Bothered by “Bothered by the Cross”
In an uncomfortable and excellent piece called Bothered by the Cross, Deanna Murshed spread the bother to me tonight [see the whole article in Sojonet here.] She's reflecting on how commonly we spill out the words "because Christ died on the cross," and how seldom they really make sense to us:
Really, what in the world does this mean? Christ died on the cross. It is so easy to hear now, that the absolute foolishness of it – and I mean that in the best possible way – simply ceases to amaze me.
But liturgical cycles are good for that – making you not forget any part of the story and asking you to revisit each station, as it were. One passage has been coming to mind (from John's gospel):
"Jesus replied, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life'" (12:23-25). …
The part that really struck me recently (though I've surely heard it read a hundred times) is that the dying of the grain is not for the resurrection of the seed itself – you do not die simply to be resurrected into a better you. You don't give up that bad habit or attitude, greed or grudge, simply to come out on top. (Though I suppose that's not a bad place to begin). No, the grain dies so that it can produce and reproduce life. The passage says, unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it is no more than a single grain.
The answer as to why the grain needs to die is for it not to remain alone. In other words, Christ died so that he could bear more Christs and grow his reign!
… all of creation seems to be screaming this message. Every part of the wheat is living for the spread of life, wants there to be more wheat. The most basic cycle of nature reflects the divine order.
Think of that! Every part of the wheat is living for the spread of life…
I'm tired tonight. The last three weeks have been as packed with hard work as any I've had for a while. And I want to chill and have no problems.
Then people come home. I give snappish answers and resent the intrusion into my …
Wait a minute. My what? My life? My peaceful isolation? My self-imagined freedom from responsibility?
And then, wouldn't you know, right in the middle of ignoring people around me, I read "Every part of the wheat is living for the spread of life… "
My eyes look at those words, and I can feel the words pressing into me – gently, but definitely – as if the words are coming into focus, and then into deeper focus, and then as if I am looking right through them into something infinite and gorgeous ("living for the spread of life," after all!) that I very much want to be a part of. But there is this blurriness in my imaginary eyesight, like I've been pressing on my eyes and they're cloudy. And then,
OK, God, I haven't been spreading life here tonight. Your life. I'm sorry.
Forgive me for living like I can chuck discipleship when I feel like it.
Spread life through me.
Now. Here. Always.
And my heart starts to soften toward those around me. And the blur begins to clear.