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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: The Cross: Our Way to God

March 13, 2012

I'm honored that Abingdon Press is publishing The Best of Will Willimon this year, a collection of some of my writing from Abingdon. As we move through Lent, season of the cross, I'm sharing some of these selections related to the theme of the cross.

Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn't climb all the way up to God. So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday, God climbed down to us, became one with us. The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday. We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God. Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell. He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it. God still stoops, in your life and mine, condescends.

"Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" he asked his disciples, before his way up Golgotha. Our answer is an obvious, "No!" His cup is not only the cup of crucifixion and death, it is the bloody, bloody cup that one must drink if one is going to get mixed up in us. Any God who would wander into the human condition, any God who has this thirst to pursue us, had better not be too put off by pain, for that's the way we tend to treat our saviors. Any God who tries to love us had better be ready to die for it.

Earlier in this very same gospel, it was said, "The Word, the eternal Logos of God, became flesh and moved in with us, and we beheld his glory" (AP). Now the Word, the Christ of God, sees where so reckless a move ends: on a cross. "I thirst, I yearn to feast with you," he says, "and behold, if you dare, where it gets me."

When I was giving some lectures at a seminary in Sweden some years ago, a seminarian asked, "Do you really think Jesus Christ is the only way for us to get to God?"

And I thoughtfully replied, "I'll just say this, if you were born in South Carolina, and living in America, yes. There really is no way for somebody like me to get to God, other than a Savior who doesn't mind a little blood and gore, a bit of suffering and grizzly shock and awe, in order to get to me. A nice, balanced Savior couldn't do much for a guy like me. I need a fanatic like Jesus. For we have demonstrated that we are an awfully, fanatically cruel and bloody people when our security is threatened. We have this history of murdering our saviors. So I just can't imagine any other way to God except Jesus."

[Taken with permission from the Bishop's blog, North Alabama Conference, United Methodist Church.]

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