I woke with a word on my lips. I spoke it into the cold grey morning as I wiped the night from my eyes.
Partially because my mind was tired, and perhaps partially because it is a word so threadbare, so shop-worn with use, I sorta ignored it. But all morning it followed me. Into, out of the shower. It was in the first scent of coffee, in the bottom of that first cup. And then the second and third. It rode with me down the highway to pick my sister up for work, and then sat patiently waiting until I finally listened to what it had to say.
And so listen I did and wonder and listen and query and listen some more and I've thought about it for the rest of the day. And here are some things it said.
In an age of spiritual self-determination, where spirituality's highest law seems to be "do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else", the cross, the notion of atonement, the belief in a need for atonement have been so dismissively, so condescendingly deemed irrelevant, archaic, and unenlightened. And yes sin, and shame, and suffering were nailed to the cross. Death and it's power destroyed there. But for a world that doesn't much believe in sin, that doesn't see themselves as sinners, doesn't see the need for such horrible a sacrifice, maybe, beyond all these acts of reckless mercy, is something bigger still. Something people of every age deeply desire, and desperately need: that God be killed.
Scripture says it pleased God to crush Christ. God the Father killing God the Son and finding pleasure there. Why? Of all the grotesque and macabre ways...?? I think it's two-fold. God needed to be killed. That is, what everyone that has ever existed thought of God needed to be crushed, ground to bits and blown into oblivion. Every false premonition we collectively share. That God is far off, that He is cold and unfeeling in the face of our suffering. That He is a moral cop, judge jury and executioner. That He is a cosmic killjoy. That He is ethereal and unknowable. That He is a self-absorbed ultra narcissist. All of those false God's killed on the Cross, and secondly only the real God remaining, resurrected and ever living.
Dead the far-off unfeeling God, risen the God who is as close as our own skin. Who felt on that cross what we feel, all of our hurt and fear and shame and suffering. God who is as close as our own spirit where He comes to live when we believe.
Dead the moral cop, risen the fair judge whose wrath is stayed, who Himself took the punishment for all wrongdoings on that cross. Who condemns no one that calls on Christ.
Dead the cosmic killjoy, risen the one Sacred Heart where we can finally find true happiness. That place of total acceptance where we are finally free to find our deepest greatest joy.
Dead the unknowable God, Risen the God who gives His Spirit to allow us to know Him as we are known by Him, to lead us into all Truth.
Dead the infinite megalomaniac, risen the One who puts all others above Himself.
Dead every false God of our invention and risen our Hope, our Peace, our One True Love.
So then the Cross, as foolish as it seems, does not stand in antagonism of modern man. No in fact it answers the heart cries in us all. And the cross itself is not it, it is just a symbol. Nothing magical or mystical about its shape, if Christ had come in these times a firing squad, gas-chamber or an electric chair would have been the altar God used to sacrifice His Son. The thing itself is not it, the whole point is that we were created with an eternal curiosity, it's what makes us distinctly human, and God, on the Cross, answers all our deepest questions, calms all our darkest fears. If only we will believe.