Easter is a perfect time for our own personal spiritual New Year. With the new life of Spring, new life can come into your own Heart. Yesterday at Cherry Springs Assisted Living I talked to my Elders about this very thing, and that if we wish to see the true meaning of Easter, it is high time we left some things at the foot of the Cross. Whether you see the death of Jesus as atonement for our sins or not, it is obvious that He certainly paid a huge personal price in order to carry His message that God is love. Do we really want to miss the true meaning of such a sacrifice on our behalf?
Prior to the time of Jesus, God was patterned around the ancient pagan gods and goddesses. Primitive minds decided way back then that this god, Jehovah, must be just as capricious and temperamental as all the gods who came before. This notion, which was that of the Scribes and Pharisees, is alive and sick today! According to that upstart, radical, Jesus…wrong! How could a god who is Love, Itself ever do the harsh, violent things credited to It? This question for me, and for many of you, is purely rhetorical. And yet, in churches all over the world yesterday there was a big emphasis put on “our sins”, atonement, and…yes…the idea that we should feel at least guilty, if not shameful. As you know, it is only a short hop, but a deadly one, from guilt, that inner warning that we did wrong, a temporary condition, to shame,a permanent, life-destroying condition, that holds us hostage to the belief that we are innately evil. I asked my congregation if they had ever been to church and felt worse afterward than before they went, especially on Easter. Several heads nodded. Shame is usually the culprit in a situation such as this. At Easter, we are supposed to feel shame in the face of Jesus’ sacrifice, right?
Wrong. Instead, Easter is our opportunity to put the sacrifice of Our Brother Jeshua ben Joseph (His Aramaic name) to good use because it is the perfect opportunity to leave behind many things that hold us back from being the beautiful, happy, healthy, strong and unconditionally loving servants of the Love that is our Creator, God. You see, if we are holding ourselves, however unconsciously, at fault for killing Jesus, we are inviting guilt and it’s dark cousin, shame, into our hearts. Jesus came to enlighten the world about the true nature of God. His life was a sacrifice, very true, a living sacrifice, made so that we can know the real God, not some primitive god of jealousy and violence. So the first thing we would do well to leave at the foot of the Cross is that concept of Our Creator. Believe Jesus when He told us “God is love”. (1 John 4:8) and if you would be free, dear brothers and sisters, mightily reject any idea to the contrary! The complete verse 8 says “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”. Notice that this scripture does not specify what one must love to be considered one who loves. That love could be for animals, the environment, or a special person. That should stop anyone in his tracks who wishes to exclude membership in the family of God to only those who have confessed Jesus, those who don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs…the list goes on and on and on. We humans try to make everything so complicated. It is so simple. Simple, but not easy. It is hard for us to love as Jesus did. How many of us could hang on a cross and pray for their killers? (Luke 23:34).
And yet, that is what we are called upon to do nearly every day, usually in much less dramatic fashion. People hurt us all the time. People frankly, disgust us with their deeds at times.Pastors are not immune; no one is. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive like Jesus, who even went above and beyond forgiveness to see not lost souls, but children trying to find our way. In First John, 3:1, we read “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” See, once we have laid to rest our own guilt and shame at the foot of the Cross, we begin to find it harder and harder to condemn others, but rather to see them as precious to God and so, more than worthy of our human love. As we lay our judgement of ourselves and others at the foot of the Cross, we free ourselves from the terrible burden that judgement is. I have heard it said that judgement comes from the mind, while discernment comes from the heart. When our burdensome and noisy judgement is quieted we can hear the quiet discernment of our hearts, whispering to us for our own safety, our own good, and the good of others. And so, when we are battle-scarred and bloodied enough, we come to lay our judgement at the foot of the Cross and take hold of the peace of The Christ.