But he himself was broken,
long before the sky would open,
Forsaken, almost human,
he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.
Suzanne ~ Leonard Cohen
The 14th September is Holy Cross Day. It commemorates the occasion on which Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, whilst overseeing excavations in the city of Jerusalem, is said to have uncovered a cross, which many believed to be the cross of Christ. A church was built on this site (the Holy Sepulchre) and dedicated on this day in the year 335.
The event of Christ’s crucifixion is central to Christianity. I would like to argue that Christianity is far more about a whole life, from conception to burial, and indeed to the resurrection. The theologian W.H. Vanstone noted the following about Jesus’ life:
From his betrayal, his being handed over by Judas to the authorities, everything we hear about Jesus is written in the passive voice. In other words, Jesus is not said to be doing anything, he is someone to whom things are done. He is handed over to the chief priests who hand him over to Pilate, who hands him over to be crucified. He is buried (he does not bury himself!). On the third day he is raised (1 Corinthians, 15, verse 4). Not only this, at the beginning Jesus is conceived, given-birth-to, carried and cared for.
Now, of course Jesus has an active ministry of teaching, healing, praying and miracle-working. But I would argue that these are not the things that make him the saviour. There have been many other great teachers, healers, miracle-workers and those who pray; these things do not make him unique in the ancient world. These are not the things which make Him the Christian Saviour. What makes Him the Christian Saviour are not the things he does but the things that are done to him.
Is this an argument for Passivity, for doing nothing? No. For to follow Jesus is to follow someone who does things; doing has its place. But we are saved, we do not save ourselves, and part of receiving that salvation is to present ourselves before the broken, done-to, God, honestly, in all our brokenness. In doing so, we recognise that it is through God’s grace, love and brokenness that God mends these broken wings so they can fly again for the good of others.
Vicar’s thoughts for September 2017