Handmade Crucifixion by Carl Fougerousse of Red Fern Art Studio l CustomMade.com

To the People of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, and to the ends of the earth, Fulfilling our charge to “To guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim … the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and … to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically” (BOD, 2016, ¶ 414.3), the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction will offer messages of faith each week of Lent, with the prayer that God will strengthen the Church for its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

In Jesus’ death, a lesson for our lives

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”John 18:4-8

The path to Easter’s resurrection takes us down a road of escalating gloom and despair. Jesus, popular teacher, healer and prophet, is hunted down by those who would destroy him. The passage from John’s gospel brings Jesus closer to his arrest, trial, conviction, and death.

Some artists portray Jesus’ crucifixion with a sentimentality that masks the horror of the moment when our Lord was murdered. Although we know the final glorious chapter in the Holy Week drama we must not ignore a profound message in Jesus’s death. The joy of resurrection is made complete because we know that Jesus endured a violent death on the path to salvation for us.

See the anguish on Jesus’ face in the sculptor’s rendering of the dying Jesus. Crucifixion is a cruel and excruciating method of execution. It is an example of the violence we inflict upon each other, a testimony to mankind’s inhumanity inflicted upon another human. Such violence is an affront to God.

We live in a time when violence is rampant. Lives and souls of millions are destroyed or damaged by it. When we see or hear of persons whose lives have been snuffed out by violence, we should recoil in horror. Violence can affect everyone and it can happen anywhere: in our neighborhoods, schools, universities, workplaces, marketplaces, places of worship. The frequency with which death, injury and loss intrude upon our daily life makes us numb to the shock and horror of violent acts.

The pervasiveness of violence in criminal or terrorist attacks in our neighborhoods and streets, in war-torn countries, and in domestic disputes must not become the “new normal.” We must not let the “everyday-ness” of violent acts lull us into shrugging our shoulders in acceptance or turning our backs because we have become numb to the omnipresence of violence in our world.

One source reports that in a year, 10 million persons are physically abused by someone they know intimately. That pattern may well escalate unless we make a stronger effort to work for peace in our lives and in our communities, striving to eliminate violent acts. The agony and death of Jesus on the cross should remind us that as Christ-followers, we are called to work to make our world a safer place as we live in peace with all as members of the human family. God calls us to keep working toward that goal.

Creator of us all, we know that violence has no part in your peaceable Realm. Yet we confess our slowness to condemn violence in our world. We weep at the violent death that Jesus endured and commit ourselves to work toward a day when violence will be no more. And we do so in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.

– Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, Desert Southwest Conference

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