Thursday, April 9, 2020

Letting Go of our Complacency by Leaning on Crucified Christ

 Reflecting for Lent & Easter 2020 in the Context of Climate Change

At a time when climate is rapidly changing, with creation is groaning in pains due to the ecological imbalances, we as human beings are called to let go of our human greed and care for our creation by taking action to address climate change without any further ado. As we approach the season of Lent, Christians across the world take this time to reflect on the Cross of Jesus Christ and seek its relevance amidst the crucified communities of our times. Creation today is bruised and is bleeding due to humanity’s greed. In such a context, reading the words of Jesus from the Cross, particularly when the crucified Christ cries out, ‘I thirst,’ reverberates today with the cry of our creation and with the vulnerable communities who are bearing the brunt of climate change in majority world, calling the humanity to quench their thirst, by letting go of human dominance over the creation and powerful people’s power over the powerless communities.

In the context of Gnosticism, to which John addresses his gospel, divine was understood in the parameters of transcendence, being far away from all physical pain and needs. Towards the end of his gospel, when John records in 19:28, Jesus’ physical need of being thirsty, he provides a lead in breaking the grounds of stereotyping that Jesus was above the physical need. The divine logos crying out for a drink or water was path breaking to affirm that Jesus died on the cross thirsty. This shout for a drink bridges the gap between the divine logos and human Jesus. Jesus lets go his divine powers and identifies with all those thirsty people and a thirsty creation on his cross. 

To the audience of John, Jesus was already introduced as living waters and when they heard at the end from the Cross that Jesus thirsts, they would have been perplexed. Can a living spring be drained out? Can perennial waters dry away? Can the living Spirit of God, which hovered on the waters at the time of creation, shout for a drink? Can the creator of waters thirst? These would have been some of the questions that emerged to the audience of John as they heard that Jesus thirsts. But such a shout from the perspective of Jesus was to express that he is not complacent. If Jesus had been complacent thinking that there is no need of a pain or a thirst, his incarnation in flesh would be at risk. On the contrary Jesus expressed his need and countered the very idea of being complacent. Neither the sour vinegar offered by the crowd around the Cross nor the tears of heaven could quench Jesus’ thirst, which very well explains Jesus’ letting go of his complacency on the Cross. Jesus died on the Cross thirsty.

Jesus’ thirstiness is a solidarity cry with all those dry rivers, with all those waterless lives, with all those that are thirsty for life and with all those that are enduring drought and awaiting some showers in their lives. Thirstiness echoes the cry of death on one hand, and on the other it is the cry of those struggling to live. It is also a cry calling for affirmative action in quenching that thirst. Jesus when he says that he thirsts, he is warning death and drought that they will be defeated soon for showers of new life are to rain in his resurrection. Jesus when he says he thirsts; it is a call to the greedy people to repent, for such a thirst is created by them. Jesus breaks the grounds of thirstiness by crying ‘I thirst.’
In the context of climate emergency today, when the whole creation is groaning in pains of thirstiness, this cry of Jesus from the cross challenges us to address thirst and those that are thirsty. The call for us as Churches is to engage in breaking such grounds of thirstiness by caring for our creation. This season of Lent calls us today to repent of our human greed, letting go of our pride and save our creation.

By letting go his complacency and in breaking down the grounds of stereotypes, Jesus was granted a new life experience by God, and Easter brings that hope to discover new adventures and opportunities of sharing new life.  Though Jesus died thirsty on the cross, but God rose him back to life, granting a hope of sharing the gift of new streams to all those crucified and thirsty communities. The risen Jesus appeared to the disciples and invited them for a breakfast, and in that eating and drinking together he instilled hope and confidence to them. As a Church the call for us is to let go of our complacency and learn humility so that we can be channels of change in addressing issues like climate change, poverty, homelessness, patriarchy and castesim by building just and inclusive communities. We as a Church are called to become community hubs where vulnerable people find space and hope of hospitality. The relevance of our Churches as Easter communities is in being and becoming springs of new hope for all thirsty and crucified people around us. We can become a new creation only when the thirst of vulnerable communities are quenched and when our creation is cared for.

Towards that end of quenching the thirst of Jesus, of creation and those that are in thirstiness around us, let justice flows down like a never-ending stream, so clear, so pure and life giving. May we become the tributaries of justice and life to all those that are groaning in thirstiness. Jesus died thirsty, and many people are dying out of thirst, let us awake to be the showers of life. For the healing of nations, let us all become the waters of healing!

Letting go of our complacency often involves recognizing the many times we, too, have rejected the Saviour. We have all turned away from the redeemed hand of Jesus, assuming we could handle things on our own. Despite our pride and complacency Jesus still longs to draw us in. This Lent, let us reflect on ‘exchanging our complacency for his crucifixion,’ and strive to overcome complacency and follow Jesus Christ faithfully. Wishing you all a meaningful season of Lent and a blessed Easter.

Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta,
United Stockport Methodist Circuit.
17th February 2020

(This article is written for Connexion Magazine of the Methodist Church for Lent 2020)

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