Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another One from the Audience

The person who posed a question a few weeks ago has posed another:

Do you ever look to the cross and simply see a guy dying?

After agonizing about how to approach this response, let me just dive in and say simply:

Yes. There are times when I do just see a guy dying.

I wish I could at all times experience the power of the resurrection, the hope and joy of Easter morning. I am, however, tragically finite...one who sins too freely and never prays hard enough or long enough or well enough. I grapple with the issues of faith and belief and I very often wonder how it is that I've come to commit my life to what can appear to be a corpse on a cross.

I've gazed on the bodies of drug dealers shot through the face; babies the tragic victims of abuse; children mangled in car wrecks; women beaten at the hands of abusive partners; men's arms embroidered with heroin track marks. In their bodies I have seen the sin and evil and brokenness of this world etched and carved and gouged into human flesh. In those bodies I have seen the homicidal narrative of human destructiveness written on living parchment.

So too have I gazed upon the cross to see much the same: a man unjustly tried, wrongly convicted, and shamefully executed. A man beaten down and abandoned, forgotten by even those that promised to be with him always. A man bereft even of his God, his Abba, who cries out "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"

It is when I bring myself to the foot of the cross and gaze upon this broken body, when I place at those pierced feet the images and stories of those with whom I have journeyed ministerially, it is only then that the body upon the cross ceases to be just a guy dying and becomes the symbol of both the tragedy and triumph of Christ crucified.

Christianity has never promised an easy road or a pleasant path. It promises only that in responding to Christ's invitation to "come and see" that each person will find true humanity and life abundant. There is no guarantee that one will not drink deeply from the cup of woes. There is no guarantee that one will not suffer. There is only the guarantee of the resurrection that death is not the final word in our lives, and that God is truly the "God with us" who knows and fulfills our humanity.

The resurrection does not efface or erase the wounds of Christ. Christian faith does not cause easily track marks to disappear or limbs broken by abuse to mend. But the body upon the cross and the bodies we see each day bear one thing in common: our shared humanity, a humanity assumed by God in Christ.

So yes, I do see 'just a guy' on the cross. But in each body I find, I can also see the wounded Christ. The incarnate Word of God who has assumed our humanity enables us to see in the bodies and on the flesh of all we encounter the sinful history of humanity writ large. The body nailed to the cross directs our gaze to the crosses people bear each day. Bodies nailed to the crosses of addiction, homelessness, disease. Crosses of prejudice, hatred, discrimination nailed to bodies.

Bodies nailed to crosses; crosses nailed to bodies. How often are we complicit in such heinous acts?

These are just some thoughts. As I said before, we can allow this to serve as a jumping-off point for further discussion. I would only offer that if I see "just a guy dying" when I look at the crucifix, that doesn't mean that I don't also see Jesus. And when I look at the broken bodies and lives of others, I don't look past their particularity in order to see Christ. I guess the Crucifix gives me a centering point, one that recalls the harsh reality of our sinful world and the hope of the resurrection, a reality/hope that guides our human stories and structures our evolving human narratives.
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