I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I ever read the phrase, because I was a Bible-reading young person, but sometimes you remember the moment when a verse jumped out at you, and for me this one came in a little box ad on the Religion page. “We preach Christ crucified,” claimed the church, and I remember thinking, “What the heck does that mean?” Don’t we all? I asked myself that question, meaning all churches, but of course later I came to realize this meant something about the emPHAsis we place on certain sylLAbles of the faith.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24, NRSV)
Now Paul is not speaking of a difference between Christians, not speaking of an intramural difference, but of the distinction between those who believed in Christ and those who did not. And it’s clear he’s saying that both Jews and Greeks (or rather everyone) could be called, or could be off the mark. But we do have differences among us, because some of us are very, very uncomfortable with crucifying our Jesus, and we are glad to keep that fact neatly in the box of Holy Week, with perhaps a little airing out on Reign of Christ Sunday in Year C.
|Jesus Christ on the Cross|
“We proclaim Christ crucified.” It gives us a little shudder, doesn’t it? For those of us…well, let me say for those of me who can’t buy into the theories of atonement that focus on God forcing His Son to die in order for humankind to be forgiven, the only alternative is facing the human responsibility for the brutal execution of God.
For heaven’s sake. It’s uncomfortable. It’s horrifying. It makes me miserable.
But when I look around the world and see our human capacity for being inhumane to one another, I have no doubt about our culpability.
The good news is that it was Christ crucified. The good news is that God did not die. The good news is that in spite of the worst we can do, God continues to love us and want to be in relationship with us. The good news is that it’s not over yet.
So, I can proclaim Christ crucified, even if I don’t reason out from Paul’s letter to anything substitutionary or vicarious. My hope lies in what comes after.