The Daily Office, July 19

July 19, 2007

Daily Office   The Daily Office Gospel for today is Mark 2:23 – 3:6.  What struck me this morning were the following two verses:

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”

It reminds me of several posts (this one sums it up) from a few months ago in discussing why Jesus died.  The bottom line is that I don’t think the Gospels proclaim a message of sacrificial and substitionary atonement.  Using less “seminary-ese,” I just can’t accept that Jesus died on the cross so that we might be saved– this line of thinking emphasizes Jesus’ divinity, de-emphasizes his humanity, and emphasizes the separation between us by emphasizing our (humanity’s) sinfulness (Paul’s writings seem to me to be the basis for much of this kind of theology, not the gospels).

Rather, what I think the Gospels say are that Jesus died because of our sin– namely that the Romans executed Jesus and that was not good, to say the least.  But that God’s response to that sin was to do what God always does, and create life from death in the resurrection, to go about shining light in the face of darkness, to go about the business of restoration when things seem about as un-restored as they can be.

And that is exactly what I think Jesus affirms in today’s Gospel.  Not that God wants us to think of ourselves as evil, lowly, creatures, who need some kind of substitionary sacrifice to make up for all of the horrible things we have done.  No, rather what Jesus shows us is that the Son of Man came not to be distinct from us by being so completely divine and distinct from us, but by being so completely human that we would be transformed by understanding just how wonderful humanity can be in its fullest– and then we would strive for that in our daily lives.

That is why we can heal on the sabboth, putting our fullest effort into taking care of others.  And that is why Jesus reminds us that God loved us so much that a whole day was set aside for us to rest, reflect, and recharge with our maker– to co-create with God.  The sabbath is for us— not us for the sabbath.  The distorted twist that fundamentalist Christianty puts on humanity, which sees us all as very lowly and evil creatures, is in itself evil because it is limited thinking– it cannot be free to co-create with God and strive for the higher level of humanity that Jesus calls us to live out.  If we cannot envision such a life, where neighbors love each other, and where all can live side by side, then certainly we will not be able to transform the world into such a place.  That is the world Jesus envisioned, and the world Jesus calls us to co-create with God.  That is why today’s Gospel reminds us of our priorities– that God creates life out of death, that we are to use that life, that creation, that creativity, to transform the world into the kind of place where we are all bold enough to think we can heal a neighbor on the sabbath, where we all care for each other the way Jesus did– namely to bring heaven to earth.



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