Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on what a public execution, a kitchen conversation and being connected to a crucified God has to do with you. What?! Listen to this podcast of his reflection for Easter Sunday to find out. Please read Luke 24:1-12. For Audio, “Read More” below. #GreatCatholicPreaching #Catholic #BenU1887 #GreatPreaching #Luke24:1-12 #EasterSunday #HeIsRisen #Sermons #Homilies
For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Easter Sunday, 3/31/2013.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 24:1-12.
Today, I feel like getting preachy. After the reflection, I would like to have a moment of personal privilege. But first, let me begin:
I am repulsed by the idea that people actually want to watch the execution of convicted criminals. What satisfaction can one have in watching a public execution? Will the death of say the Aurora, Colorado killer bring those who died in the mass shooting back to life? Would’ve the public death of the Virginia Tech Shooter given hope to the people who were the victims, if he had not committed suicide? Or, did the televised death of the Oklahoma City bomber simply satisfy the lust we have for revenge in our increasingly violent society?
You do know that Jesus’ execution was a very public execution, don’t you? In fact, people were crucified on the highest available point in a town because the Romans wanted to make an example out of everyone who was crucified. The crucified were human billboards that said, “Don’t do what this guy did.”
What did Jesus do? He called people to a renewed faithfulness in God. He called for us to take our religion and our faith seriously. He called us to be, perish the thought, more loving toward all people, even the outcast! It was a scandalous thing for those who wanted power and privilege. It was scandalous that someone would call people to a more faith-filled life that would cause them to be more peaceful and loving. The people who killed Jesus did not have anyone’s interests in mind but their own. They were selfishly sinful.
It seems to me that there is a certain irony that in a country that claims to be Christian, we are willing to allow people to watch the death of a human being much like others were allowed to watch the public death of our Lord and Savior.
Everything about Jesus’ death was humiliating. He was mocked and whipped. He was put out on a cross for everyone to see as a warning against doing what he did. It would seem to me that we would not want to do to others what was done by sinful humanity to our Savior. If we did do what was done to our Lord, then we would be the equals of those who killed him.
There is an old “B.C.” comic strip I keep in my office. The comic strip has the familiar ant characters Jonny Hart used in his old comic strip from time to time. One of the ants is saying to the pastor ant, “You guys are sickos! Why would anyone call the day their god was killed ‘Good Friday?’” The pastor ant replies, “You would be right, provided your god was able to stay dead.”
There was something necessary about the public death of our Lord. It was a death that let the world know that Jesus did not die of a disease he was unable to heal. It was a death that, although humiliating to his followers, was necessary so that it would be available to all. He was publically murdered so that all people would know that he died. That is important because he had to die so that he could show that he was not, as the B.C. comic strip said, “able to stay dead.”
The public execution of Christ is further complicated by the fact that he was innocent. The criminals I named at the beginning of this reflection were just getting their just desserts, an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth. But Jesus did nothing deserving death. St. Luke is very clear about that. Jesus’ public execution is also a sign that the innocent man takes the public’s sins upon himself in his death as an eternal offering to God the Father. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Ultimately, since we are told that it is sin that leads to death, we know that when Jesus Christ rose from the grave, he defeated sin. He defeated sin then. He is alive and defeats sin now.
The other day, I was struck by another irony. There was a young man in our neighborhood who would get suspended repeatedly for as he said, “defending himself.” His own mother told him to fight fire with fire and therefore, he ended up suspended frequently. He was sitting in my kitchen one day and said to me, “I heard about a riot in Cincinnati. What is this world coming to? What are people doing? Why do they have to riot like that?” The irony left me unable to speak for a moment.
Our public executions and that young man in my kitchen let us know that the sinfulness that killed Christ is still with us. But the Resurrection also lets us know that sinfulness is not the end of the story.
Jesus Christ is powerful enough to rise from the dead and leave the tomb empty. He is powerful enough to break death and thus break sin. He is powerful enough to accept his destiny to become the eternal offering for all of us. When we are baptized into his death, we are also raised with him to new life. We, too, can have the power of sin broken in us by Christ. Little by little we are moved by the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with activities that are good and spiritual. More and more, Christ gives us the resolve to serve him only, just as he was resolved to serve the Father only.
So what does that mean about the mass killers and the young man in my kitchen? It means that Jesus is powerful enough to do something about the overwhelming anger of our society through us. Easter is about how God was able to break the power of sin, death and anger. God was able to raise our Lord from the dead! He is able to turn the lives of angry people around. He is able to do it here in the United States of America and throughout the world. We have a message to take to the world that is one of peace and love through the one who was powerful enough to overcome the killing and anger of the world that nailed him to a tree.
The empty tomb that the women found on that day 2000 some years ago testifies to the fact that there is nothing that can hold Jesus Christ back. We, who are bound to him through faith and baptism, nothing can hold us back. Easter Day, today, is the ultimate day of hope. It undoes all that this evil, lust-filled, revenge seeking world wants to have happen. It replaces all the ugliness within and seeks for the good of all people, even those we want to hate.
I wonder if we happen to remember that the Civil Rights movement was a Christian Movement. Do we remember that before the Civil Rights Movement there was a whole race of people who were banned from the use of bathrooms? Do we remember that the powerful force that broke the chains of sin and death in that instance was the non-violent resistance that exposed the evil? Do we remember that it was through churches that the society was changed?
Sometimes when we Christians read the paper we act as if we are beaten already. But that is the farthest thing from the truth. Didn’t our Lord Jesus Christ rise from the dead? Did you hear me? I said he rose from the dead? If he can do that, then he can change the hearts and souls of our children in our schools who do not care. If he can defeat death, then he can surely defeat apathy. If he can defeat death, then surely he can lift us up and move us to new heights.
He is among the living and he will continue to deliver us and to deliver others through us. What it is dead in your heart that needs resurrection? What is dead in your family that needs resurrection? What is dead in your community that needs resurrection? What is dead in our nation that needs resurrection? What is dead in our world that needs resurrection? Well, rise, go forth, cast off those grave clothes of despair, apathy, ignorance and malice. Leave them in the empty tomb. You have been baptized into the one who rose from the dead. You have the power to change the world through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all power and honor is the Father’s and he call us in that power to resurrect a dead and lonely world. He is Risen! And so are you! Now what are you going to do about it? Amen? Amen.
In a moment of personal privilege, I would like to honor one of my professors from the Divinity School at Duke University, Dr. Susan Keefe, about whose death I was recently notified by a publication of the Divinity School. Dr. Keefe died last fall unexpectedly in her home last August.
She was an associate professor of Church History at Duke University, taught at Harvard, Davidson, and the California Institute of Technology. She was noted for her work on Carolingian texts on baptism and the creeds with a particular emphasis on instructions for the clergy. What I will remember most about Dr. Susan Keefe was that she taught a course called “Women in the Medieval Church” which was mystical. This devout Catholic gave us our mid-term examination and left the room. When one of the students needed to leave temporarily, they were eager to tell us upon their return in the middle of the exam what Dr. Keefe was doing.
The shy, unassuming Doctor of Church History was kneeling on the tile floors of the Divinity School hallway with the class list before her. She was praying for each one of us individually as we took her exam. It is a moment I will never forget, touched me deeply, and is a story I have told often about what it meant to be at seminary at what was considered the finest seminary in the world at the time.
Although the Divinity School had great scholars, which was why they were recognized, they had even better Christians. Dr. Susan Keefe was one of them and is now amongst the “Church Triumphant” in heaven, as she would say. Susan Keefe, pray for us. She was 58.
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