It is not surprising that the cross should have gone out of fashion in recent years. When the power elites of the world cease to be the only voices heard, and the oppressed and marginalized begin to tell their tales, one of the most striking is the way in which the suffering of Christ has been and continues to be used to excuse and to justify all manner of violence and abuse.
In the Lent 2009 issue of Homily Service, Amy P. McCullough acknowledges the church’s history of the exploitative interpretation of this week’s epistle lesson (I Corinthians 1: 18-25) and offers a glimpse of a new interpretation that treats human suffering as the evil it is.
Several years ago, I worshipped in a church that, by all accounts, should have been dying. A grand historic building situated in a poverty-stricken area, the church stood at a crossroads between members who had flocked to the suburbs and the prostitutes and drug-dealers who gathered each day on the church’s front steps. For a group of Christians who were more accustomed to more comfortable, socially acceptable ways of life, it was risky to see those who shared their geographical space as their fellow companions in life’s sacred journey. It felt quite foolish to preach the good news in a place surrounded by death. Yet, by their ability to enter into the broken sols at their doorstep and to offer their lives to be stretched and torn into God’s cruciform shape, the church discovered the power of God.
…We do not fully grasp God’s wisdom or God’s strength. However, in confessing our trust that the cross is a message of salvation to all who are perishing, we proclaim our belief in God’s ability to raise all things. Trusting that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength, we commit our lives to taking that same cruciform shape.
In your preaching, how do you deal with texts which have traditionally been interpreted to justify and encourage human sin?
Amy P. McCollough (2008): 15 March 2009, Lent 3, Homily Service, 42:2, 38-39.
Amy P. McCollough is Senior Pastor of Grace United MethodistChurch in Baltimore, Maryland.