Twice a month I meet with a study group that calls themselves the “Sunrise Seekers.” Seekers because they are seeking – knowledge, answers, coffee …
Sunrise because they get up way too early in the morning and often actually see the sunrise but for some of the year they are up before sunrise as the meeting starts a 6:45 am. Yes, A.M., morning, early, cold, dark, before breakfast (and hence the coffee except that I am tea drinker so I have to bring me own cuppa tea) – but its one of the few times during the week that I can get time away from work to attend a study meeting.
This is the group that first showed me to the book, “The Last Week.” Currently we are studying the book one chapter at a time. Today we discussed Thursday and of course I’ve got to write about Wednesday. So now with my head full of ‘Thursday’ talk I have to switch back to writing about ‘Wednesday’. Confused? Good, let’s continue.
One of the things that jumped out at me during reading Borg and Crossan’s chapter on Wednesday was the section on “Atonement: Substitution or Participation?” First I noticed that the subheading was all in caps so it must be important. As a reader I always respond to bigger print as being important to the text (there, that is all the literary analysis you’re getting today).
Second thing I noticed was that I was emotionally drawn to the word “participation.” I have to agree with Borg and Crossan, Jesus is calling us to participate in his ministry and mission to bring God’s kingdom to earth. We’ve been given the job of healing, teaching, caring for the poor and sick. I have trouble with the notion that somehow the single fact that Jesus died atoned for all my sins without me having to do anything. I might buy into the notion that somehow Jesus’s selfless act shows my path towards redemption and life eternal – maybe.
But … How do I say this without seeming conceited? I don’t feel like much of a sinner. Okay, that time in the third grade, well, I am sorry, I stole the cookie. Guess I am now bound for hell. I don’t want to deny that I haven’t done a few bad things that I’ve had to apologize for but on the whole I am one of the nicest, most generous and caring guys I know. Jesus, dude, it was a cookie, don’t die for that…
But … there are things more evil than me. There are people and institutions that are unjust, that feed on the weak and corrupt this world. There are things I can do to make this place better. There are people I can help – wrongs to right. If I have sinned in anyway it is that I have not done enough to help my brothers and sisters.
I can buy the notion that Jesus took this journey during his last week to show us the way towards justice and restoring this world to the kingdom that God intended it to be. I can accept that Jesus is calling me to a participant in healing the wounds of the world.
I can accept that Jesus died to show us how much we must sacrifice. I am not sure I am that strong but I can start the journey and walk as long as my strength holds.