Death and Resurrection

lightstock_92470_medium_user_3552273

To follow Jesus means to accept the cross, to walk with him against imperial violence and religious collaboration, and to pass through death and resurrection.

~The Last Week, Borg and Crossan

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

~Philippians 3:10-11

For followers of Jesus, we are called to participate in the resurrection as much as we are called to celebrate it. It’s not just a historical event for us, a day we celebrate once a year. It is the reality in which we live. Resurrection inhabits every moment of every day. New life is always emerging from our chaos.

But new life requires death. Rising with him comes only from suffering and dying with him. Yes, Jesus died for me. Yes, Jesus rose for me. And yes, he died and rose for you, too. But he didn’t do it so we would talk about it one day a year. He did it so we could participate in it, weaving death and resurrection into the fabric of our lives.

This week, this Holy Week, is about participating in Jesus’s journey toward death. Finding him as he prays in the garden, standing with him on trial, sitting before him on the cross. Or, like the disciples (and most likely us too), sleeping while he prays in the garden, denying him while he stands on trial, and fleeing from him on the cross.  

But even for us who sleep, deny and flee from him, he is waiting for us.

It is good news to me, this death and resurrection. Because it means that my suffering is not meaningless, that my dead ends can become new beginnings. It means that when my soul feels like death, I am close to new life. Resurrection is right around the corner.

[Resurrection says that] there is a new creation bursting forth
right here in the middle of this one
and there is a new heaven and a new earth coming together
and that this Jesus, in his resurrection insists that in the conquering of death
he has brought about something new
something you can trust
that whatever is holding you down
whatever feels like it’s drowning you
whatever feels like it’s a weight chained to your ankle
does not have the last word

That is resurrection

Sunday (featuring Rob Bell), The Liturgists

Son of God

CompositeJesus

We went to see the Son of God movie the other night, and I will admit that I was very skeptical about it. I don’t usually like movies made from my favorite stories, as it’s rare that someone else will be able to capture the particular meaning I found in them. Imagination is better for these things, and enactments on screen threaten to spoil the movies in my mind. And when it comes to the Jesus stories, there are many movies in my mind that I don’t want spoiled.

Then there’s the fact that the gospels were not written as entertainment, nor were they designed to include a very handsome Jesus. Tom keeps telling me to stop talking about sexy Jesus, but I do not understand why they can’t find someone who actually looks like a poor middle eastern man. I would like a Jesus that would be stopped by a TSA agent, a Jesus that we would imagine visiting a Mosque rather than a Church. Our Messiah had “no form or majesty that we should look at him”(Is. 53:2). The Jesus in this film has creamy skin, flowing hair and piercing eyes.

face-of-jesus-01-0312-mdn

Jesus probably looked sort of like this, according to the History Channel.

diogo-morgado-as-jesus-in-son-of-god-1011568837

Diogo Morgado as Jesus in the “Son of God”.

However, there were many things that I enjoyed about this movie, so I will share them instead of ranting about #hotjesus.

  • Privilege
    The movie did a good job of displaying the privilege of the Romans and the religious leaders. The privileged were blinded by their wealth and status, whereas the humble, the broken, and the impoverished flocked to Jesus. It is difficult to watch this movie as a white, middle-class American and not see myself fitting in most comfortably with the religious leaders, rather than this scraggly band of followers.

    Son-Of-God-2014-Images

  • Nonviolence
    I’m not sure you can watch this movie and think that weaponry or violence in any form is endorsed by our Messiah. His commitment to nonviolence made it clear that the kingdom of God would not come through force. Barabbas, the prisoner who was freed instead of Jesus, was a zealot whose goal was to defeat Rome by bloodshed. But the message of Jesus was the way of peace, and this was a main reason that the world hated him and shouted for his death (contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t because he was calling people sinners; the Pharisees were highly successful at doing that themselves). They did not know the way of peace, so Jesus demonstrated it for them. The only blood shed was his own.

