(A short sermon for class)
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
The Grammy’s aired this past January 28th, and I’m not much for these award type shows so as always I found myself dozing on and off until a performance by Kesha caught my attention and my heart. Along side her peers Kesha performed her song “Praying” with what seemed to be every spirited cell of her body. Her story, manifest with raw emotion, resides with many women who are victims of sexual assault, abuse and psychological violence.
Kesha lived and proclaimed the truth about her abuse and her offender despite the visceral adversity it sparked within her industry and career. Truth, which manifested itself in an Eating Disorder and PTSD; truth, which isolated her from others she depended on, truth, which endured further mockery, abuse and pain. In Kesha’s words of introduction to her song in her video she expresses clearly how many survivors have felt at one time or another, “Am I dead,” she wonders, “or is this one of those dreams, those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever?” She continues: “If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I’ve ever loved?”
Jesus, sent by Pilot was flogged. He was flogged for living and breathing the truth. Under no circumstance, no threat of torture, would Jesus recant as Pilot urged him to save his mortal flesh. Jesus knew what was true of death. It wasn’t his naked body bound to the stump of a tree. It was not every lash of the whip to his skin or the mockery of crowds. It was not in the betrayal of those who abandoned him and watched his suffering from afar. Death, real death, true death, is in the denial of God, the denial of true everlasting life.
We all as humans have moments of loneliness, moments of self-doubt and abandon, moments of longing for a clear earthly presence of God. Moments where we look at our hurt and sorrow and we struggle to find our next breathe as we feel the pain and woes of the world. Hunger, homelessness, illness, and poverty ripple through the fabric of the foundations of all humankind and it seems like quite a bit to process on some days. Racism, sexism, classism and homophobia, feed the beastly divides and many of us watch from afar at the finger pointing and mockery especially at the expense of those who are pushed to the edges of our society.
Who are we among the people who witnessed the beating of our Lord? Who am I, who are you? Are you are we the advantageous soldier with our hand on the whip? Are you waiting in line for the next strike at the wounded man called Jesus? Are you laughing and gathering others as you weave a thorn crown? Did you robe him? Are you looking into His eyes? Are you one of the crowd, yelling crucify him? Are you a friend feeling helpless by the power and authority of others? Are you weeping at the indignity and lack of humanity? Does the barbarism tear your heart in two?
Place yourself there now in that courtyard where Jesus took every lash of the whip, would you offer yourself in His place?
Every man, woman and child who offers to testify to the living truth of God in Christ places themselves at the stump where Jesus was beaten, but will you look into His eyes and take His place or will you turn away?
Jesus did not suffer for our sins in order for us to look away. He suffered for our sins so that we, looking at His suffering, His wounds would no longer have to suffer. If I said, “Do you believe Christ lives within each of us,” what would you say? Yes? My hunch is that the majority of Christian believers would say, “Yes”! Christ resides in each of us, in every living being and is present among us. So if you chose to be someone other than the persons whom would offer themselves in exchange for Christ’s suffering, why? Is it fear; fear of pain, of abandonment, of loneliness, of mockery? And is that fear greater than death, the very denial of God?
Every man, woman and child who has spoken up against injustice align themselves with Christ. Every woman of the “MeToo” movement, like Kesha has placed themselves at the stump and has looked into the eyes of Christ, and speaking to Truth, the Logos, God – has allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the evils of this world that deny Christ’s existence in each of us. They’ve stood steadfast; withstanding further abuse, mockery, abandonment, assault, harassment and more, yet persevere with resilience. Like Jesus who on the cross asked why God have you forsaken me, survivors have done the same, holding still as many of those whom they have loved and known look away like some who witnessed the beating of Christ.
Me too survivors do not stand alone, especially in this world climate. We are witness to many of the beatings, the injustices around the world and the question is who are you, who will you be when you see Christ in the homeless guy, mocked in the street, in the gay couple spit at, in the black child beat, pulled over or shot for being black, in the dreamer who risks being sent to a place she’s never known, or the woman being harassed by power and authority?
Will you align yourself with Christ or will you look away?