There may have been a time when the church had an impact on the traffic in the crossroad of everyday life. Insiders, have huddled around their sacred story formulated by the early church fathers for centuries, we have defended and protected our theological thinking...even to the point of killing those who would dare tell a different story. We may not kill today, but, we have ways of sending our dissidents in to exile.
If this early church story is that good...why is it having no impact in the crossroad of everyday life?
Is there a better story that would engage the imagination of humanity to envision life, life for " all " humanity filled with hope beyond anything we are imagining now?
I think there is...but, the insiders are not going to like it.
First it will demand the church re-discover its prophetic voice again. That same sacred cry of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Micah and Hosea. This proclamation from Isaiah is as relevant today as when it was first spoken. If we put our ear to the ground, we can still hear it ringing down the corridor of history.
"The Lord is exalted", procalims Isaiah. " He dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness." ( 33:5 )
" I am the Lord " announces Jeremiah in the name of God. " I act with steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight." ( 9:24 )
Again Isaiah, " Is such the fast I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and lie is a sck cloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this fast that I choose; to break the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? ( 58:5-7 )
From Micah, " He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ( 6:6-8 )
Lastly from Amos, " I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ( 5:21-24 )
This voice of justice and righteousness cries out the voice of God all through the Old Testament, to miss it...is to be both deaf and blind. This voice takes on flesh and bones in the life of Jesus.
As Isaiah proclaimed, " That on high Zion is filled with justice and righteousness." Jesus would pray, " Your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven." The profound redemptive imagination of Jesus Kingdom is about two things...justice and righteousness. The Kingdom is not a final destination to an eternal resort, for saved souls waiting patiently in a church for the glory train to pull up out front.
I honestly don't believe we can speak prophetically today, while still holding tightly to our old story. If believing, being saved, having your sins forgiven, and eternal life is the best we have to offer...then, the church deserves to die. Even now it is like a geriatric patient on life support, the latest technology keeping it going...and a spurt to life every time old memories are rekindled. Is anyone gathered around this death bed? Does anyone care?
I don't believe anymore Jesus died for my sin. I believe he was killed by the greatest act of injustice imagined...by worldly empires, political and religious. And, if were really honest, all humanity had a role in this violent injustice. Because, really, we like injustice if it serves us.
Was Jesus death required by divine necessity, predestined and pre-meditated murder? I'll let my fundamentalist friends fight over that one...I can safely say it was virtually a human inevitability. This is what systems of domination and oppression do to people who challenge them, publicly and vigorously.
Jesus was not simply an unfortunate victim, a peasant who stepped out of line, a sinner who committed a religious crime that needed a death sentence. It was much much more. He was a protagonist filled with passion. His passion, his message was about the Kingdom of God, the abundant life found in justice and righteousness. He spoke to the peasants, the hungry, the homeless, the oppressed, the poor and the sick, as a voice of religious protest against the economic, political and religious institutions of his day. He attracted followers, disciples taking his movement to Jerusalem during the feast of the Passover. He challenged the economic, political, and religious authorities with living out the reality of the Kingdom, and speaking about the Kingdom using the redemptive imagination of parables. All of this was the passion of God, lived and spoken through Jesus...God and the Kingdom of God, God and God's relentless passion for justice.
Jesus passion got him killed. His passion for the Kingdom of God, his passion for justice led to his death and suffering. To think of Jesus passion only in the terms of Mel Gibson's " The Passion of the Christ "...is to completely remove Jesus from the passion that filled his life.
Did Good Friday have to happen? As Divine necessity?
Good Friday is the cosmic collision between the passion of Jesus and the domination system of his time. Or, prophetically it is the collision between the Kingdom of God, and the empires of the World. Many, will say I'm going lightly on sin...that there is no sin in this alternative story. No! there is sin and it looms large. Jesus died because of sins of the world.
The sin,the injustice of the domination systems of politics, economics and religion killed him. Injustice so routine that it is apart of the world's status quo. But, so radical, so scandalous and dangerous that we had to kill him to protect our interests.
Interesting that the church covets the cross, this religious icon cast in shiny gold and sliver. The irony is that it was political, and instrument of death used on dissidents that opposed, or who were a threat to the empire. It was an instrument of oppression, and injustice...a public act of oppression by the empire. Any understanding that negates the political meaning of his death on the cross betrays the very passion for which he was willing to sacrifice his life. His passion was the Kingdom of God...it led to his execution by the " powers that be." The domination of a worldly empire killed him. God did not kill Jesus.
God raised Jesus from the dead. The followers of Jesus continued to experience him after his death. They coninued to know him as a figure of the present " now ", and not simply a distant memory of the past. The resurrection, meant God had vindicated Jesus. That the empire would not have the last word. That the prophetic Word made flesh would not be muffled, silenced. God said " yes " to Jesus and the Kingdom of God and God said " no " to the powers of injustice that killed him.
The resurrection means the powers of this world do not have the last word. As the writer of Colossians puts it, " God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them triumphing over them in the cross." The resurrection is about " Christus Victor "...God in Jesus triumphed over the powers that enslave and afflict " All " creation.
We can have abundant life now, eternal life now. We find it in taking up the cross of Jesus...the path of confrontation with all systems of oppression and domination, its injustice and violence. His passion was the Kingdom of God, what life would be like on earth if God reigned over all creation, and the rulers and systems of this world were not. It is that world the prophets spoke of, a world Jesus imagined and lived out of. It is a world of distributive justice in which everyone has enough, where war is no more, where all fear dies and hope lives. It's not a political dream...it is the reality of the Kingdom of God.
This dream can only be realized by our being grounded more deeply in God whose heart is justice. Our only hope is to believe, to enter in to the reality of the gospels...and follow into the life of Jesus. To live the gospels...build the Kingdom that Jesus imagined. Mysteriously we will find eternal life...on earth as in heaven. Now and forever.