Trilogy: Rejected and Despised (part one)
By Susan Oxley of Renton, WA, USA
They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. —John 19: 15–18 NRSV
“I don’t like the symbol of the cross,” a seeker told me. “How can you belong to a religion that uses blood to get its message across?” I took a breath and silently asked God for wisdom.
“Those symbols are ancient,” I began. “What do you think blood symbolized to the people in Jesus’ day?”
“Death,” came the immediate response. “That’s what I learned in Sunday school.”
“Many symbols have more than one meaning. In ancient Israel, blood represented the essence of life, given by God. That’s why they drained it from meat before eating it. They were symbolically giving the animal’s life back to God. Blood was also used to seal a covenant or promise.”
“How does that fit with communion, where the wine represents the blood of Jesus on the cross?”
“Try thinking of the cup of wine as a symbol of Jesus’s life, and everything he taught about God’s kingdom—everything he said and did that brought life to others. It represents the new covenant of God’s grace.”
“Well, it’s not so bad when I think of it that way. What about the cross?”
“Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Have you ever felt alone, rejected, ‘crucified’ for doing what you knew was right? So was Jesus. And God was with him through it all. God cries with us, laughs with us, never deserts us. The God of the cross is the God who stays with us through every circumstance of life, and keeps loving us regardless. God has been with me through death and grief, through joy and celebration, through disappointment, cancer, and doubt. That is the God I worship. Would you like to come to church with me and see?”
“Hmm. Maybe. I’ll say this—you’ve given me something to think about.” And so our conversation ended. But my prayers continue.
Prayer for Peace
Holy One, clarify your presence in my mind so I may help others understand. As Christ embodies your Shalom, may I show peace to the war-weary world.
Spiritual Practice: Embodying God’s Shalom
Find a way to express and embody God’s shalom. Begin by prayerfully listening to your longing for peace. Become silent and imagine you can hear the groaning of the Earth’s people, nations, and creatures. Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom.
Today, God, I will show that peace works better than violence.