In college I picked up the practice of praying the Jesus Prayer, an ancient Eastern mantra which comes from stories in the gospels where people cry out to Jesus for healing and mercy. I picked it up from the 19th century Russian classic, The Way of the Pilgrim. Anyway, I always keep a set of prayer beads in my pocket (I use a rosary) and at times pull it out and pray this prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This afternoon I went to our Holy Saturday liturgy at the seminary and found myself there after the service praying with my beads and without even thinking too much about it praying a different prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the dead God, have mercy on us, sinners.
Today, in Jesus, God is dead. We, in our hunger for power, in our allegiance to the status-quo, in our fear of others, in our prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry have killed God. Today God is in the tomb.
God is in the tomb with Trayvon Martin, whom we also killed. God is in the tomb with Felipe Gomez and Jakelin Caal. God is in the tomb with Roxana Hernandez, Dana Martin, and Ashanti Carmon. God is in the tomb with Matthew Shepherd. God is in the tomb with Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. God is in the tomb with those who lived most of their lives on death row. God is in the tomb with the teenagers from Parkland, FL and the children from Newtown, CT. God is in the tomb with the families in Afghanistan bombed by drones. God is in the tomb with those in the World Trade Center. God is in the tomb with the Rohingya in Myanmar. God is in the tomb with those who starved in South Sudan. God is in the tomb with so many of the indigenous people of the Americas. God is in the tomb with the soldiers in Vietnam. God is in the tomb with the millions of Jews who suffered the Holocaust. God is in the tomb with the millions of Africans who died on ships of enslavement and the millions more who died by the hands of their oppressors and under Jim Crow. God is dead. We killed God right alongside so many others.
In his book The Crucified God, theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote, “When the crucified Jesus is called the ‘image of the invisible God’, the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this. God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity” (295).
Black Liberation theologian James Cone also wrote, “But when the poor of North America and the Third World read the passion story of the cross, they do not view it as a theological idea but as God’s suffering solidarity with the victims of the world. Jesus’ Cross is God’s solidarity with the poor, experiencing their pain and suffering” (“An African American Perspective on the Cross and Suffering” in The Scandal of a Crucified World).
Lest we relegate the death of Christ solely to an historical event or a theological idea, Moltmann, Cone and many others remind us that in the poor, marginalized, and oppressed of the world, God is still dying. God is still being killed. If Jesus is the least of these as Mt. 25 reminds us, God is being crucified, starved, hung, shot, bombed, and poisoned everyday. Holy Saturday is everyday. The question is, if the Church wants to be a resurrection people and the hands and feet of Jesus, will Easter be everyday?
Lord, Jesus Christ, the dead God, have mercy on us, sinners.