Tag Archives: cross

“REFLECTIONS ON INTERNSHIP, WEEK 2: I AM PETER” By Carina Schiltz, M.Div Intern, Milwaukee, WI

Sitting in my white-walled office,
there is always a bustle outside
in the hallway, yet
I still feel safe here.
It’s home base.
Galilee.
I’m with the seemingly popular
and victorious Jesus, who
teaches and feeds and heals.
I know who he is–The Messiah
The Son of the Living God.

But then he told me that
we’re going to Jerusalem.

And that I have to leave my office.

He talked about death and a cross,
and naturally I said, “No.”
But we’re going. Crosses as our yokes,
slogging one foot in front of the other toward…something.

Next week we’re doing a neighborhood
clean-up, and today
in the church parking lot there were
wrappers, and
used
condoms
snaking along the pavement.
Someone will have to pick those up.
What will they say to their children
who will inevitably ask, “Mommy, Daddy,
what’s that?”

What does this have to do with following you, Jesus?
I walk past the filthy parking lot,
carefully avoiding the empty Magnum wrappers
and snaky plastic,
and I listen to sad stories
and frumpy individuals who have everything wrong
with their lives, and I drive to the next,
almost-closed-up church
on this road to Jerusalem, and the cross.

As powerless as I feel
I am pulled like a magnet toward
peoples’ sorrows, and they tell me,
and I can’t fix it.

Sometimes I deny you, Jesus, and
I do try to fix it by myself. Sometimes
I doubt that you know what you’re doing.

I mean, look around.
It’s bleak here.
But you say to follow, so I do:
out of the office and into the neighborhoods
where I sometimes lock my purse in the trunk,
my brain making judgments until I am
paralyzed with fear,
but people live here everyday
and you are there among them.

The ugly and the beautiful all
wrapped up into one.
And sometimes I am unwilling to see you in it.

Pessimistic.
Judgmental.
Glass not even half-empty.
But here I am.
The rooster is about to
crow again, isn’t it?

WHEN CHRIST BECOMES CHRISTA by Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir

When Christ becomes Christa
The importance of a contextualization of the cross-event
By Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir
Excerpts of a lecture presented at Wartburg Seminary, November 13, 2012

Full lecture here: When Christ becomes Christa

As a key symbol of the Christian faith, the cross symbolizes God’s participation in human suffering and death. An empty cross signifies, on the other hand, the resurrection, or the important message about the final victory of life, over suffering and death. When the cross is interpreted particularly in light of women’s experience, it signifies God’s compassion with women, who suffer, amongst other things, because of domestic and/or sexual violence. Sometimes this compassion (or co-suffering) is portrayed in a female body on the cross.

In the past the cross has sometimes been used to discourage people from resisting injustice. When the cross is understood as a symbol of kenosis  of patriarchy, the self-emptying of male dominating power, the power of the cross becomes the power of love instead of the power of control.

For centuries women’s has been justified, based on the idea of its salvific meaning. Despite the abuse of theological arguments in order to justify women’s suffering, women have been able to experience Jesus’ solidarity with them not only in their suffering but also in their fight against unjust causes of their suffering. This is why the christological question, “Who do you say I am?” receives a response with yet another dimension, when answered from the perspective of women’s experience of suffering. Hence, the Christ who sided with women as “the oppressed of the oppressed” reminds us that also today the knowledge of God is to be discerned in the midst of suffering. By identifying with the suffering women, the foreigner, the deserted, the sick, and the social outcast of our time, we are identifying with Christ among us.[i] At the same time we are participating in God’s ongoing struggle against injustice, inequality, and oppression.

The power of the cross is not to be understood on the basis of our knowledge of power as control. The power of the cross is the power of life, as both unexpected and ongoing.

Christa – a Crucified Woman

Since the mid-seventies a number of images of a crucified female Christ (often referred to as Christa) have stimulated interesting discussions about contemporary interpretations of the passion story. Christa-figures have pushed for important discussions about the meaning of the contextualization of the Christ-event, especially the gender-question.

