Apr 18, 2014

Christ Jesus the Martyr

"He shall take away the sins of many"
In a previous assignment I was in discussion with a parishioner who had been involved with a major American corporation as a consultant.  He told me that in their marketing discussion, a member of the Board stated that their intent was: “To make the Nike swoosh as recognizable in the world as the Christian cross.”

I found that statement fascinating in the sense that here a multi-billion dollar business intent on making as much financial profit as possible while providing a quality product compared their logo to the Christian “logo” which had nothing to do with financial gain or earthly power.

The member of that board was right.  Everywhere one goes throughout the world you see the cross of Christ on a building and immediately know that it is either a Christian Church or an institution such as a hospital or a school.  People have the cross in their homes, around their necks, on T shirts and hats and we are signed with the cross at our baptism, blessed with the sign of the cross so I wonder how it does compare with the Nike swoosh?

At any rate, today is a Friday made good by the sacrifice of Jesus made for us all. History provides some pretty disturbing details about the torture of crucifixion and how it was used as a graphic illustration of what happens to those who challenged the Roman authorities of the time.  It was the death of slaves and hardened criminals and there was nothing humane about it.  It was meant to be as graphic and revolting as possible.  The Romans were not the only ones who used crucifixion as a punishment and a warning.  Persians, Assyrians, Celts, Germans and Carthaginians all used this torture in different ways. It struck terror in the general population.

Growing up as a boy into adulthood surely Jesus was not unaware of this practice.  It happened during his lifetime and he knew of it along with the Apostles and all Jews who lived under occupation.  We can imagine that Jesus was as horrified by this practice as anyone else of his time.

Which makes the pouring out of his life all the more profound.  As we enter the next day and a half let’s really think about the far less amount of suffering any of us undergo.  The slight inconveniences, the bad news we receive, our health and family concerns, the stress of everyday living all pale in comparison to the sacrifice of Christ for humankind. 

Why did Jesus do this?  Only one word can give meaning to the cross – Love.  Not warm and fuzzy feelings, those momentary attractions and affections.  He wasn’t holding a teddy bear on the cross! 

But a deep conviction of his mission of loving service and his invitation to all of us to embrace our individual crosses is our Christian vocation.  Not easy but in the end, God works all things out for good. 

A blessed Good Friday. 

O God, who by the Passion of Christ your Son, our Lord,
abolished the death inherited from ancient sin
by every succeeding generation,
grant that just as, being conformed to him,
we have borne by the law of nature
the image of the man of earth,
so by the sanctification of grace
we may bear the image of the Man of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

(Good Friday service)