The anonymous gospel storyteller that we call Mark, wants us to know that: “Jesus began to teach them that the Promised One, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the one the oppressed people of Israel had been longing for, waiting for, expecting, hoping for, had to suffer much, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and religious scholars, be put to death, and rise again three days later.” Furthermore, the gospel storyteller makes it absolutely clear, “if you, wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, you must pick up your cross and follow in my footsteps.”
Those of us who seek to follow Jesus, must deny our very selves, we must pick up our cross, and we must follow in the footsteps, of Jesus. Follow in the footsteps of the One who understands that he must suffer much, be rejected by the elders, the pillars of society, the powerful religious leaders and the scholars, follow in the footsteps of the One who understood that rejection meant that he would have to be put to death, and rise again. Some of us would like to change the channel.
I’ve seen it before.
The hero, the beloved, the freedom fighter, justice seeker, peace maker, our saviour, suffers and dies. There is so much of suffering in the world and sometimes I want to be Distracted I want something more interesting, more uplifting, more hopeful, more cheerful.
However, we live in a world filled with instruments of mass distraction. I don’t need to see what I don’t want to see. I have the power of my remote. I have the power of my smartphone. I have the power of my computer. I have videos, music, books, and time to enjoy the pleasures they bring. There’s food in the fridge, wine in the cupboard, take-out on demand, Uber, entertainment galore. I can tune in and tune out. Life’s too short to waste it on suffering or picking up crosses. The cross is too big, too heavy, too horrendous. The world doesn’t need another martyr.
What can one person do in the face of such suffering? I don’t know.
Trouble is, I do know. We are all good people. We don’t want to be responsible for the oppression of anyone. We don’t want to be responsible for the suffering of our neighbours. I want justice but what can I do? Better more capable people than I have tried, and they have failed. What can I do? It’s hopeless.
The world is so full of injustice. I wish I could change the channel.
We can dream about the Reign of God, a world where everyone has enough and where the planet is protected, and all creatures thrive, but that’s all it is a dream. And yet we keep dreaming it. We dream it in our deepest truest selves. The dream surfaces in the work of our imaginations. The dream lives in our finest literature, in our most beautiful works of art, in our greatest movies and in the most moving music. The dream drives some of our greatest thinkers, inventors, engineers, explorers and dancers. It’s a dream of justice for all. It’s a dream that despite humanity’s best and worst efforts will not die. Yes, the dream has suffered untold defeats, and millions of deaths but somehow the dream lives on. The dream lives on because we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we human beings. Yes, we are capable of despicable things. Yes, we are responsible for the injustices in this world. But we are also capable of such beauty, such truth, such life, and our capacity for greatness means that the dream lives.
But there can be no life without death. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. Unless we are prepared to die there can be no rebirth. We are, after all, human. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. Lent reminds us of our mortality.
Each one of us is on a grand pilgrimage from the womb to the tomb, and as we travel, we learn the meaning of what it means to be human.
All the great philosophers, like Plato, Seneca the great Roman philosopher insisted, “He who learns how to die, unlearns slavery.” Learning how to die frees us from slavery to our distractions. Any time we examine our assumptions or our presuppositions, when we question our carefully held prejudices and our assumptions and decide to let it go, that’s a form of death. There is no growth, no development, no rebirth without death. Each and every day of our journey we need to have the courage to let go of our hopelessness, let go of our distractions, let go of our fears, let go of our delusions, and indeed our doctrines and dogmas.
We need to have the courage to let those old tapes in our heads die so that new ideas can be born. The idea that there is nothing that we can do enslaves us to acquiesce and so we turn our heads or change the channel. The idea that the problems are too big, enslaves us to powerlessness, hopelessness, and inaction. Tightly held doctrines, dogmas, and practices enslave us to rigidity and heartlessness as we fearfully cling to the way things were and refuse to engage the way things are. Refusing to let things die in us enslaves us to lives that are turned off – repeating the travesties of our past.”
The Apostle Paul insisted that the followers of Christ must learn to die daily. Die daily. What needs to die in us today, so that the dream of justice can be reborn?
LOVE the power that lies at the heart of all reality is the midwife to justice.
“Tenderness is what LOVE looks like in private, but Justice is what LOVE looks like in public.”
Yes, the problems are immense. Yes, the suffering is intense. Yes, we have tried and failed so many times. Yes, we are only one person. Yes, there are untold reasons to be cynical and do nothing. The courage to pay attention to the world around us will come from the LOVE that lives in each of us, love for ourselves, love for our families, love for our neighbours, all our neighbours and love for our enemies.
LOVE that is God, enables us to die daily, so that freedom can be born in us. Freedom to let LOVE take on flesh and parade around in the world as justice.
Like Peter, I am reluctant to follow where Jesus is leading us.
We cannot turn away or tune out.
LOVE is the courage we need to pick up those crosses of ours and follow Christ into the world, to hear and bear witness to the suffering of our neighbours and our enemies.
Let these presuppositions, cynicisms, racisms, prejudices, and social constructs die so that Love can be born in us and parade around the world as justice!!! That’s resurrection. That’s the joy of living. Choose life. Die daily!!! Choose life. Let LOVE live in, with, through, and beyond us, now and always.