Good Friday and Easter Sunday are extremely important days in the Christian calendar. All around the globe believers will be taking this time to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus made through his death on the cross as well as the hope and assurance we receive through His resurrection.
Typically this time is seen as our time to be grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, for the fact that we have our sins forgiven, and because we are justified before God. While I agree and affirm all these things, I do wonder if gratitude meets God’s desires from us as a response, or if He expects more. Should the cross be something to merely be thankful for, or should this time of reflection also include our personal reflection challenging ourselves on how our lives can be shaped by the cross as well?
If our response to the cross is limited to (or mostly focused on) gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice, could it tend to promote a Christianity without cost? We all must ask ourselves whether the cross is something merely done for us, or is it something that we are also called to? If it is just done for us then we can be thankful, and as well be comfortable because we are good to go… however if we are called to share Jesus’ death and resurrection then there is a cost assumed as well. What is this cost? What would a life modeling and imitating the cross of Jesus look like in the 21st Century?
In America, we are known for being a bit petty… we have the habit of associating anything that does not go the way we want or anytime we are not completely comfortable, with the term suffering. Our heater breaks for a day in our house and we call it suffering, we wear a Christian T-Shirt and get funny look and we call it suffering, we don’t get a good parking space on Sunday morning close to the church and we call it suffering. Someone has the sniffles when they wake up and they are suffering. I do not want to trivialize many of our daily struggles, however I think our excessive comforts in America make it hard for us to envision living a life of the cross biblically in our context. And while I do think we can suffer as Christians in America, I am not quite sure taking prayer out of schools, or removing the 10 commandments from the courthouse can adequately be termed suffering when we remember Jesus’ death, the first 300 years in which the church was persecuted, or the global persecution that Christians face all around the world currently.
Freestyle with me on this, what does it mean to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Jesus in our time and context?
Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD
Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well.
Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance.
His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today.
His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action.
Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo.
Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.
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One thought on “The Death and Ressurection of Christ”
This post is another reflection of how seriously you take your Christian faith. And it is a call to us to be willing to take up our crosses, too.
I think the most moving suffering is when those who have suffered great loss, such as the loss of a child or the destruction of their homes and memories,somehow understand that loss is a part of life, which is much more fulfilling when the losses are carried with Grace–which is the gift of our Lord.
Thank you for being such a great example for all of us.