my crucified Lord, crucify me!

thinking a personal reflection, based on Luke 23.33-43, for the Last Sunday after Pentecost, November 20, 2016.

(Note: Tomorrow, November 16, 2016, I will undergo a long overdue, much needed surgery. I’ll not be up and around on Sunday, November 20, to preach with my dear folk of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC. Oh, how I’ll miss seeing and being with them! Nevertheless, this personal reflection is something akin to what I might have said were I able to be up and about this coming Sunday!)

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The Last Sunday after Pentecost ends the half-year trek from the Day of Pentecost (this year, May 15, 2016); a period set aside to review and reflect more deeply on the Christian story told from Advent through the Easter season that will begin to be retold starting next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent.

The Last Sunday after Pentecost, also known as Christ the King Sunday, bids the contemplation anew of who Jesus is as Lord, how Jesus reveals his Lordship, and, in that revelation, how to follow him.

a-view-from-the-cross-aka-what-our-lord-saw-from-the-cross-1886-1894-james-tissot-1836-1902-brooklyn-museum-new-york

Jesus, hanging on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”, repeating this word of pardon throughout his dying…

As “the people stood by watching.” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

As “the leaders scoffed at him, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

As “the soldiers mocked him, offering him sour wine, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

As “one of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

The leaders scoffing, the soldiers mocking, and the criminal deriding, sarcastically address Jesus with honorific titles, “God’s chosen one”, “the King of the Jews”, “the Messiah”, for they, beholding him die and believing the only demonstration or proof of his identity is that he saves himself, doubt him.

The second criminal, in contrast, speaks to his fellow sufferer with the intimacy of his name, “Jesus,” then in his request, an astonishing statement of faith, acknowledges who Jesus is, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answering, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise”, promises salvation in that eternal realm of God’s nearest, dearest presence.

That Jesus’ kingly throne is a cross, that his crucifixion and his dying are his demonstrations, his proofs of his kingly identity, that his last will and testament are words of forgiveness to those who witness and will his death and of salvation to a criminal who confesses that he deserves to die (“I have been condemned justly”), cause me, call me, command me to believe that all receive God’s mercy.[1]

In truth, I do believe that the universality of God’s forgiveness is precisely what Jesus, in his life and ministry, death and resurrection, reveals. Yet I, a self-interested and biased person, am not as unconditionally inclusive as Jesus. Not even close! If I was in Jesus’ place, it would be difficult, no, well-nigh impossible for me to forgive those who were watching me die and willing my death or, more truth to tell, to forgive even an honest criminal or, most truth to tell, to forgive anyone who judges another as unequal and lacking in human dignity based on gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, religion and spirituality, class and ability/disability or anyone who harms another creature or the creation.

In writing this, my soul shudders. For it means nothing more or less than that my will is so unaligned with Jesus, that my way of being and doing is so far removed from his, that he, in his way of being and doing, challenges, confronts how I think and feel, believe and act. This means that had I been there, as that haunting spiritual inquires, “when they crucified my Lord?”, I would have crucified him, too. This means, thanks be to God, that as the people watching, the leaders scoffing, the soldiers mocking and the criminal deriding Jesus, he would have forgiven me, verily, today, in my willful human sinfulness, he does forgive me! This means that what I am given, I am to give to others.

What? To anyone who judges another as unequal and lacking human dignity, who harms another creature or the creation, forgive them? Though, in following Jesus, I believe that I am to live and labor to challenge and confront those who, for any reason or cause, would demean others and destroy the creation, yes, I am to forgive them for they, I also believe, in relation to the way and will of God, know not what they are doing.

Jesus, my crucified Lord, crucify my prejudices that they may die that I may live to be as you are. Amen.

 

Illustration: A view from the cross (aka What Our Lord Saw from the Cross) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum, New York. Note: Many gather at the feet of Jesus, including Mary, his mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, John, his disciple, Roman soldiers and a centurion robed in red, and Jewish leaders on horseback. In the background is a tomb where Jesus’ body is to be interred.

Footnote:

[1] Here, I define mercy as God’s compassionate forbearance in withholding the condemnation that sinful humankind deserves; as opposed to grace being God’s unconditional benevolence in granting salvation that sinful humankind does not deserve.

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5 thoughts on “my crucified Lord, crucify me!

  1. My dear Paul, please know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers tonight and tomorrow as you undergo surgery. May you, Pontheolla, your daughter, and all of us who love you find strength, peace, and assurance that you are secure in God’s hands. May your surgeons and all who provide care to you be blessed with skill, clarity, wisdom, patience, and kindness. Please ask Pontheolla to keep us posted as you recover if she has a chance. I believe you have my email address.

