build community, with love and grace, and it’ll be just like … it’ll be just like heaven on earth.

Now. You think, what’s a good symbol of that journey? Something heavy and awkward, something that’s difficult to carry, something representing the burdens of this life that we can overcome together, something so dark and sinister that it will represent all that love can overcome, because the love that is God can even outlast death. So you say, look, it’s like carrying a cross. Yes, I know it’s a symbol of the worst that our oppressors can do. But we can carry it together, we can make the burdens lighter and make a better world and we can do it together. Together.