Christ as Christa liberates not by condoning the suffering of abused women, or proclaiming that there is an innate redemptive quality in it; but by being present with and sharing in the brokenness, identifying this as the priority for God’s healing love, Christ gives hope, empowers and enables the process of resistance.[ii]

Indifference is truly something we should worry about in our western societies. All of us have probably heard stories about people passing by, instead of helping those who have been assaulted or hurt and need help. Those stories remind us of the story of the good Samaritan, when the priest and the Levite saw him lying there “half dead” and decided to pass by without helping him (Lúk 10.30-37). Too often people do hesitate to intervene when they are witnessing violence of some sort taking place next door – because they don’t want to intrude on people’s privacy. They also hesitate to intervene when somebody is being bullied, maybe because they are afraid of risking being bullied themselves.

Compassion- to be able to feel with somebody, can be passive, meaning to express solidarity,to listen to and to offer to go along with the one who is in pain, which can prove invaluable for the one who feels left alone in his or her suffering. But compassion can also be active, encouraging resistance and not submission to injustice. We have examples of both in the gospel stories. This is why imitatio Christi, or to follow Christ’s example, can either mean to suffer with the suffering one (com-passio) or to stand up and resist, hoping that eventually justice will prevail. Sometimes we need to be creative in order to come up with effective ways to practice nonviolent resistance, like Jesus certainly was.

There has always been a strong tendency to silence women’s experience, particularly their experience of oppression and abuse. Churches and other faith communities have been slow in responding to the danger many women are faced with, due to violence and abusive behavior. Initiatives by large church communities have signaled an increasing awareness of the problem. As a follow-up to the Ecumenical Decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women 1988-1998, the World Council of Churches (WCC) decided to confront the challenge of violence directly, by establishing a Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, (2001-2010).[iii] While the WCC focused on manifold expressions of violence, violence perpetrated against women and children was among their central concerns. Bishop Margot Kässmann in her book Overcoming Violence. The Challenge to the Churches in All Places: “The inability of churches to deal with domestic violence is one of clearest indicators of the urgency of a Decade to Overcome Violence for the churches.”[iv]

Following the WCC’s initiative, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), in its document Churches say ‘NO’ to Violence against Women. Action Plan for the Churches from 2002, called its member churches to act on behalf of violated women. By offering this contribution to the WCC decade against violence, LWF sought to direct the focus of the international church community to the effect violence is having on women in their home as well as in the church and the society at large. In the foreword to the document the General Secretary of LWF, Ishmael Noko, depicts violence against women as a theological problem, and not simply a social one. Noko writes: “When those who are victimized suffer, so does God. Let us work together to overcome all forms of violence that are an offense against God and humanity.”[v]

A cross from El Salvador was painted in memory of María Cristina Gómez. Here we see a close relationship between the cross event and the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the cross remains an example of one more victim of evil; of  one more person who lost her/his life life for a good cause.  That is why it is crucial to keep the close relationship between the cross and our hope for the final victory of life over death, good over evil.

María Gomez spent her life fighting for a better living conditions for women in El Salvador. She particularly cared about women who were victims of rape or suffered from domestic violence. Among other things, she taught them to read. Eventually Gómez was murdered by her opponents in the year of 1989. This cross is a sign of hope because of the story told by the pictures of the cross. It is a sign of hope for those who want to improve the living conditions of  victims of violence and abuse. This is not only a story of the power of evil amongst us, and the sufferings caused by it; but a story of the power of non-violent resistence. It is also an encouragement to follow to imitatio Christi, not to give up, but to stand up and resist evil, holding on to our hope that good will eventually prove stronger than evil.


[i] Mt 25.31-46.

[ii]  Quoted by Clague, see ibid., 106.

[iv]  Kässmann, Overcoming Violence, 45.

[v]  Churches Say ‘No’ to Violence against Women. Action Plan for the Churches, 5.

