thinking about easter

Posted on March 20, 2008

3


On cultural assumptions, and the life of Christ

The religious thinking of the day, prior to Jesus’ coming was that the Messiah, King of the Jews, would come and immediately reign on earth over an earthly kingdom. People were looking for pomp and circumstance, a display of power, and victory over enemies. Isn’t that the way of kings and warriors? The leaders of the day, both religious and political, were fearful of losing their position and power to this Messiah.

And he did come alright. He was born homeless with no place of lay his head. The only shelter . . . borrowed . . . a cave. They laid him on a slab of stone, where animals were fed. The only clothing he had was strips of cloth . . . rags . . . wrapped around his body. Outside of his parents, his only audience was animals and shepherds, guardians of sheep. Shepherds were the lowest rung of society, being allowed no religious rites or practice. But the good news was brought first to them, and they proclaimed it to all.

And when he died, he was a homeless wanderer with no place to lay his head. His grave . . . borrowed . . . a cave. They laid him on a slab of stone. His garments had been divided among the soldiers. The only clothing he had was strips of cloth . . . rags . . . wrapped around his body.

There was nothing great about his circumstances; how he was born, how he lived, nor how he died. There was nothing outstanding about his possessions, his circle of friends, his earthly achievements . . . all of the things we are conditioned to chase after. Actually, he was criticized for all of these things by the religious establishment of the day. He was not “good” enough for organized religion of that day.

And yet his birth and death have been remembered around the world, every year for 2000 years.

What was it about this man? Could it have been his message that drew people from far and near to hear him? Could it have been the meaning he gave to those in despair and the hope he gave to the downtrodden? Could it have been the force of his love?

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

Emmanuel: God with us.

How then shall we live? When we look back on our lives, what is it that people will remember?

If faith is real, then it produces actions; and actions always have consequences. So what is the significance of our faith? What is the impact of our actions on the world around us? What are the results that our faith-generated actions have produced? Whose suffering have we limited? Whose pain have we eased? Whose faith have we strengthened? Whose life have we given significance? Whose voice have we given audience?

These questions must be asked of organized religion regularly. What is the evidence of the collective faith of our churches in America? What impact has it had on its neighborhood? Has it deepened the spiritual discernment of our community? Has its sensitivity to injustice increased and as a result driven us to action against hunger, poverty, violence, despair, hopelessness? Have we become better stewards of our environment? Does our collective faith make a difference on this earth we’ve been entrusted with????

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Ron Irvine 2004

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