Thursday, April 6, 2017

Collisions & Good Friday

I want to talk about Good Friday and Easter in terms that might appeal more to first responders than theologians, because the more theologianish one gets, the less understandable one is to anybody else.

Collisions!  Have you ever witnessed a head on collision.  They’re not pretty.  Injury, often death, is unavoidable.  Blood, body parts, car parts, they’re everywhere.  Police, medics, fire trucks work to sort things out.  Traffic is snarled.  Lives are put on hold, bent in the wrong direction.  For some, life never returns to normal.  For them, the new normal is painfully abnormal.  The world has changed forever, and they wonder how it could be that others don’t seem to notice.  Meanwhile, for those who weren’t there, life goes on as usual..  There’s no disturbance in the ebb and flow of an ordinary day.  It is as if nothing had happened.

Good Friday through Easter is a head on collision.  Watching some of the t.v. offerings at this time of year, you can get the idea that Jesus, offering nothing but gentle goodness, was the innocent victim of secular and religious leaders, intent on his destruction.  They wouldn’t, couldn’t recognize the reality of God’s loving presence among them.  I don’t think that’s it at all.  To the contrary, what we have is a high speed head on collision between God in Christ Jesus headed one way, and a convoy of ordinary sociopolitical power headed the other.  The convoy, I submit, had little interest in Jesus’ religious insights and practices, and not the slightest idea of what was about to happen.  It was simply engaged in the ordinary work of being socially and politically powerful in an unstable, potentially dangerous country.  Jesus was an inconvenient obstacle that did not get out of the way in time.  Jesus, on the other hand, could see it coming and new he was about to be crushed.  And so it happened.  And so he was.

Pronounced dead at the scene, with no real harm done to the convoy, it was time to move on to more important matters.  We create a lot of drama around Jesus, buy my guess is the authorities really didn’t care that much.  He was just another of the many religious babblers and rabble rousers that had come and gone.  As for the rest of the country, unless they had some connection to Jesus, they didn’t know what happened, and didn’t care.

Christ’s resurrection is what turned that upside down.  Emerging from the dead amidst the detritus of the wreck, revealed as the ultimate power in all creation, indeed the power of creation, is not what a carpenter turned trouble making preacher normally does.  Yet, there he was, the Word of God made flesh revealed in all his glory but recognizable as the Jesus he had always been.  If he had not been demolished, and there really was a wreck, what had been demolished?  Anything?  I’m reminded, oddly enough, of a scene from a tacky war movie, “Force 10 from Navarone,” in which an explosive charge set off inside an enemy held river dam does’n’t appear to have any effect.  “Just wait,” says the expert.  Cracks slowly appeared, then holes, then collapse.  The metaphorical point is that in the waiting moments between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, it is the convoy of sociopolitical power that was demolished.  Maybe not to outward appearances, but God is not bound by human appearances.  It took a little time for the cracks, holes and collapse to become known.  In another forty years Jerusalem was gone.  Four centuries later Rome was gone.  But Christ lives, and the kingdom of God is still at hand.  It doesn’t always look like a total victory.  Sociopolitical power is still around.  It alway will be.  It still acts as if God is irrelevant, or that it alone is God’s agency, or that it is God, but it is never able to endure.  It’s always temporary.  It’s always fragile, cracked, full of holes, and tottering toward collapse.  It is the risen Christ and the kingdom of God that endures, and is always and everywhere at hand.

What about today?  Does the Pax Americana world order appear to be toppling?  How much danger are we in?  Will our way of life collapse?  Is there anything we can rely on, anything at all?  What can we really believe in that won’t let us down?  The answer is on the cross and at the open grave.

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