As we gather this morning, my memory is filled with the vision of the many emotionally moving processions Terri and I witnessed this past week, but also the hours of coverage on CNN and the BBC of the tragic bombings at the airport and metro station in Brussels. So many victims! Innocent victims! The thing I've been thinking about the most, is the tremendous outpouring of concern for all these, and indeed all, victims. Crowds of people gather at the site of the tragedy, many leave messages and make flower shrines, political leaders come and lay wreaths, and there are many "moments of silence." This is all well and good, if, and only if, in honoring of the victims, the desire to create or require more victims is avoided.
What we are seeing is something very old indeed: followers of God who think that they must show their true devotion to God by offering that God sacrificial victims who are unbelievers. This is all about "Sacred Violence": violence done in the name of, and with the approval of, God. And the great temptation for us, or those who represent us, is to respond with "sacred violence" or our own.
From the point of view of the perpetrator or crowd calling for death, it is important to never hear the cries of the dying, to be completely out of earshot. (That's why aerial bombardment is favored over "boots on the ground" in most conflicts these days.) At the Cross of Jesus only a detail of soldiers, Jesus' mother, and a couple of other woman, and John, were present. The crowd that called out "Crucify him" and the leaders who gave in to their cries and signed Jesus' death warrant were absent. The voice of mortally wounded victims are always silent. No one ever hears from them, nor do they want to.
But in the whole history of mankind there was only one Victim whose Voice survived death: the Risen Jesus! Jesus, who survived a horrible death at the hands of a crowd who thought they were doing God's work and believed that it was better for this one man to die, than for the whole "people" to perish, this Jesus, risen from the dead, can speak! Jesus, risen, is the only victim ever to be heard from, and, the Voice of this Victim was a voice of forgiveness and not vengeance toward those who put him to death. This is foundational for our Christian faith.
Can Jesus speak for all victims who die? When victims die, or all of us really, they enter a part of Creation where God's will resides in fullness. This is Heaven. This is what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We're praying not for escape to Heaven, but rather God's will more and more be done on earth. Earth is where the action is, and victims, from their "heavenly" perspective where God's will is done completely and love and mercy reign supreme, are finally free from the need to imitate and follow the crowds call for retaliation and vengeance and are able to grasp God's intention and desire to show mercy and forgiveness to all. Victims join with all the Saints, many of whom were martyr victims themselves, to pray for us on earth that we might begin to live in God's will for the world.
So Heaven is much more than a Platonic holding tank of souls who have escaped dreary earth, our common notion, but so far from a positive Jewish notion of Creation- God looked at what He made and saw that it was good, that there is no place for devaluing this earth or think we can just sacrifice earth and use its resources any way we want. This too make the earth a victim of our "sacred violence."
When the first Christians celebrated Jesus' Resurrection they moved the day of worship from the Sabbath, to Sunday, the first day of the week and the first day of Creation. So Jesus' Resurrection that we celebrate this Easter day, is intimately tied to the creation of this earth and the entire universe and God's intention for it be a place of real harmony, love, family, renewed by mutual forgiveness and freedom from the need to require people to die as victims in order for true peace to take root. This is Good News! Alleluia!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
(everyone means everyone)