Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The church in Holy Week

Not to keep harping on about the same things, but Holy Week surely has something to tell us about the being of the church in the world.

Look, Jesus gets some cheers and some crowds as he enters Jerusalem, presumably mostly from the people who have followed him along the way, but the people of Jerusalem on the whole don't know him and won't have him.  The influential, in particular, are against him.  The cleansing of the temple (which in the Synoptic gospels takes place in Holy Week; not in John, but that's another story) is an action which must surely be deliberately divisive.  The Supper is taken with a small band of disciples, but even here there is a traitor and the group is divided.  Even on the cross, a division is made between a thief who sees and a thief who doesn't, and therefore between life and death.

This, I think is what the author of Hebrews meant: the Word of God is sharply divisive, cutting through all the appearances and shams that we can put up.

There are lots of words in the world, lots of messages, lots of causes.  Some unite people and some divide people.  Most do both in different ways.  But nothing cuts through like Christ crucified.  Here is the divine scalpel, which penetrates our individual existences, right to the heart, slicing away me from me.  All the other divisive-uniting words exist within the system and complex of human words.  They are relatively divisive, but they work because they recognise that underneath there is a commonality; the divisions are not essential, the wound is not mortal, the crisis is not existential.  Not so the Word of God.  Here is the Man from Without, the God who has stepped Within.  Here is division that goes all the way down.

What about the church, though?  Many churches delight to be, or aspire to be, at the centre of their communities.  But can the church speak the Word which divides from that place?  We want to serve our communities, but if our service means giving people what they already recognise as good, how are we serving the Word?


  1. This is the ongoing tension in the Christian life, how can we be in the world but not of the world, only by the Holy Spirit's leading I propose.