Sunday January 19, 2003 | Curtiss P. DeYoung
Diversity marks the world. Moreover, these differences often lead to division. Is it possible to unite around the cross of Jesus Christ? Curtiss DeYoung, Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel College, addressed this question in his sermon.
Diversity marks the world. Moreover, these differences often lead to division. Is it possible to unite around the Cross of Jesus Christ? Curtiss DeYoung, Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel College, addressed this question in his sermon entitled, “Coming Together at the Cross.”
Curtiss shared his struggle over preaching this sermon here in the United States where the Cross has often been a symbol for injustice. Throughout the history of this country, people of color have experienced unthinkable atrocities at the hand of white people. Curtiss shared stories of broken treaties, lynching, and segregation. Furthermore, much of this happened by people who professed to follow Jesus. We must ask ourselves, “Is it possible to come together at the Cross with that type of history?” Even today, this injustice persists. Segregated housing along racial and cultural lines still dominates, and our churches continue to be one of the most segregated institutions in the country. With that kind of history, is it possible to come together at the Cross?
Curtiss preached that it is possible to unite around the Cross. He used the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in Luke 23:26-49 as a metaphor to illustrate this possibility. A close reading of this passage shows that diverse groups of people were associated with his death. Simon of Cyrene from Africa carried the cross and the European Roman centurion commented that surely Jesus was innocent. There were women and men. People of various socio-economic backgrounds gathered. In addition, both rulers and criminals witnessed the event. Finally, Jesus’ enemies and his friends were at the cross together. What is the power that brought such a diverse group of people together?
The power to unify is the person of Jesus Christ. He said of himself “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). A quick review of Jesus’ life and the historical context of his day illustrate that he experienced amazing diversity. At his birth poor shepherds and rich magi visited (Luke 2:8-20 and Matthew 2:1-12). After his birth his family fled to Africa (Matthew 2:13-15). Upon his family’s return from Egypt, they settled in Galilee, one the most diverse provinces in Judea. He was multilingual, speaking Aramaic (language of the street), Hebrew (language of the synagogue), and most likely Greek (language of business). In addition, his family tree was multiracial and multicultural (Matthew 1:1-16). However, even more than the historical context and lineage, he demonstrated openness to surprising segments of the population (e.g. the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42).
Upon his resurrection, the power of reconciliation was unleashed from his physical body to his spiritual body, the Church. We are now entrusted and empowered with the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:16-20). The church at Antioch is an example of this (Acts 11:19-26, 13:1). It was marked by multicultural leadership and demonstrated reconciliation. In fact, it was in this setting where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” The message is clear, to be a follower of Jesus means to live a life committed to reconciliation. How can we participate in this? Curtiss suggested two things. First, we must become truth tellers. We must speak honestly about our world and its failure to break down the walls of injustice. Moreover, we must boldly share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus’ words in John 8:31-32,”If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Second, we must forgive those that hurt us and seek forgiveness from those we have hurt. We must be aware that we will fail people and invariably others will fail us. We can nurture an atmosphere of reconciliation when we are quick to forgive and are quick to ask for forgiveness.