Meditation written and read by Cathy Tamsberg.
Lent is a tricky time for many Pullenites. Many Christians believe in the traditional theory of atonement that says God sent Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our sins and he rose from the dead on the third day. For them, Easter is the most important day of the year. But many of us are either ambivalent about this understanding or reject it completely. This makes the Lent/Holy Week/Easter season complicated. Said more simply, without a fairly clear theology of the cross, it’s hard to know what to do with this period in the liturgical year—and for some, their questions make the celebration of communion each month challenging as well. This is why our Wednesday night programs during Lent will feature Pullen people sharing what they believe about the cross.
So what do we do with this season? If we view standard atonement theory as a relic from the Jewish tradition of blood sacrifice that doesn’t adequately or even accurately explain why Jesus came and what happened to him at the end of his life, is there a meaningful replacement?
Let me suggest that we start by naming some things we do believe. Was he executed instead because he challenged the powers of his day? Was he killed because he articulated what liberation theologians call “God’s preferential option for the poor?” Did he die because he offered a vision of the commonwealth of God that was simply too radical for many people, especially those with resources, to accept? It’s likely that all of these influenced the outcome.
Considering the crucifixion from another vantage point, it always feels like a valuable exercise to put ourselves in the place of others of whom we are critical and ponder how we would have responded. For example, if we had lived in Germany as Christians when Hitler began sending Jewish citizens to concentration camps, would we have had the courage to hide our Jewish neighbors in order to save their lives?
As you reflect on what you believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus today, consider how you might have responded to Jesus if you had been a leader in the synagogue with a comfortable way of life to protect. Would you have embraced the radical message that he attributed to God, or would you have been silent as your comrades plotted to get rid of him?
This meditation is from “Lent: Sowing Season, Holy Time,” a collection of daily readings by Associate Pastor Cathy Tamsberg. Each day during Lent, from Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, to Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, a new excerpt read by a member of the Pullen congregation will be made available. To hear each day’s reading as it is published, subscribe to Pullen’s RSS feed, or listen to the podcast in iTunes.