THE BEGINNING…OF WHAT? Sermon by Rev. Dr. Gwen Sayler, Professor, Wartburg Seminary

Text: Mark 1:1-5; Isa 52:7-10
Tired, dusty feet honed and callused by desert sand
A voice proclaiming hopeful and yet fearful tidings….Turn, turn your feet and your hearts…get ready for the in-breaking of the reign of God.
More feet–wet feet wading in the Jordan
Voices confessing sins, hearts awaiting the One to baptize in Spirit and in fire.
Fresh feet as yet unmarred by suffering, unblemished feet wading into the Jordan to be baptized by John;
A voice from heaven as the heaven rips: You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I am well-pleased.
Hot, tired feet driven into the wilderness, defiantly standing firm, refusing the temptation to stand down, massaged by the angelic host.
Energized, fleet feet on the move.
The voice of the One whose body those feet anchor speaking into being the in-breaking of God’s reign in word and deed, challenging the power of forces of evil allied against that reign.
Feet that before the story comes full circle will lead a rag tag bunch of followers on a circuitous route through Galilee and down to Jerusalem.
Feet—talented, tired, beautiful, battered, bruised feet nailed to a cross.
The sound of the temple curtain ripping; life-less feet carried down from the cross and buried in a tomb.
And then, silence.
Three days later…..fearful, frazzled feet furtively moving through shadows to the tomb, feet bearing women firmly determined to anoint the dead body one more time.
A voice crying out:
HE IS NOT HERE; HE IS RISEN. GO TELL THE DISCIPLES THAT THAT HE IS GOING BEFORE YOU TO GALILEE; THERE YOU WILL SEE HIM AS HE TOLD YOU.
The beginning of the story of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, footloose and fancy free, on the move into all the shadowy desert places where feet are shaky, the wildernesses where fears abound, frustrations frazzle, feet fall down—the broken places of our world, our bodies and our hearts as well.
The risen Christ, footloose and fancy free breaking through the very barriers that hold us back and tie us down and tempt us to stand down.
The risen Christ, footloose and fancy-free with life-giving, death-defying hope, love, and courage for God’s fearful, frazzled people of every time and every place
The beginning of what? The beginning of the new world-changing day to which you and I are invited—no, more that, the new world-changing day to which you and I are called and challenged and sent to participate.
It’s no secret that Mark’s Gospel ends as abruptly as it began.
Our last sight—that of the women running as fast as their fearful feet will take them leaves open the ending of the story because the story has not ended—it lives on in and through you and me and all God’s people of every time and every place.
Beautiful, talented, sometimes tired feet—your feet and mine. …. feet that have borne us through our joys and sorrows, our anxious days and those we have eagerly anticipated. …feet washed in the waters of baptism, bearing you, God’s beloved, talented daughter and son, you in whom God is well-pleased……
…..and yet sometimes, when work pushes us further than we think we can go or uncertainly weighs us down like a menacing cloud hanging over us or when death tries to do its worst, those beloved feet get downright battered and bruised.
But through it all, the voice continues to ring: He is not here….he is risen….go and tell. Jesus the risen Christ, footloose and fancy free on the move for and to and through you and me.
The risen Christ, footloose and fancy free, on the move walking on our sometimes tumultuous roadways with us, massaging our battered feet and bruised spirits, making himself known in bread and wine, fueling our spirits and energizing our tired feet with God’s very own life-giving, life-sustaining power for today and tomorrow and every day ahead.
Jesus the risen Christ, footloose and fancy free, on the move refreshing and renewing, energizing and equipping beautiful, talented, tired feet for the mission to which their bearers are called.
The ancient prophetic oracle, spoken originally to give confidence and courage to exiles whose tired, talented beautiful feet were about to get to go back home says it so well : “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings, causing us to hear salvation.”
Jesus Christ, crucified and risen footloose and fancy free, entering into the shadowy places of our lives and our world with light and love and peace…..energizing our feet for the ministries to which we are called…………

What more can we add to that except to thank God for God’s inexpressible Gift. Amen.