Chaplain's Reflection

Chaplain Fr Richard Browning

Chaplain Fr Richard Browning

O, Jesus!

Jesus is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1.15). His work means the end of all divisions, the tearing down of the dividing wall between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, in and out, slave and free, because Christ is all, and in all (Col 3.11). 

Upon the seemingly endless cycle of violence, I offer a simple prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, and do so in the name of Jesus. Below, I expand further on what Jesus means, but for the moment: 

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 823) 

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Oh Jesus. A poem.
By Richard Browning, July 27 

I love Jesus’

radical identification with the rejected and condemned.

I love Jesus’

shameless solidarity with women –
and embrace of the excluded and outcast,
his casting out of demons that harm and oppress
and lifting up of little ones.

I love Jesus’

compassion, always given, often provocatively;
his practice of holiness-as-mercy not holiness-as-purity

I love Jesus’

affirmation of the Kingdom of God at large yet near,
universal yet wild, accessible yet untameable;
coupled with a condemnation of ‘kingdom’ as
instrument of religious elitism and oppression.

I love Jesus’

unnerving habit of responding to questions with questions,
and dilemmas with stories,
and dominant paradigms with upside down logic and paradoxical truths

I love his ‘guerrilla lorefare’* parables,

From the beautifully ridiculous to the offensively preposterous,
his compelling teaching through parabolic living.

I love Jesus’

complete devotion to the One he calls Abba,
his face and heart of Abba’s steadfast love and eternal mercy
his self-donation as the final Scapegoat
ending all idol making and sacrifice taking;

I love   

his unnatural capacity to forgive and forgive and forgive again;
his unyielding practice of healing and liberating
his utter rejection of militarism
yet his unfettered embrace of militant nonviolence
his earth-affirming economics of jubilee contra the practice of empire building usury;
his beguiling victory over blindness and sin, evil and injustice, violence and Death
through his own humiliation and death
his tantalising Resurrection, forever announcing and embodying
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death.
his return as the innocent forgiving Victim bearing
peace not retribution,
healing not condemnation, 
reconciliation not damnation;
his dissolution of binary opposites, removing separation between slave | free, male | female, in | out, blessed | cursed;
his embodiment of ruling emblem not as lion or eagle or bear, but lamb;
his unconditional loving embrace of the other,
with hands scarred by sacrifice ‘from the foundation of the world’,
transforming human beings from blind agents married to death
into wide eyed peacemaking citizens of the kingdom of God
empowered with Spirit filled agency. 

I love Jesus because he is the Song through whom the universe is sung into being. He knows me, loved me first and loves me always and calls me to take my place in the dance of life. 

 

Notes.
I physically recoil when some use the name of Jesus to own individual blessings, personal prosperity and spiritual certainty; to prop up militant nationalism, the building up of dividing walls and the hunting of strangers and others; to excuse unlovely and unkind behaviour.

But this is not the Jesus revealed in the scriptures. Jesus is the truest sound I know, the treasure I guard the most and have turned my entire life towards in faithful obedience. Jesus has a hold on me and the poem ‘Oh Jesus’ is a flourishing attempt to point out why. 

The poem has been years in the making, but the trigger was Jarrod McKenna. He posted on his twitter feed a string of phrases under the tag ‘#whyiloveJesus’. I have launched from these and built upon them. There are three phrases that are wholly Jarrod McKenna’s. They are:

earth-affirming economics of jubilee
empire building usury
‘guerrilla lorefare’ parables 

Other phrases:

militant nonviolence: Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi
forgiving victim: James Alison 

Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death.

These four lines are the gift of Desmond Tutu.

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