Being known as dogmatic is one thing that does not behoove well for christians through the years. There is a difference between speaking with conviction and being dogmatic, and I am not sure that we have found that distinction too well in practice. And at times in recent years, in our desire to correct that imbalance, we may have demurred on central aspects of faith.
To read through the Easter story is to be reminded afresh that none of us are let off the hook. Whether we see ourselves as the religious people of the day, or side with the disciples, reading the story reminds us that no-one understood what Jesus was about. None were prepared for him to suffer and die. None could countenance the possibility that God’s purposes were bound up in such ignominy and disgrace for Jesus. Not Jew, not disciple, not Greek - not even the women, who remained most faithful through it all. Though they were entrusted with the first proclamation of resurrection, they were clearly not expecting it to happen.
The Easter story is central to the christian faith: death and resurrection (not merely the latter); suffering and victory; darkness and light. Whatever else we do and say, to be christian is to be grounded in the Easter realities: defining the reasons we are at work, the methods we employ, the message we live and proclaim, as well as explaining the response we often receive. And all this in the realisation that we are prone to finding ourselves amongst those who would crucify that which God honours. There is no room for self-congratulation because we recognise that our voices are numbered amongst those who called out “crucify” or were silent with those who had abandoned Jesus at his hour of need.
And yet, at the end of it all, Jesus comes back to us: over and over, calling us to be part of his work of grace, and not only us – any and all who would respond. Regardless of faith tradition and culture, Jesus invites all to be part of his work of salvation, thus making all of us persecuting-but-pardoned proclaimers. We who once condemned Jesus now invite others to share his gift of life. And given our penchant for condemning that which God would honour, we need to undertake this work with humility and grace, aware that we have been wrong before about God’s work.
That God offers a new start to all through the death and resurrection of Christ is a conviction worth hanging on to, even dying for. That Jesus chose to die rather than wield power over another is a strong reminder to us of how he would like us to share that message: with the grace of a servant. Christ is risen indeed!
March 27, 2005