Christ is crucified again and again … and again
On this Crucifying Friday we gather to remember Jesus’ Crucifixion that took place long ago … and as we do we gather to name and engage the crucifixions of our time. Christ is crucified again and again … and again! We know this because Jesus himself said: “What you do to the least of these you do to me.”
Jesus’ Crucifixion 2000 years ago is to be for us a lens that enables us to see clearly how crucifixion today. This is true all over the world: from the gassed children and bombed out buildings of Syria; to the fleeing families of Sudan; to the seedless farmers of India; to the grieving Coptics of Egypt; to the walled-in Palestinians of Gaza and to the humanity denying inequality of our own land.
If Jesus’ Crucifixion recorded in the gospels does not illuminate the crucifixions recorded in our newspapers each and every day then we are denying the Crucifixion of old by the way we remember it.
In this crucifying light of Christ, please read the crucifying story of Nathaniel ‘Tenni’ Davids who died at 2:40pm on 24th March … another crucifying Friday.
Hanging boy was murdered, says Mom
Crime & Courts | 27 March 2017 | Genevieve Serra | Daily Voice
Cape Town — The mother of a 12-year-old boy who was found hanging from a fence at a Cape Flats train station believes he was brutally beaten and then murdered. Police who discovered the body of little Nathaniel “Tenni’” Davids said he had committed suicide. But his family says the child’s “hands and feet were tied up”, and he had a noose tied around his neck.
He was found dangling from a vibracete fence near Netreg Station on Friday just after 2:40pm by police who were on patrol. Cops have since opened an inquest docket into his death. But some Bonteheuwel residents believe the death may be gang-related. Ward councillor Angus McKenzie says messages circulating on the social chat group Outoilet, which claim Nathaniel had been murdered, have been handed over to the police. “It is all speculation at this stage that there is gang involvement, it is all based on messages which were received from residents,” he adds.
Nathaniel, who was in Grade 5 at Bramble Way Primary School in Bonteheuwel, was last seen on his way to a nearby shop to buy biscuits. His distraught mother, Louise Davids, 43, and aunt Diana Davids, 47, say the little boy did not attend school on Friday. “He was playing with his ball and his dog, Tessa, in the street the whole morning,” says Louise. “It was just before 2pm when I sent him to buy wafers.” “A man who had come from work stopped at our home and asked us what Nathaniel had been wearing.” “We said he had on a green sweater, Nike takkies and a tracksuit pants.” “He said a boy who was hanging at the station wore that kind of clothing.” The women rushed to the scene, but were not allowed to view the boy’s body, which police had covered with a white sheet.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk confirms an inquest docket has been opened for investigation and that a post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death. While police don’t suspect foul play, Louise believes her son had been murdered. “I don’t care what the people are saying on the outside. I believe this is murder and God doesn’t sleep,” the heartbroken mother of four says. “My child’s hands and feet were tied with the string you find on a keyring (lanyard), and that was also around his neck. “You tell me how is it possible that he could hang himself when there was nothing underneath his feet and how could he do it if his feet and hands were tied?”
Diana admits Nathaniel was no angel, but says he was not a gangster: “No child in this house belongs to a gang, (but) he was stout (naughty), yes.”
When most people say they are willing to die for this or that, they really mean that they are willing to kill for it.
But when Jesus said it, he meant it.
Faced with the choice to kill or be killed – Jesus chose to be killed. That is not to say that he wanted to die or that he needed to die for any Divine plan to be fulfilled. No. Jesus being killed was the consequence of Jesus choosing not to kill. Jesus chose not to kill because he had already chosen to love. To love without limit. Jesus chose to love without limit because he came to represent God in the world – and that is who God is – love without limit.
According to Jesus, the only way to live life in full abundance is to live life lovingly. To love is to live. To refuse to love (or to kill) is to die. Jesus taught that we couldn’t live lovingly and kill (contrary to what so many in Jesus’ name have taught through the ages). But it is one or the other. There is life and death before us and we cannot choose both! For Jesus to kill was for him to die. This is the topsy-turvy stuff of the Gospel. Call it crazy stuff if we like, but we shouldn’t be surprised because the prophets of old reminded us that, “My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord.
In the world in which we live it is going to take some crazy stuff to save us because the logic of our age and ages past that force can carve out a peaceful future is just causing the rivers of blood to run deeper. Violence (be it international conflict or within our own families) promises what it never ever delivers yet we keep giving it another chance to try. Our addiction to violence is killing us all.
Jesus’ way of unlimited love – the way of the Cross – invites us to live life in a way that brings life … even though it may demand the giving of our life. It is this mystery that the Cross calls us to explore and ultimately give ourselves to. Of course there are huge parts of us that recoil in terror at the thought of this … but if we are still and attentive we may also hear a still small but strong voice whisper to us: “For this you were made. Do not be afraid. Love again. Love some more and more. Give yourself away and you will find yourself. Die and you will live. Trust …
Love some more, Alan
This Crucifix hangs in the Chapel at Bishopscourt
Lament for our Land …
‘On Exhaustion Over a Lack of Understanding’
I am tired
God Almighty, I am tired
of being told that we need to move on,
that we need to forget,
that we need to put the past behind us,
that Apartheid is over.
They don’t understand.
We never will.
Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture, trauma,
terror, these exist in us, we live it every day.
We built this country
whips at our backs –
The Man holding the whip did not build –
Apartheid is not over.
