New Best Friend

Easter Morning by Hi Qi

I didn’t go seeking out Jesus because I needed a new best friend. I didn’t want to be a Christian, but I felt called to the priesthood and I was Episcopalian, and well, Jesus is sort of the crux of the whole thing. Jesus was a love warrior when there were no love warriors. In fact, they killed him because he was loving all the wrong people. He was loving people like me: broken, outcast, sick, fear-driven, mentally ill, addicted, in pain. People who believed to their core that they were fundamentally flawed, defective, with no hope of ever changing, and who had no where to go for help. Jesus was loving people who hadn’t been loved in a very long time. And he did outrageous and audacious things like preach outside, taking church to the people instead of bringing people into the temple. He touched the untouchables, gave voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless. He sat down to eat with all the wrong people, healed the most hopeless and loved the most unlovable. And those in authority, those whose privilege, power and place in society was the most threatened needed Jesus dead. So they killed him. The powers that be, the chief priests of the temple whose entire identities were wrapped up in their privilege and power could not abide an itinerant preacher and faith healer from a backwater town, with followers like fisherman, tax collectors, fallen women, and sick people, who kept telling people, “Look no further than me, right here, right now, in this place, for the Father,” riling up the people. Jesus, who was adamant that he was the embodiment of the love and grace of God and if you want to see God and experience that love, he was here to show you. God, not out there somewhere, not in the temple, not in the law, not with the chief priests and scribes. Right here, in the middle of this mess of your life. In the middle of your pain, your suffering, your fear, your heartbreak. God. God’s love. God’s acceptance. God’s mercy. God’s grace. Right here, right now.

So they killed him. He didn’t want to die and he asked God twice before he was arrested, if there is any other way for this need to be fulfilled, for these people to know your unending love and grace, if there is any other way we could get that point across, I would really like that. The gospel of Matthew says he was deeply grieved. Grieved in the dictionary is a verb: to distress mentally; cause to feel grief or sorrow. Jesus was sad, afraid, distressed that he was facing death. Matthew 26:39 reads, “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” I don’t like this one bit, Jesus says, but if this is your will, I’ll just keep showing up. God didn’t sentence Jesus to death to die for our sins. God didn’t sacrifice his only son like some crazed emotionally abusive and sadistic father demanding atonement for bad behavior. God watched as this man, his son, loved his followers in such a way, a love so threatening, so jarring, unknown by people before this man came to them teaching a different way to be in the world, was taken into custody, condemned to death, because a bunch of people did not at all like what he was selling: unearned, grace-filled love, equality, and justice for all people. 

And then came Easter. That scared the crap out of the religious authorities. Here they thought they had gotten rid of this menace, this threat to their power but no. Word spread that Jesus started appearing to people, first to his best friends, the ones who were too afraid to go with him to the cross. The ones who denied him, who betrayed him, who would have much rather seen Jesus take up the sword and claim his rightful place on the throne as the King of Judea, resuscitating the power and might of what once was a great kingdom in the ancient world. Then to Paul, who was an enemy of Jesus, and worked diligently overseeing the persecution and death of the earliest followers of the movement. The love of God didn’t die with Jesus on the cross. The love, acceptance, mercy and grace of God lived, was and is relentless in pursuit of a relationship with us. God, never wanting us to forget the sacrifice that Jesus chose to make because he was so in love with us, wants nothing more than to claim us as her own. God, who wears the scars of the showing up to the most terrifying experience his only son endured on her wrists, that God. My new best friend.

— April 16, 2017