I’m enjoying preparing for worship this coming Easter Sunday. What a great day to celebrate and reflect on. I came across this quote from William Stringfellow (from Sojourners in 1976) and love it. It made me think, who is it that we think was raised to life that Sunday so long ago?
Most churchfolk in American Christendom, especially those of a white bourgeois rearing, have, for generations, in both Sunday School and sanctuary, been furnished an impression of Jesus as a person who went briefly about teaching love and doing good: gentle Jesus, pure Jesus, meek Jesus, pastoral Jesus, honest Jesus, fragrant Jesus, passive Jesus, peaceful Jesus, healing Jesus, celibate Jesus, clean Jesus, virtuous Jesus, innocuous Jesus. Oddly enough, this image of Jesus stands in blatant discrepancy to biblical accounts of the ministry of Jesus familiar to everyone (by which Jesus is known to have been controversial in relation to his family and in synagogue appearances, to have suffered poignantly, to have known complete rejection of intimates no less than enemies, and to have been greeted more often with apprehension than acclaim).
Sharing from his childhood Stringfellow goes on to say:
I became aware that others’ felt this discrepancy, too, and that some met it by steadfastly concentrating on the idea of an innocuous Jesus since that convenienced their way of life. They made the effort to overlook the contrary evidence of Holy Week and the disquiet it occasioned. Some others, I noticed, opted the other way: they ideologized Jesus, rendering him a more political agitator. I found both of these attempts deeply unsatisfactory, both being narrow and acculturated versions of Jesus, the one pietistic, the other political.
And isn’t this still often how we try and access Jesus? He is either pietistic, or political. It is really hard to imagine someone like Martin Luther King Jr. or John Woolman or Simone Weil, who was both faithful and religious, and yet created a lot of problems for the powers that be. Religion in our day either teaches us to stay out of the way, or that being a pain in the ass is the only way.
Yet, Jesus, the one hung as an insurrectionist, approaches a weeping woman (Mary) in the Garden and comforts her. He gives her a new hope and she is the first witness to resurrection. I think we want it one way or the other, we want piety or politics but Jesus reminds us that the call to follow him is not so easily drawn with hard and fast lines. We are called to move beyond ourselves, to be challenged and changed, to turn around as Mary did, and respond to the voice of the risen one.