Trilogy: “I Crucify” (part two)
By Susan Oxley of Renton, WA, USA
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. —John 19:30 NRSV
When I was eighteen, I began attending “cottage meetings” for seekers to deepen my understanding of the beliefs of this church. Elder Dick Smith led us. One night he spoke of the crucifixion of Christ. He quoted the anguished cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Immediately I thought of Psalm 22 which begins with that cry of anguish but finishes by affirming God’s saving presence and compassion. I wasn’t listening to Dick until I suddenly began to hear what he was saying.
“We go through life, bumping up against one another’s souls,” Dick explained. “When we hurt one another, we chip off little pieces of one another’s souls. We speak carelessly or ignore someone. We lash out in anger or hurt. It is like little deaths.
“One of the ways to understand Jesus’ words on the cross is to think of all those little deaths, created by all the people who have ever lived, gathering around him at one time. It was almost more than Jesus could bear, and he cried out to God in his anguish. That is what Jesus did for us on the cross. He took all the deaths we inflict on one another, and carried them for us.”
Dick Smith’s explanation of atonement reflects one of the ancient traditional models. At the time, it ministered deeply to me. As the years pass, I have learned to explain Christ’s saving love and grace in many ways. But regardless of the theological journey my faith has traveled, I have always remembered that image of going through life bumping up against others’ souls and sometimes chipping off little bits of them. It happens despite my good motives and always because of my humanness. I crucify. That is when I need God’s grace the most in my life and in the lives of those I have wounded. Only the God of the cross forgives and makes life whole.
Prayer for Peace
Forgive us, God, for our abuse of others, knowing or unintentional. Forgive us when we fall short of doing all we can to share your grace and make one another whole.
Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons
Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.
Today, God, I will not chip away at another’s self-esteem. I will build up and affirm.