Although this is not some amazing theological insight, over the past months I’ve been reflecting on the church more and more as the community of those who continues the work of Jesus. The church is the resurrected community, which exists as embodiment of that which we confess to be God incarnate. But the metaphor is now stretching me into places which I didn’t expect.

We like to think of the church as the resurrected community, maybe keeping pictures of the triumphant Christ that is carrying the banner of victory while the whole evil world lies slain somewhere in the back of our minds. But what about the crucified church? Is the church not to become the crucified community for every generation?

When people stop by with the question: “did Jesus have to be crucified?”, I answer with a “yes”. But this yes can imply two things, and it is the second which I have in mind when I say yes. It can mean “yes” in the determinist way, thus saying that God had the whole life of Jesus planned out, and it ended with the cross, and thus God was the one hammering in the nails, God was Pilate condemning Jesus to be crucified, God was the Jewish leaders conspiring against Jesus, and God was the crowd shouting “crucify him”, because that is what “had to” happen, because “God planned it so”.

But what about this second option: Yes, Jesus had to be crucified, because when the source of all that is good enters this world, then crucifixion is the only option. The powers that be will always crucify the one who embodies that which Jesus embodied. So yes, it couldn’t have ended in any other way. The cross was the only way onto salvation.

But what then about the church? If the church is the be the resurrected body of Christ, the continuation of that which Jesus started, would than not imply crucifixion? Not in the martyr sense where I become the hero who “gave the finger to the man”, but simply facing the reality that where goodness is presented in the face of power, crucifixion is the only option.

I believe in the church crucified. Maybe that will be the church which stand silent in front of those who ask: “are you proclaiming the kingdom of God”, but the church who in its entire makeup shouts against those who misuse power. I believe in that church. The church crucified.

 

Once a month we have a “youth service”, although mostly attended by high-school kids, more and more I attempt to do it in a why to be more of an “alternative service”, with discussions, image-rich, and participation if possible. Not easy though. Last night we discussed the meaning of the cross and the fact that God could die. I used Acts 8, the story of the Eunuch, and worked with the idea that the text which is mentioned that he read, almost seem like he must have thought that this text apply to himself (read the story, and for a moment think what this poor castrated man must have thought when reading this text, and then see his question about the text). The message was that God can identify with our suffering, cause he know what suffering is himself, since he died on the cross (think Moltmann – crucified God).

I started with a discussion on the hand of some images. First was the word “Jesus”, and everybody just said what got into their heads. From there on different images of Jesus was shown. Of interest what how we were tought to not see the literal parts of Jesus playing with the lambs, but rather the metaphorical, how ancient art had absolutely no meaning to young people (which obviously ask the question what the ancients would have thought of our images), how we mainly see the divine in images, and not the human.

And then, as part of the series, I showed a picture of the face of Christ while lying on his back on the cross, with a hammer and nail in the foreground just before the nail is entering his hand. The reactions? “Fear” and “pain” were most dominant, with a few similar words, and then, after about 15 seconds, the reactions changed… “peace” and “fearlessness” then suddenly dominated the discussion. It was beautifully illustrated, I couldn’t have planned this to happen… so sad how we are indoctrinated about the meaning of the cross, in such a way that we miss the meaning of the cross. We miss the fact that it was a man which hung on the cross, it was really bad, really not what he wanted, really because he angered the authorities in such a way that they felt it fit to crucify him.

The first reactions I think was closer to what we ought to see when thinking of Jesus on the cross, the second what we were taught along with the idea that the cross what Jesus’ big plan.

The first bring us to a God that understand what rejection mean, what pain mean, to a God that has experienced this. The second to a God that in his divine might went to the cross triumphantly, which might have been in love, and which I can be thankful for, but cannot identify with necessarily. Maybe the two isn’t incompatible, but oh well, this was the thoughts from last night.