FROM A READING FOR JUNE 20, 12TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

'You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself...' Galatians 3:27

When I talk or write about the presence of the risen Jesus among us, I have a problem with pronouns.

There's no such problem when my topic is the historical Jesus: The late theologian Raymond Brown noted that Jesus was "a free, Palestinian Jewish man of the first third of the first century CE."

Jesus was that free, Jewish man between 6 BCE and 3 p.m. on Good Friday of 30 CE. But, as Paul reminds his readers, after Jesus' resurrection, the Galilean carpenter became a "new creation."

If any of us has doubts about the meaning of new creation, the Apostle provides us with a classic description in today's Galatians passage (Gal 3:26-29).

Referring to the uniqueness of baptized Christians, he writes: "All who were baptized into Christ have clothed [themselves] in Christ."

Then he quickly tells us what's at the heart of being another Christ: "There is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile], there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

The risen Jesus is just as much a Gentile as a Jew, as much a slave as a free person, as much a woman as a man!

Gender issues
A few years ago, spiritual author Michael Crosby remarked in a lecture, "It took the Church about 50 or 60 years to totally accept Gentiles into the faith on an equal basis as Jesus; over 1,700 years before it realized and taught that no person, by nature, was to be regarded as a slave to others; and...we're still working on making Paul's insight about men and women a reality."

It's difficult for us to appreciate the risen Jesus, and ourselves, as new creations. Certain-ly, we can identify with Zechariah's conviction (Zechar-iah 12:10-11) that true followers of Yahweh will acquire a grace-filled spirit of dependence on God.

Yet no one can figure out what the prophet, or his redactor, meant by "mourning for the one they have thrust through." Modern commentators generally shy away from John the Evangelist's interpretation that it referred to the crucified and pierced Jesus.

On the other hand, when Luke's Jesus speaks about how His followers become new creations (Luke 9:18-24), He's quite clear it has everything to do with losing one's life in order to save it.

He's clear on how that loss is to take place: "Those who wish to be my followers must deny their very selves, take up their crosses each day and follow in my steps."

Take your tau
Scholars remind us that "taking up one's cross" would have meant almost nothing to the historical Jesus' followers until He actually died on a cross. They presume He originally encouraged them to take up their "tau."

The tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, was em-ployed in religious circles as a sign one was giving oneself totally over to Yahweh. Just as we'd say we did something "from A to Z," they said they did it "from aleph to tau."

Since tau is parallel to our "T," it's easy to see how the tau in this saying was transformed into a cross.

Becoming a new creation doesn't happen when we're baptized. It's a process which takes lots of dying to ourselves to achieve.

We know from Scripture that the Gentile/Jew question wasn't settled without a struggle - and our American civil war is proof the slave/free issue didn't just walk gently off into the night. So it shouldn't surprise anyone when man/woman issues create conflicts and divisions in some Christian communities.

Though we escaped the pain our mothers experienced in giving birth to us, no one escapes the pain of being born again.


(06/17/10)