No magic TRC wand can bippity-boppity-boo! it away.
Our glass carriage is still a pumpkin,
pulled by rats.
A polite revolution over tea and crumpets, good Sir,
‘twas the order of the day.
When could we mourn?
When could we cry?
When could we scream
for our loved ones lost
our chances trampled on?
Please Mastah Baas Meneer,
Gee my ‘n kans om te huil
vir my ma en my pa en my susters en broers
gee my ‘n kans om te huil.
Let me stand up for myself
and for those who stood before me.
Let me march for myself
and for those who marched before me.
Let me call out AMANDLA
and raise my fist
and let me cry
after hundreds of years
let me cry.
(Fourth Year B.A. Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town)
Lament for our Loss …
Did you know that nearly half of the Psalms in the Bible are songs of lament and poems of complaint. Jesus turned to one such Psalm while on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” Psalm 22.
Here is a modern day Psalm of Lament by Ann Weems:
I don’t know where to look for you, O God!
I’ve called and I’ve called.
I’ve looked and I’ve looked.
I go back to my room and sit in the dark waiting for you.
Could you give me assign that you’ve heard?
Could you numb my emotions so I wouldn’t hurt so much?
I walk in circles.
I rock in my chair.
I pour a glass of water.
I look out the window.
I walk to the kitchen.
I open the refrigerator;
There’s nothing I want.
I close it again.
I turn on the TV.
The voices are too loud; the faces are too loud.
I mute the voices; I turn off the faces.
The silence is my friend; the silence is my enemy.
I go upstairs.
I lie on the bed.
I get up again.
I walk to the window.
No sign of you!
I’m dying, O God, without you.
O God of Wonder, you can change it all.
You can distract me from thoughts of death.
You can fill my days with purpose.
You can make the nights shorter.
You can let me find you.
Don’t hide from me any longer, O God.
O God you reveal yourself to those who call upon your name.
Blessed be my God who does not fail me!
Where love finds its perfect form … cross-shaped love
I thought of Jesus on the Cross when I read the following from Ben Okri’s amazing novel called Starbook. He is writing about an elder among a secret tribe of artists. He speaks of the wisdom this elder had received. A wisdom so powerfully embodied in Jesus:From the ancestors he received signs that things must decompose if they are to give birth to immortal fruits of time. From the hidden masters of the tribe he learnt that evil must triumph for a season if an even greater good that will change the world is to come into being; that good, in its gentleness, needs its true character and resolve tested, primed and strengthened by the suffering brought on by evil; only then will good have the moral force, and the great integrity, and the deep certainty, and the boundless power to step forth and overcome evil and transform the world into the reality of a higher vision. From the oracles he learnt that only one who is not fit to be a suitor can possibly win the hand of his daughter, only one whom no one notices can truly rule, only one who is unofficial can be truly official, only the lowly can be on high. Also, from the oracles he learnt that an unlikely contest will decide all things; and that the future is a dark hole beyond which, in time, a great kingdom of unimaginable splendour will be found. Through sorrow and pain, all will be well. All things will be transfigured. All will be redeemed. A joy beyond description will crown all stories. These things the oracles told. The maiden’s father was comforted, and acted with perfect tranquillity. He ignored the rumours and set about a long-term plan; for he was a man who always regarded present problems as excuses for long-term vision and preparation. He was thinking now of the future of the tribe, beyond the time of its disappearance. He began preparations for its rebirth out of the decomposition of its present state, a life after the death of a tribe. … Only those who have accepted the death of their people can dream so clearly so miraculous a future. Only one who has accepted death can see so clearly that impossible things can be done beyond the limits that are there.”
May we trust “that good is primed and strengthened by the suffering brought on by evil” rather than the norm of retaliating in order to protect the good.
Our Holy Week reflections began with the showing of Incendies on Palm Sunday. The movie took us to the awe-full intersection of truth and grace. Both a terrible place and an inspiring place.
In Incendies a mother is tortured by her own son – though he knows not that she is his mother. He comes to this truth after her death when he is delivered two letters from her.
The first letter is addressed to him as her torturer. The second letter is addressed to him as her son. He is not one or the other – he is both. He is both at one and the same time. That is the truth of the matter. That is the grace of the matter. It is an awe-full intersection. A painful joy.
Letter to the Torturer
I’m shaking as I write.
I recognised you.
You didn’t recognise me.
It’s magnificent, a miracle.
I am your Number 72.
Our children will deliver this.
You won’t recognise them, for they are beautiful.
But they know who you are.
Through them, I want to tell you that you are still alive.
Soon you will turn silent … I know.
For all are silent before the truth.
Signed: Whore 72
Letter to the Son
I speak to the son, not the torturer.
Whatever happens, I’ll always love you.
I promised you that when you were born, my son.
Whatever happens, I’ll always love you.
I looked for you all my life.
I found you.
You couldn’t recognise me.
You’ve a tattoo on your right heel.
I saw it. I recognised you.
You are beautiful.
I wrap you in tenderness, my love.
Take solace, for nothing means more than being together.
You were born of love.
So your brother and sister were born of love, too.
Nothing means more than being together.
Prisoner No. 72
Today more than any other day we are drawn to the awe-full intersection – the awe-full cross of truth and grace. The truth of our skill to torture – our capacity to crucify. The grace of “whatever you do to me – I will always love you… nothing means more than being together”.
Let us keep company with each other today – in this awe-full place.
With grace and truth, Alan