Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Crucifixion as Half-Time Show. . .

We turned the political season into a reality show designed for bombastic personalities and made for entertainment.  It stands to reason it would not take long to turn the crucifixion of Jesus into a half-time show, an entertainment diversion between our favorite sports (in this case, the NCAA brackets).  It makes one wish that the networks would forget about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus -- whenever the media gets its hands on the story nothing good comes of it.

I know I am risking the wrath of those who found it warm and touching, who found their spirits uplifted by it, and who think it is a good way to speak the story to those not yet of the kingdom.  I am pretty sure on all counts that this is not the case.  The crucifixion of Jesus is neither warm nor touching.  It is stark and blunt and real (the kind of reality no one wants to watch).  The crucifixion and resurrection are not inspirational.  They do not encourage us but confront us with the radical, irrational, unreasonable love of God who would die for sinners and rise to give them a share in His divine life for all eternity.

It is mystery more than inspirational fare -- yes it does strengthen the faith and make us marvel at the length God would go to reclaim His lost creation but it does not inspire us to do anything more than believe it under the guidance of the Spirit.  Anything more and this Gospel becomes one more law, demand, or burden laid upon us to beef up our behavior.  We need less to be uplifted than to be swept from the ground of sin and death to the domain of grace and life.  This happens not by spiritual imagery but by real and powerful means of grace that deliver what they speak and do what they sign.  The end result is more than "You'll Never Walk Alone."

It troubles me that the world might be more sympathetic toward the half time show of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord than His Word.  All that glitters is not what moves people to faith.  It is the Spirit and the Spirit works through the Word proclaimed and the Sacraments administered as Christ established them.  I am not sure that it helps if the people outside the kingdom are moved to sympathy for Jesus.  He does not ask for it but rejects those who cry out for Him.  Instead He asks us something far different.  He invites us to be convicted of our sins and moved to faith to believe that mercy is what God offers the unworthy and undeserving sinner.

Yes, I know.  I am a cranky old curmudgeon.  It was strange to say the least.  Life, recorded, music, drama, complete with commercial breaks!  All in all I think it was more goofiness than The Passion.  We spoke The Passion five times.  On Palm Sunday from Luke, on Monday of Holy Week from Matthew, on Tuesday of Holy Week from Mark, on Wednesday of Holy Week again from Luke, and on Good Friday from John (twice).  Every word from the extended chapters in which the Gospel writers tell us what happened without detracting from the story to entertain us, inform us, move us, or sell something to us.  In the mind of this old coot, this is The Passion.  Fox gave us a half-time show -- not bad as entertainment but certainly a pale substitute for the New Testament.

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