Church: Old and New
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Whether or not they are acknowledged publicly, those on the margins and their allies recognize acts of injustice. Sebastian Moore presents the crucifixion of Jesus as an unjust political act that claimed a human life. Every time it happens, no matter when or where, no matter who the victim or perpetrator is, killing is tragic. What makes Jesus’ death different (besides his physical resurrection three days later) is that Love Incarnate was present there, binding the victim, perpetrators, and witnesses together. That is the legacy of our faith to this day. Moore writes:
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). In the Spirit, we know that the Church is the difference Jesus of Nazareth has made and makes in human history. And what is the Church but a society held together not by power but by love? This polity of love stems from the self-consecration of Jesus as our lover nailed to the cross of our power, manifest in his resurrection to draw all things to himself. This is the secret of the Church, the ripple effect of Calvary.
Now what does the Church give as her credentials? A man put to death by us and brought to life by God. An act of political bloodshed that otherwise would have been lost in the great mass of human injustice. But focused upon through the Spirit, political bloodshed is a universal language. This language is elemental. Everyone who witnesses the killing feels a barrier being crossed. There is this awed hush, a sense of having gone fatally too far. And a very important and most easily forgotten aspect of this elemental insight is, that all of us, those for and those against the victim, are being brought together, and this not only as in the bonding of Caesar’s killers, but as [people] involved simply as humans, all our loyalties forgotten with the sight of the fatal blow. . . .
So that is the given of our faith: a public murder held in focus by a continuing community who owe to the victim a love that is the fulfilment of our humanity to change this cruel world. For all peoples and for all times, a dangerous memory.
This new humanity, born of God in the blood of old, being in time has to grow. And since this life is God’s in us, the law of its growth is the Holy Spirit that endlessly completes the relationship between the non-manifest Father and the manifest Son. And since love is the formula of this new life, its growth will be, as with each of us, a succession of breakthroughs in loving. And there’s no going back on a breakthrough.
As Moore says, there can be no going back on a breakthrough. From science to technology, psychology to theology, we are “breaking through” many of the things we thought we knew. There can be no denying the truth that new things must emerge from the old, but our call as Christians is to make sure that our primary “breakthroughs” are becoming more loving. We may not be cutting-edge scientists or avant-garde artists, but we can all push the boundaries of our ability to love—to love more people and to love them more fully.
Sebastian Moore, The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as If It Mattered (Orbis Books: 2008), 60-61.