Mors et vita duello“Death and life clashed in an astonishing duel - Life’s leader was killed, and is reigning, alive.”
Dux vitae mortuus
Jesus, in his trek through Galilee and Judea, has been preaching and living the reign of God. His intuition is that God’s existence and self-revelation demands a re-imagination of the universe, a new awareness that all persons are beloved children of one abba, and therefore brothers and sisters to one another without borders. God’s holiness is not only mediated through channels of rite and order, but is freely available. Imagining God as abba leads him to proclaim that forgiveness is present and providence is for all persons, without reference to money or status.
Imagining God as abba has been a conscious choice that precludes imagination of God as a king, general, or judge like those of this world, whose often corrupt ways are frequently parodied in the parables. His practice of eating and drinking with the ritually impure and socially untouchable, the leper, the prostitute, the collaborating tax collectors, as well as with those of unquestioned ritual purity, underlines his egalitarian view of humanity and further distances him from those whose livelihood and power depends upon the observance of purity laws and the collections of tribute to the occupying power.
|Lazarus, by Vincent van Gogh|
Life begins with metanoia, the turning-around required to face the reign of God. It is the turning by which we move from allegiance to the reign of Caesar and the kings like him, toward Christ and the reign of God. It is the turning from accumulation to kenosis, from force of power to agape, in Isak Dinesen’s mystical phrase, “the supreme triumph of unconditional surrender.” As Jesus put it, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains nothing more than a grain of wheat.” Still, death does in fact await everyone. People still use death as a threat to enslave others, to get their own way, to take what belongs to another person, or tribe, or nation. We still delude ourselves that death can be staved off with more stuff, money, sex, and power. Jesus, the resurrection and life, is somehow the way out of this downward spiral into the violence, oblivion, terror, and waste that is death. Life, life here in this world, matters. What lies beyond is a gift, unknowable, unseen. Life without the Way, that is, life without Christ’s vision of a God who makes of every other person a brother or sister and not a rival or enemy, is nothing but death, disguised, prolonged, pain-making.
That is the church's prayer in the third scrutiny: show us the Way, give us life, deliver us from death and all its glittering, flag-waving, bible-thumping masquerades.
(Other posts on Lent 3/4/5 Year A and the Scrutinies here.)