by Rt. Rev'd Thurlow Weed
Christian communities the world over are this day commemorating and reflecting upon the crucifixion of Jesus. Traditional church teaching is that Jesus died for our sins, but that is really not quite correct. It would be more accurate to say he was crucified because of our sins.
Consider Jesus’ ministry and teachings. He taught us that Love was the most important thing above all others. That we love one another as God loves us. That we worship God by giving of ourselves in service to those in need around us.
In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
To this the self-righteous replied, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
Jesus answers them by saying, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. But when I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, when I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, when I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, when I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, when I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
We find in this Parable a reflection of why the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed, found in the book of Ezekiel: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” This is known as the Sin of Sodom.
Jesus did not come to start a new religion. He came to release us from the chains and fetters of an old way that relied on rules and rituals and blood sacrifices, yet we formed a religion that relies on rules and rituals, and a ritualized symbolic blood sacrifice, despite that Jesus told us God doesn’t want blood sacrifices. We have done everything Jesus told us not to do. We even elevated him to the status of God, which Jesus himself denied, and told people not to worship him, but to worship only God in heaven.
We have allowed the religion we have created – along with the rules and rituals we have created – to usurp the beautiful and simple teachings of Jesus. Sort of like a familiar song by the Beatles – “Love is all you need” Even the arrogant and oft-despised Paul knew this: Love does no harm to its neighbour, love is kind and true; there are three things that endure: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.
When we ignore the plight of the hungry or homeless in our community, and set up a fundraiser for a new stained-glass window instead of a fundraiser for the Community Outreach Program, we crucify Jesus. We have failed in love.
When we denounce our Muslim or Jewish neighbours and accuse them of terrorism or worshipping false gods, we crucify Jesus. We have failed in love.
When we forget or ignore that Jesus ministered freely to Jew, Gentile, Pagan, male, female, gay, and straight without discrimination, but then choose ourselves to discriminate against others based on their religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we crucify Jesus. We have failed in love.
Jesus brought the Old Law to completion, to its rightful end. He declared us to be free from its shackles. He stated only that we should love God and our neighbour. Jesus also made clear that the God he prayed to was God of ALL people – God of the Jew, God of the Gentile, God of the Samaritan, God of the Pagan. ONE God of ALL people!! Religion was irrelevant!! It does not matter your religion or belief system, we are all sons and daughters of the same God, the God whose name is Love!
This is the simple teaching Jesus gave us. It is The Way. When Jesus said “I am the Way,” he wasn’t talking about the human Jesus, but rather the Christ within him. The Christ that has existed since the beginning of time; it is the Divine Principle known as Love. To follow The Christ means to follow the Way of Love. This Love was incarnate in Jesus, who taught us the Way of Christ, and how to follow it. He also taught us that by following this Way – the Path of the Christ – we will discover and enter the kingdom of heaven within us. It is how we discover the Christ within ourselves and each other.
So on this Good Friday, ponder prayerfully …. What have you done lately that crucified Jesus? What have you done that disparaged someone because of their religion or belief system, or the gender, or some other aspect of who they are? What have you done that diverts attention away from the real needs of your community and instead looks to shallow superficialities? What have you done other than praying about it? Praying about people in need is worthless. It crucifies Jesus. We are not called to pray over our human family in need, but rather to do something – actively. Whether through hands-on work or though advocacy or raising awareness and connecting people to each other – it is all actively caring for each other as Jesus calls us to. His commandment does not require adherence to any religion, and in fact is beyond all religion. We heard it just yesterday, on Maundy Thursday: “This commandment I give you: that ye love one another with a pure heart, fervently.”
Stop crucifying Jesus.