For Lent, we wrote a series of reflections on the crucifixion of Jesus. Year after year we struggle to find something "good" about Good Friday. So this year we decided to explore the topic of Jesus' execution directly. What if the crucifixion of Jesus caused major trauma in the life of the disciples? What if that unresolved trauma got passed onto us through their traditions and theologies? What if some of those traditions and theologies are distorted due to unresolved trauma in the memory of the Church? What if we could heal that memory? What if something more healing and hopeful could emerge? What would that mean for our current rituals and theologies? What if things like the Eucharist could look radically different? Those are a few of the questions we'll explore. To whet your appetite, here is a synopsis for each part in the series:
Part 1: Did the Crucifixion Cause Grief and Trauma?
We'll explore the possible impact of the crucifixion on the people who knew Jesus. Then we'll explore the impact of their trauma on the memories, traditions, and theologies in the Church today. Maybe things could look different.
Part 2: Crucifixion as Unresolved Grief and Trauma
The crucifixion of Jesus likely caused a great amount of grief and trauma for the disciples - especially the ones who knew Jesus personally. The emotional "stuff" remained unresolved and was eventually passed on to us through some of the memories, traditions, and rituals of the Church. Some of these things passed onto us were distorted and may need to be addressed and healed.
Part 3: Grieving the Crucifixion to Heal the Church
Grieving the crucifixion is an important step toward healing the memory of the Church. We'll use Judith Herman's steps for healing from trauma from her book Trauma and Recovery: (1) naming and remembering the loss, (2) mourning the loss, (3) honoring the Church's resistance and survival; and then (4) integrating and expanding the story. While residual parts of the trauma will continue to be a part of our collective memory, we no longer have to allow it to dominate our theologies, traditions, and rituals.
Part 4: Adult Education Program of Healing and Hope
What now? We'll bring the ideas from the series together in a practical way to explore healing the Church's memory through an adult education program. First, Brian McLaren’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus, will be used to explore the content and meaning of Jesus’ message. Second, Marcus Borg and John Crossan’s book, The Last Week, will be used to explore what led up to, and contributed to the execution of Jesus. Third, the movie Pay It Forward will be used to tie together the major themes of both of the books through a narrative that symbolizes the great life and unjust killing of Jesus. Finally, the group will be invited to create a Communion liturgy that expresses their understanding of the ministry of Jesus and theology of the Eucharist. Things like the Eucharist might look different after working through the trauma of the crucifixion. In fact, maybe Communion should look more like a party than a memorial. The party could celebrate things like the persistence, resilience, and survival of the Church and Jesus' vision of love, justice, and mutuality.
Want more details? Click on the links above to read each part of the entire series. Plus, in a few years Christopher Grundy will have a book that explores these ideas in much greater detail. It's a heavy topic. But it ends in hope. We are an Easter people. And this Lenten journey leads to the joy of the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).