Thursday, February 19, 2015

the suffering God.


We forget that the people who cried Hosanna eventually grew enraged when Jesus didn't fulfill their expectations for a radical political leader of the day.  He fell short of their visions of a rebel king who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and bring decisive political victory to the Jews, at long last.  They longed for a warrior leader who crushed the opposition and punished their most-hated enemies; they groaned for a country free from foreign powers and taxes and corruption.  (In this way, their desire for a political savior seems both petty and familiar to us, two thousand years later).  Instead of the political figure they wanted, the Jews got a man who wept and resisted traditional power and touched the unclean and refused political prestige in order to show people a new way to be human, a way beyond the law that went right down to the depths of the heart.

And today, there are still people who get angry when Jesus is talked about in any terms but the conquering warrior, the one to be feared, the bloodthirsty and bad-ass leader they feel they can follow.  We all fear being powerless, to some degree, because it feels vulnerable and exposed.  So many of us want God bless America and decisive victory and overflowing success; as Anne Lamott noted, too often our God loves who we love and hates who we hate.  How many of us are offended, disgusted, when Jesus is associated with anything weak, anything less than powerful, anything messy or failing.

The God of the poor, of the broken, of the outcast, can feel like a giant disappointment--we prefer the God who comes to conquer, the one that looks strong and victorious.  We want to be winners, associated with a winning God, and we want to feel successful and powerful.

Jesus, the bloodied and bruised Lamb, is a scandal and a disappointment for many who want God to be a powerful, vindictive being.  Instead of fulfilling our conceptions of power, Jesus turned it all on its head by living a life characterized by meekness, forgiveness, humility.  Jesus says this is the way that wins in the end.  This is counter-intuitive to the core, this assertion that the God who was murdered by his enemies--not the one who loads up his ammo to blow them out of the water--this is the one who wins, the one who saves and heals the world.

I do believe God will restore and redeem all of creation, one day, but I also wonder: how would it shift our thinking if we thought of God not as the one who, at a distance, allows rape and war and abuse, but rather, as the victim, as the one who is oppressed and murdered and unfairly jailed?  As the Suffering God?  Is this a better picture of the God we see in the crucified, terribly misunderstood Jesus?  Perhaps in the same way we see the God we hope and wait for in the astounding resurrection?  These are a few of the questions I'll be pondering this Lenten season, along with an examination of my own belief in the lie of scarcity, and what it means to move instead toward the belief that there is enough love and peace and connection for us all.

...

"As a lover of all things certain, I wanted faith to work like an epidural; to numb the pain of vulnerability. As it turned out, my faith ended up being more like a midwife – a nurturing partner who leans into the discomfort with me and whispers 'push' and 'breathe.'  Faith didn’t make my life less vulnerable or comfortable, it simply offered to travel with me through the uncertainty." -Brene Brown

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