Sunday: Good Friday Redux?

(Note: A movement, in my lexicon, is a social, cultural phenomenon, in whatever era, characterized by an inspiring idea or ideal, at times, expressed and embodied in a human ideator/idealist, that galvanizes a people to take action, usually in reform of the status quo. When a movement grows and survives its initial pulse/push, it can enter a stage of organization toward permanence, becoming an institution; thus, a part of the new establishment or status quo. As I read the canonical gospel accounts, I am not certain that Jesus of Nazareth, who, in his ministry proclaimed the nearness of the presence and power of God’s kingdom, intended to establish what historically and institutionally is called “the Church” (whatever the denomination, sect, or branch). Verily, when I consider the works of “the Church” and the works of my life as a Christian, honesty compels my confession that I sometimes have difficulty beholding a reflection of the Jesus who is portrayed in the gospel accounts.)

They –

the rulers of the people, both sacred and secular
and the scoffers
and the doubters
and the crowds of idle bystanders –

A view from the cross (edited), James Tissot (1836-1902)

all were there when they crucified my Lord,
hanging Him high upon a rough-hewn cross of His, to them,
unknowable,
undesirable
saving dying;
all because they could not, would not accept His liberating word and work
of a kingdom of unconditional love and justice
for all
in ev’ry way
alway.

Sometimes, truth to tell, I wonder about Christians,
the body of Christ,
His living Body in the world.

Sometimes, more (most?) truth to tell, I wonder about me.

They, I who erect and revere the cathedrals, churches, and chapels in His honor
where they, I gather Sunday after Sunday to lift Him higher still with
crosses of precious metal,
vessels of silver and gold,
vesture of embroidered brocade,
elaborate, exuberant hymns of praise;
and who sometimes (oft?) fall prey to the temptation more to worship Him
and less to follow Him
out into His world as His living Body
to proclaim,
with the words of their, my lips
and with the works of their lives, my life,
the liberating Good News of unconditional love and justice
for all
in ev’ry way
alway.

Whene’er they, I do this
(and I, for myself, must confess, “Yes!”
sometimes I’d rather worship Him than follow Him),
then we, I crucify Jesus afresh
and Sunday becomes another not-so-Good Friday.

 

Illustration: A view from the cross (edited), James Tissot (1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum, New York

8 thoughts on “Sunday: Good Friday Redux?

  1. Dear Paul,

    Much of this poem (and the content of your beginning note) resonates with me. Like you, I’m doubtful that Jesus ever had any intention of founding an institution. If he knew about the nature of institutions what you and I know about institutions, then I doubt that he would have wanted his message to be institution-dependent.

    I wrote a poem some time ago that essentially made the cynical observation that no matter how many times Easter Sunday comes, it’s always followed by another Good Friday. I guess that’s because every single one of us who is here to celebrate Easter (or any other rejoicing day) is, after all the rejoicing is done, only a human being, and we know what that means.

    Somehow I think we have to preserve and advance the message Jesus taught in a non-institutional way, respecting but regardless of the institutions that have sprung up in his wake, and we have to at least entertain the notion that the pomp and splendor of Easter may not have much of anything to do with the day-to-day hearing, absorbing, understanding, and living the message that Jesus conveyed in his speaking and in his life. Easter may not – and I’m sure some of my ancestors are rolling over in their graves as I write this – be the point. I think the distinction you draw between worshiping and following is so right on (conveying my generational grounding in that phrase, I guess). Following is so blessed much harder, but at the very least as necessary, as worshiping. The gold, brocade, anthems, etc, all belong to worship and Easter. Our hearts and our wills and our minds must belong to something that precedes, supersedes, and outlasts Easter, but nevertheless is the only thing that has ever enabled resurrection: Love.

    Much love to you and gratitude for this post that has touched me today.

    Karen

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  2. Thank you, always, Karen, for your reflective response…

    I long ago recognized a tension within me regarding – and, thus, my nearly daily conscious struggle with – the relationship between movements and institutions. An unavoidable aspect of the arising of this tension and my struggle is that as much as I love Jesus and believe myself to be his disciple, I was and am wedded to serving an institution, the Church. Hence, at some deeper, unconscious degree (which, on occasion, rises to the level of consciousness), I always am captivated, verily, held captive to an irony: As closely as I would desire to follow Jesus (and sometimes do), I, in my institutional-weddedness (not to mention my human, sinful self-interest) work at cross-purposes to my desire…

    It’s the Romans 7.21 Pauline-dilemma: When I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. This became all the more clear to me when I realized (or, at the least, interpreted) that Paul is not talking about salient, conspicuous, obvious elements or aspects of good and evil, but rather, the God-defying-and-denying evil that arises (always!) precisely when he attempts to do and to be God-centered…

    At the beginning and in the middle and at the end of my tension/struggle, I see and lament that I, in my humanness, my sinfulness do not and cannot get this right; that is, will to do the good without the shadow of evil enshrouding my action. And all this throws me back on the unconditional love of God; the unconditional love who is God, praying, hoping that, as the hymn declares, God accepts me just as I am (for I am always) without one plea.

    Love,
    Paul

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  3. Thank you Paul! I enjoyed this post, Karen’s response and your reply and am in total agreement. I’ll simply add that one of the primary reasons that I have some of my most meaningful spiritual experiences in the great outdoors is because I’m not held to any “institutional restrictions” on my chosen worship and prayer because I’m not “inside a building” where it’s so easy to worship as opposed to follow. When I’m Outside in a place that really moves me, I can use water from my water bottle and a piece of my granola bar and my body and blood of Jesus because no one is there to tell me I can’t do it because it’s not wine in a chalice. Maybe there’s another class in your future called “Don’t worship me, follow me instead”.

    Much love

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  4. I love your idea for Paul’s class, Loretta. I’d sign up for that one! Also, I love the image of you with your water bottle and your granola bar in some beautiful natural setting celebrating Holy Communion with God and Creation. I haven’t done that, but I think I am going to follow your example someday.

    Love to you,

    Karen

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    1. Thanks Karen! I’d sign up for the class with Paul too! I just feel so free outside and since I’m typically alone I don’t feel any judgement either over my granola bar communion wafer!

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  5. Granola bar and water as Eucharistic bread and wine… This, for me, is a precious, perfect image of the freedom to follow Jesus in worship. Your being outdoors, Loretta, and being in communion with God also strikes me as a fine and faithful understanding and application of what Jesus meant in speaking of “spiritual worship” (John 4.23-24), which I interpret as devotion to (love of) God in thought, word, and deed not tied to a place or, even, in time.

    Another thought occurs… This business of the difference between following and worshiping Jesus was one of the heartfelt themes of Verna Dozier, particularly captured in her wondrous book, “A Dream of God” – which, before I first read it, I thought had to do with humankind’s imagining of the nature and being of God, but, as I read, was…is God’s dream for humankind.

    And thanks for the idea for the class/course.

    Love you,
    Paul

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    1. Love you back!! I wasn’t sure I should share the water / granola bar thing, but I felt I could given our relationship. I’m sure in other sectors I’d be judged. I love the fact that God meet me wherever I am and vice versa!!

      Let me know when you’re gonna teach that class!! I’m in!!

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  6. If I ever design that class, of course, I’ll let you know!

    Love

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