Part Two: C*****anity: What if the Church Could Get Rid of Christ?”

It would certainly be easier, and perhaps more effective, to have a church without him (Jesus).

Culture would be placated. At least that’s the chant from the crowd; but what does that mean for us, as preachers?

This is how I ended my last column. But frankly, I am less concerned about what it would mean for us preachers to preach Christianity without Christ than what it would mean for our people. For us, preaching would become a lot easier; preaching would be a comparatively simple task. Because preaching Christ and his cross and resurrection as the revelatory work of the over-flowing love of the Trinity into the world is a tough sell.

The poet W.H. Auden was once asked why he was a Christian instead of a Buddhist or a Confucian, since all these religions share similar ethical values. Auden answered, “Because nothing in the figure of Buddha or Confucius fills me with the overwhelming desire to scream, “‘crucify him’.” We, as preachers, we who must step aside and point to Christ as John the Baptist did, have the seemingly impossible task of trying to proclaim to people that this man called Jesus, who was put to death by good and upright religious folk (umm…like ourselves) brings forgiveness and life. We have to tell people that our God really died, as in died-died. That he ‘vacationed’ three, long days in hell. That he returned and walked out of the tomb. That he was so much in a hurry that he didn’t even bother to pick up his grave clothes or shut the door on his way out.

It’s no wonder then preachers turn to therapeutically feel-good messages, lean on fancy audio and video presentations, political stances or whatever-the-latest trend/movement to use for preaching. Really, who wants to preach this God?

On Good Friday, the crowds chanted “Crucify him, crucify him.” The government ended up agreeing with religious leaders that Jesus was a problem and yes, this poor rabbi was a real inconvenience for the church and now it seems, just about everyone. But they forgot. And too often we do as well: that real hope does not come from changing our circumstances or attitudes, that forgiveness is more than making a conscious decision, that healing is not a self-improvement project, that ‘laws’ will not transform us, that not even Dr. Frankenstein was able to resurrect a body.

Jesus is still a problem. In most circles, his message doesn’t go over very well. Yet, Christianity must bear the promises of Christ, as ridiculous and unbelievable as they are. The church must be the first and last place where the gifts given in Christ are heard and received. And we, who are preachers, must point. For it is sure and certain, that there is one much greater than you or I coming, one on whom our meager and foolish words are born, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It is only through preaching him and his promises faith is given. It is only through him we fall hopelessly in love. And when we die, (yes die-die), it is only through him we are called out of the tomb, our grave clothes scattered, the door left swinging and wide open to eternity.