One of my favorite lines from Merton is, “Paradise is all around us and we not even know it.” Reading Richard Rohr’s daily reflections makes me want to say, “Resurrection is all around us and we do not even know it.”
We fail to recognize paradise and resurrection because we do not see. Eyes are not open. We are not awake.
In New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton wrote, “It is God’s love that speaks to me in the birds and streams but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me in His judgments, and all these things are seeds sent to me from His will.” (18)
Behind the clamor of the city, the empire, God is speaking to us in judgment. Paradise/resurrection is a call to new life. We confess in our hearts and on our lips, “Jesus is risen” and “Jesus is Lord.”
Borg and Crossan remind us that spirituality has individual and corporate dimensions. Genuine Christianity is personal and political. Purely personal Christianity devolves into pietism and sentimentality. Purely political Christianity lacks the foundational contemplative roots which nourish and nurture spirituality and political action.
All life is political. Life is about the “polis”—people living together in community. Church is political; it is about people living together in community.
We proclaim Jesus Risen. There is new life, new hope. The “No” of the empire and religious collaborators to Jesus’ life and message is answered by God’s resounding “Yes” of Jesus coming to new life in the community of believers. We recognize him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.
The resurrection stories contains an interesting element—fear. Hearing that resurrection was all round them struck fear into the hearts of the followers of Jesus. Indeed, it still does. Confessing Jesus as Risen Lord means that we have to take the walk Jesus took, the walk up to Jerusalem, the walk of the cross. When we boldly challenge empire and the institutional church, we will pay the price just as Mandela, King, Day and Romero did. Bonheoffer teaches us that there is no “cheap grace.” Resurrection requires us to pay the Good Friday cost. No wonder the early Christians were afraid.
Pietistic people are wont to say, “Jesus is my personal Lord and savior.” There is more to the acclamation than mere sentimentality and personal salvation.
When the early Christians said, “Jesus is Lord,” they were in fact making a bold political statement. You see—if Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not lord. In the street theater of Palm Sunday, Jesus is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey—in your face to Pilate riding in another gate surrounded by the empire’s war machine. As Merton said, God’s love is speaking to us and God’s judgment is against the values of empire and priestly collaborators.
To confess Jesus as Lord is to stare into the face of empire and institutional church and say, “We reject your values of domination, greed, exploitation and conquest because we embrace Jesus’ values love, service, forgiveness and sharing life’s gifts.”
To confess Jesus as Lord is to say that every human being has the right to life and whatever he/she needs (John 10:10) To confess Jesus as Lord is to reject the empire’s attempt to work debt relief on the backs of the vulnerable among us because they have the least voice—the least political clout and capital. We are called by resurrection to be the voice of the voiceless!
To confess Jesus as Lord is to reject is to reject trickle-down economic systems which lets the rich among us accumulate more and more into their silos while the vulnerable among us have less and less. To confess Jesus as Lord is to reject the institutional church’s attempts to protect pedophile clergy while excommunicating followers who embrace Jesus’ values by supporting justice for women in the church.
Jesus is risen. Jesus is Lord. Alleluia!
Live as if resurrection is all around us because it is!