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The Church Has Stolen Jesus

stealingjSo, it is Holy Week, the last week of Lent. How will you observe it?

 During the past few weeks, I really have struggled to find ways of reconnecting to Jesus. I know that sounds incredibly pious, and THAT I am NOT. What I really mean is that I actually have gotten angry lately about how the institution of the church has stolen Jesus and replaced him with Christ.

 John Dominic Crossan and the late Marcus Borg, in their book The Last Week, imagine not one but two political processions the spring morning of Palm Sunday. In a parody of imperial politics, King Jesus descended the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem from the east on a donkey, while, from the west, the Roman governor Pilate entered Jerusalem with all the pomp of state power.

 The trouble is the Christ the church taught us about was much more like Pilate than like Jesus. Since the time of Constantine, when the church moved from being persecuted to being too often the persecutor, we increasingly have followed a leadership that was less and less like the peasant rabbi from Galilee. Christians, who were once called “People of the Way,” become people of the creed rather than people of the deed.

 If I take anything from my Lenten journey this year it will be a personal resolve to re-examine what I have believed my entire life about what it means to be a Christian and recover what it once meant to be a follower of the Way. Jesus was killed by the empire, but the parable of Easter teaches us that he wouldn’t stay dead. Because they couldn’t kill him, the forces of power and profit usurped him, kidnapped him, and dressed him in their robes and values and lifestyles.

 If we can begin to strip all of that away and encounter the real Jesus again, then this week, and maybe this life, can become Holy once more!



Rev. Michael Piazza

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