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April 5, 2010

In The New Being Paul Tillich wrote: 

It is love, human and divine, which overcomes death . . .  Death is given power over everything finite, especially in our period of history.  But death is given no power over love. Love is stronger.  It creates something new out of the destruction caused by death; it bears everything and overcomes everything.  It is at work where the power of death is strongest. . . .  It rescues life from death. It rescues each of us, for love is stronger than death.

We thank the Rev. Brenda Bennett for her distilled reflections on the meaning of the paradigmatic events of Holy Week and Easter: 

Gethsemane to Golgotha – the Moral Choice

easter dawnOur Lenten pilgrimage has come to an end. We have been journeying upward, companioning Jesus on his going up to Jerusalem. We have also pursued an inward path – exploring our personal call, our particular cross to be carried, our private grave to be conquered.

     Jesus’ trek and ours have been undertaken in prayerful parallel. In the final hours of the Passion drama, our separate journeys intersect. Where they meet, moral choices must be made. Am I a traitor or a protector? Do I keep watch or flee to sleep or safety? Is my solidarity proclaimed or do I prefer a low profile?

     There is no morally neutral ground; a choice is forced. We must either protect the innocent and the weak, the abused and the oppressed or we are guilty of their betrayal. If we choose not to stay alert to their needs then we have denied them our presence and our prayers. We can claim them as kin or condemn them to solitary suffering.

     They – the disparaged, the disadvantaged and the dispossessed – were why Jesus died. He promulgated their virtue and their value to God; he included them, affirmed them and appointed them his right-hand staff.

     Jesus died because he proclaimed a new pathway to the Divine. It was a Way actualized by providing for the needy, protecting the welfare of children and promoting the rights and roles of women. Jesus’ Way liberated people from the Law whilst binding them to the principles of love. It was – and is – a Holy highway, built on social justice rather than on systemic power.

     During this week of solemn services and ceremonies, Jesus’ suffering and death are front and centre of Christian observance. His courage and commitment fill us with admiration and awe. Yet we feel compelled to minimize their importance. We deem Jesus’ execution to be God’s will; we declare that this was why Jesus was born; we decide that Jesus was ok with being an innocent on death row.

     Those are stands which protect us from following in path. They are views which prevent us from fighting for the very goods Jesus died to promote. They make for good doctrine but bad discipleship.

     Kierkegaard reminds us that neither feel-good sentiment nor fiery dogma are options for the true follower of Jesus:

Christ never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Jesus is looking for followers of a way of life. A way of life that promotes justice for both humans and creation; a view of life that affirms and includes all people fully; an attitude to life that rejects prestige and power and, instead, finds common cause with the least and the lowest.

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Last updated: 11/24/10.