This short homily was preached on Good Friday, at the First Unitarian Congregation of Brooklyn on 4/6/12.
Our text is a difficult one today. Jesus stands before the worldly powers, – the chief priests, the elders, the scribes and even the face of the Roman authority in occupiedIsrael. It’s a text that is often confused in the retelling, laying blame upon the hands of Jews for the death of another Jew. To be fair, some of the gospel writers had the politics of the day in mind. They needed to convince a Roman world, that it was not to blame for the death of the Messiah.
Spiritually, we can also look at it as a testament to the audacity of life in the face of power. Theologian Delores Williams writes, “”Jesus did not come to redeem humans by showing them God’s ‘love’ manifested in the death of God’s innocent child on a cross erected by cruel, imperialistic, patriarchal power. Rather… the spirit of God in Jesus came to show humans life – to show redemption through a perfect ministerial vision of righting relations between the body (individual and community), mind (of humans and of tradition) and spirit.” I feel this is the spirit of the Christian path that most strongly lives on in our Unitarian Universalist communities. How do we live a life of meaning, amidst all the world’s struggles around wealth, authority, and consumption? How do we build up communities when nations sometimes seek to divide and control? Which traditions hold us up and which traditions hold us back? Does a life of spirit have meaning to us any longer, and what does it feel like if it does?
The world of the bible is in some ways very similar to ours. It speaks of a people trying to survive within radically changing times. We are blessed here not to suffer under an imperial power, but many around us know the curse of poverty, or the imbalance in a stratifying economy, or the lack of equitable access to opportunities. Religion is changing, family structures are changing, how we view security, safety and information are all matters in flux. And today we focus in on the life of a prophet who reminded us there was a right way to live. In fact, his students were known as “followers of the way.” In this path, we’re asked not only to love our neighbor as our self. Not only to forgive 70 times 70. But to lift up the poor, to steer away from worldly power, and that some things in life are not only worth dying for, but are worth living for.
It is his life, and his path, that we remember tonight.