    I loved this reflection. I hope you have a chance to preach this holy word with your friends in Laurens very soon. It’s a message much, much needed in our world right now. Radical love and forgiveness. What an idea!

    Much, much love to you and Pontheolla.

    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Karen, for your kindly thoughts and prayers.

      As I continue to turn Luke’s crucifixion scene over and over again in my mind and heart, it occurs to me that Christianity is an incarnational religion, for at its heart is the story of God taking our flesh in Jesus and Jesus taking flesh in us via the agency of the Holy Spirit. In this realization or re-realization, for surely this has occurred to me countless times in the past, I more understand why Jesus, as he said in John’s gospel, had to depart. For as long as he was among us in the flesh, his followers could watch him be and do God’s will. With his departure, it is for his followers to be and do as he is and does. And there is nothing about Jesus, as I understand him, including the radical call and claim of forgiveness, that is not counter-cultural, which, doubtless, is what makes it difficult to do.

      Much love to you, always and in all ways,
      Paul

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  2. Paul,

    May accuracy and blessings be upon your surgeons hands tomorrow!! I already KNOW that you will be Healed!

    As for your reflection…. it’s right on the money!! Forgiveness!!!! We need it now more than ever! I’m not sure I agree that you would have stood around as Jesus was crucified! Maybe your Love and Justice stance would have been born right then.

    A couple of months ago a customer was berating a teller at the bank I’ve gone to for more than 20 years. There were more than 10 people in line but no one said anything as this woman called the teller every name other than her proper name. She never replied with anything other than courtesy to the customer. I looked around at the 10 other people in line wondering why no one said anything. I realized that I could be the one to say something and I did. I simply said the woman didn’t write the bank policies she was simply enforcing them and she could show the teller some kindness. She told me to mind my *##** business because I didn’t know her story. I told her that all of us in that line had stories of our own and that I had written a book about mine but that we still need to be respectful of people. While I was being waited on by another teller the rude customer snatched her receipt from the teller and threw me the finger as she and I departed the bank at almost the same time. I heard the other customers applauding me as I left. A few weeks later I went to the bank to make another deposit and the teller came out to thank me, gave me a big hug and pointed me out to the manager as the customer who had defended her. I have to say I thought of Jesus that day and I wondered why no one else came to the woman’s aid. I actually thought about what I would have done if I had been at the cross with Jesus that day. It was well before the election yet it was a racial situation as I saw it. The tellers and all of the customers in line were African-American and the rude customer was Caucasian. I felt compelled to say something because bank policy surely didn’t allow for the teller to verbally defend herself. In any case your reflection brought all that back for me… why don’t others try to help when someone is being wronged??….I still wonder. I think we may be wondering that very question a lot over the next four years.

    Thanks for sharing and please recover quickly so you can get back to your beloved Epiphany Laurens!!

    Much love to you and Pontheolla!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, knowing you from your wonderful book, our one email exchange, and your posts here, I am not at all surprised that you were the one who spoke up for the bank teller against the woman attacking her. I wish I could have applauded for you that day! Bless you for your courage. May all of us who encounter cruelty and injustice directed against our neighbors be able to summon your brave, loving heart when we run into these more and more frequent situations. Keep on loving, Loretta. I know it’s what you do best!!!

      Karen Seay

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Loretta, for your prayers for my surgeon. Dr. Rinehardt is a fine person and fine surgeon. All speak well of him. I told him I’d do my part and show up, then the rest is his and God’s!

      Thank you for sharing this painful incident. Why do people, do we often not speak up (hank goodness, thank God you did!) in the face of a public act of abuse? I beliefs there are multiple and very individual reasons. Sometimes we are afraid. If we intercede that angry person may turn her/his ire on us, and what if she/he has a weapon? Sometimes we are overwhelmed with our own concerns and choose not to involve ourselves in the lives and issues of others. Sometimes we identify with the abuser, perhaps recalling an incident in our lives when someone, especially a representative of a business or institution (in this case, a bank), did not serve us well or was not responsive to our concerns. Sometimes we are sensitive to the power dynamics of a given circumstance, whether involving race or culture or gender or whatever, and feel unqualified to step into so deep and fathomless a matter. Doubtless, the reasons we humans hold back are numerous.

      That said, again thank goodness, thank God, thank you for taking a stand for sharing kindly human care to one under oppression.

      Love

      Liked by 1 person

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