Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

[34] This is not really a sermon on The Cross [Lent 2B, CWM]

Mark 8:31-38

8:31 Then Jesus began to teach them that the Promised One must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

8:32 Jesus said all this quite openly. And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus.

8:33 But turning and looking at the disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

8:34 Jesus called the crowd with the disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

8:35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

8:36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

8:37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

8:38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Promised One will also be ashamed when that one comes in the glory of the Divine Parent with the holy angels."
This is not really a sermon on The Cross

Last week, Pr. Lisa mentioned the discomfort many progressive Christians have with the concept of “sin.” I apparently was acculturated differently, because I do not have a knee-jerk negative reaction to sin talk.

If you ask me, “What is ‘sin’?” I say, “Sin is that which separates us from God” -- and if I’m really thinking, I add that it also separates us from each other, and from ourselves.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Our consistent missing the mark is a part of the human condition, and our strivings to ever draw closer to the Divine are our best selves at work in us.

While I don’t have a problem with discussion of sin, I have basically zero interest in the glorification of Jesus’ suffering and death. I have, in fact, an active resistance to it.

I absolutely, full-stop, refuse to believe in a God who requires the brutal death of a Beloved Child in order to reconcile the world to Godself. That’s abusive and cruel and irreconcilable with the God of Love who is at the center of my faith.

So I tend to not engage with the Cross much.

And fortunately for me, today’s lectionary doesn’t require that I come up with a coherent theology of the Cross that I can live with.

8:31 Then Jesus began to teach them that the Promised One must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
This isn’t because God requires some sort of torture in order for Jesus to be an acceptable sacrifice -- it’s because when you subvert the Powers, that’s what happens.

In preparing for this sermon, I couldn’t find my copy of Richard Horsley’s Jesus and Empire, but I could find my copy of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s The First Paul. In the chapter “Christ crucified,” one of the section heading is, “As the revelation of the character of empire.” They write:
In the first-century setting of Paul and his hearers, “Christ crucified” had an anti-imperial meaning. Paul’s shorthand summary was not “Jesus died,” not “Jesus was killed,” but “Christ crucified.” Jesus didn’t just die, wasn’t simply murdered -- he was crucified. This meant that Jesus had been executed by imperial authority: crucifixion was a Roman form of execution. In Paul’s world, a cross was always a Roman cross.

Rome reserved crucifixion for two categories of people: those who challenged imperial rule (violently or nonviolently) and chronically defiant slaves (not simply disobedient or difficult slaves). If you were a murderer or a robber, you would not be crucified, though you might be executed another way. The two groups who were crucified had something in common: both rejected Roman imperial domination. Crucifixion was a very public, prolonged, and painful form of execution that carried the message, “Don’t you dare defy imperial authority, or this will happen to you.” It was state torture and terrorism.

To proclaim “Christ crucified” was to signal at once that Jesus was an anti-imperial figure, and that Paul’s gospel was an anti-imperial gospel. The empire killed Jesus. The cross was the imperial “no” to Jesus. But God had raised [Jesus]. The resurrection was God’s “yes” to Jesus, God’s vindication of Jesus -- and this also God’s “no” to the powers that had killed [Jesus].

(p. 131-2)
Paul exhorts us not to be conformed to the world (Romans 1:122 -- see p. 139 in the book), and the Cross is a powerful reminder that Jesus came not to prop up the systems of the world but to subvert them.
8:31 Then Jesus began to teach them that the Promised One must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

8:32 Jesus said all this quite openly. And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus.

8:33 But turning and looking at the disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
We don’t get the details of Peter’s rebuke, but we do know that in the Garden, Peter takes up a sword to defend Jesus from arrest. Many of the Jews of Jesus’ time were desperately hoping for a Savior -- and many of them expected that Savior to be a Davidic king, a warrior who would violently overthrow the Roman occupiers.

Obviously, this is NOT the kind of Savior that Jesus was.

I think one of the things Jesus is saying here is that Peter is still so locked in to the ways of the world, still so insistent that Jesus behave in that way, wanting Jesus to win a game that Jesus refuses to even play.
8:34 Jesus called the crowd with the disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

8:35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

8:36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

8:37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

8:38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Promised One will also be ashamed when that one comes in the glory of the Divine Parent with the holy angels."
I don’t think Jesus means losing one’s life in a really unhealthy self-denying way. Jesus doesn’t call us to martyrdom for the sake of martyrdom, nor to suffering for the sake of suffering.

But to want our own will at the expense of the Will of God? THAT’S a problem.

In The First Paul, Borg and Crossan talk about “participatory atonement.“ They say:
We participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus, die and rise with Christ, and thereby enter a new life in Christ. Participatory atonement does not mean Jesus died for us, and therefore we don’t need to. Instead, it means we are to die and rise with Christ. It is metaphorical language for a process of radical internal change. (p. 137, emphasis mine)
At First Church Somerville this morning, Molly preached on Galatians 5:16-24, in which Paul talks about our selfishness and all that stems from that as being crucified.

Borg and Crossan suggest that a better word for “redemption” as in “The redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) would be “liberation” -- “the liberation that is in Christ Jesus” (p. 146).

We are called to give up our ties to the domination systems of this world, to give up our addictions and our political jockeying, to die to all those death-dealing systems of oppression, so that we can be resurrected with Christ into new life -- life abundant and everlasting.

May it be so.

Amen.
Tags: people: pastors: lisa, sermons: mine, sermons: mine: preached, son of a preacher man, soteriology
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