    Son-Of-God-2014-Movie-Images-540x303

  • Politics and Religion
    As opposed to those trying to establish the kingdom through violence, the religious leaders were attempting to hold hands with Rome. But sleeping with the enemy in order to accomplish God’s purposes only bred corruption. Jesus was wholly opposed to this method of establishing God’s reign, likening the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. It starts out small, growing from the bottom up, not the top down. We were never meant to spread the gospel by taking control of the government, though it is a battle we keep fighting today.

    article-0-1B94A3B700000578-658_634x403

  • Suffering
    You can’t watch this movie and come away thinking that Jesus endorsed a prosperity gospel. He blessed the poor, but they did not go away rich. Peter’s boat was filled with fish, but then he was immediately asked to leave it all behind. Of all his disciples, only John escaped execution, and even he ended his life in exile. I enjoy wealth and success as much as anyone, but having these things does not mean I am more blessed than the family struggling to make ends meet. Following Jesus does not ensure prosperity.

    son-of-god-26171-1280x800

So, those are some of my thoughts. It was a pretty good movie, and the creators of it seemed to have done their homework. And it gives us a better picture of the cultural context of the gospels.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

On forgiveness and miracles (and our baby)

 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

Luke 5:17-26

I think we can all agree that miracles don’t happen as often as we like them to. We all have a story to tell of a miracle we have witnessed or heard about or experienced ourselves, but we also have countless stories of tragic loss. Too many children have died, too many marriages have crumbled, too many people remain entrenched in chronic illness and pain. Sometimes we pray, and miracles happen. Other times we pray harder, and they don’t.

I’ve always been a bit perturbed at Jesus’ words in the above text. Healing the man seems a side issue to him, with the greater issue being that of the forgiveness of sins. Doesn’t he see that the man is paralyzed? That he needed friends to carry him around? That healing was so important to him that he risked humiliation in front of a crowd of critical onlookers?

In our evangelical culture, we like to talk a lot about the sinners and their need for forgiveness. The emphasis is usually on the sin of the other–the homosexuals, the prostitutes, the drug addicts–while we nominally pay tribute to our own sins but rarely admit to those that plague us most deeply, like pride, envy, greed, and narcissism. 

And so when I think of Jesus talking about the forgiveness of sins, my first assumption is that he is pointing out this mans sins before healing his body, calling out his failings before making him whole.

But maybe that’s not how it played out. Maybe I need to forget my assumptions and step back into this text, into this world in which a paralyzed man was a broken, useless part of society, in which acceptance and grace were more elusive than miracles.

So maybe Jesus’ response looked more like this:

Papal audience, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome, Italy – 06 Nov 2013

Maybe healing was secondary, because what this man really needed was to be called “friend”. To be embraced and accepted, just as the pope embraced this man covered in lesions, a man whose father would not even embrace him.

Even before he was made whole, Jesus looked at the paralyzed man and accepted him into his Kingdom. He was enough, just as he was, before any healing took place. 

It’s tempting to wish the healing were primary. And yet, I know that my life could be scattered with miracles, but without the acceptance and presence of Jesus in the midst of all of my joy and pain, the miracles would not be enough. 

///

On January 23, our baby did not have a heartbeat. We were told that it had died. And we were crushed.

And then, on January, 30th, our baby did have a heartbeat. We were filled with joy and praised God for our miracle.

But on February 6th, our baby’s heart no longer beat, and on February 7th, I took a drug to induce the (very, very painful) miscarriage of our baby.

Our miracle was elusive. It left as quickly as it came.

///

I would like Jesus to have told my baby’s heart to beat again. But instead, he kept my heart beating. Loss like this threatens to kill a soul, but as I looked at this ultrasound screen and saw my lifeless child, the first thing I knew was that we would make it through this. I entered the appointment thinking I would die if our baby did not live, but I left knowing that Jesus was upholding me with strength and peace.

I have a God who calls me friend, whose love is steadfast, despite all my failings. Even when I am broken and crushed, especially when I am broken and crushed, he is near me. And we are picking up these broken pieces together, making good out of this mess and creating beauty from the ashes. 

2014-02-07 06.32.30

I wish Jesus had told my baby to “stand up and walk”. But instead, he said these words to me. I’m not going to say that is enough, because in this broken world, nothing will be enough until the day all is made right. But for now, there is comfort and peace. There is a God who kneels down to hold my hand. And that in itself is a miracle.