God will again have compassion upon us;
God will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
At the heart of the prophetic proclamation there stands the certainty that God is interested in the world to the point of suffering.
Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (1972)
*This is the final installment in our series on Micah posted every Wednesday during Lent.
In the midst of Holy Week, we pause to remember our 6-week Journey through Lent thus far. Our daily trek towards the Divine starts with stripping down so that we can vulnerably and transparently take inventory of our weaknesses, copings and inconsistencies. We summon the strength and focus to study the ways social, political, economic and religious systems enslave and devour humanity and the land. We ask ourselves how we are complicit and benefit from these arrangements. Then we expose oppression, injustice and greed while casting a vision and creatively constructing another Way.
All of this flows from a God who is present and passionate and pissed off whenever and wherever people and places are pulverized by the profit motive and power games. This is not a stoic God nor an ambivalent God nor a neglectful God. This God refuses to leave us alone or guessing.
Micah concludes his holy rant with an exclamation point: this God will not remain angry forever. Forgiveness and mercy are at the very center of the Divine. This is why the cross is so crucial. The death of Jesus is a masterful climax to the story about a God who loves the world so much that she vulnerably incarnates herself into a man who feminizes the masculine with forgiveness, humble service and empathy, and is eventually kidnapped and tortured by elites offended and threatened by this Movement that “has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly.”
The death of God on the cross exposes the idolatrous and tyrannical nature of the powers that be and it summons us to find Life by sacrificing our own self-interest and committing our time, energy and resources towards lobbying for those whom Jesus called “the least of these.” Indeed, this is precisely where we find the risen God in Christ today: in the face of the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the naked and the hungry. This search for God leads us out of the sanctuary and seminary and into the streets.
In the midst of Holy Week, we ponder the multi-textured meaning of the cross. First there is a painful inevitability. It is the climax of the prophetic script. Benjamin Mays explains by comparing the death of King Jesus with the assassination of Dr. King:
Inevitable, not that God willed it. Inevitable in that any who takes the position King did…if he persists in that long enough, he’ll get killed. Now. Anytime. That was the chief trouble with Jesus: He was a troublemaker. So any time you are a troublemaker and you rebel against the wrongs and injustices of society and organize against that, then what may happen is inevitable.
Second, the cross beckons us towards lives of ruthless solidarity. In his ground-breaking work The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011), James Cone testifies:
As I see it, the lynching tree frees the cross from the false pieties of well-meaning Christians. When we see the crucifixion as a first-century lynching, we are confronted by the re-enactment of Christ’s suffering in the blood-soaked history of African-Americans. Thus, the lynching tree reveals the true religious menainng of the cross for American Christians today. The cross needs the lynching tree to remind Americans of the reality of suffering—to keep the cross from becoming a symbol of abstract, sentimental piety.
Lastly, the death of Jesus prods us to replicability. We are called to take up the cross. We are crucified with Christ. All our desires and dreams, oriented around power, privilege and possessions, are buried and risen anew.
Jesus challenged his followers:
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?
Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem. Dr. King took the Movement to Memphis. Where is God calling you?