The God of Golgotha

by Austin Smith, C.P. - Inner City Mission - Liverpool, England

The God who came to dominate my life in my teenage years and through my adult life has been the God of Golgotha. The Christ of suffering, the suffering Servant, has been the hinge of all my thought and prayer. I was trained as a very young man to meditate upon such a God and given a vision of life and action which would be about communicating such a God to others.

"The God of Golgotha"For all those years I have no regret, either for such a philosophy or life or for training in such a philosophy of life. The suffering of Christ at the center of my life has served me well and enriched me beyond words, but now in later years I am beginning to understand the significance of that spirituality in a new way. Indeed, I am only now coming to understand Golgotha as an event and symbol leading to a distinctive understanding of God. I am only now coming to understand the path I specifically entered upon over forty years ago in terms of my understanding and service to God.

I am now thinking of matters much more simple, though no less tragic and demanding. It appears to me that the powerless and weak of this world too often see themselves perceived and described as the cause of their own weakness and powerlessness. We hide our broken in mind and spirit from our daily perception. On a very prosaic level, one at times feels one must apologize for illness and aging in a jogging, youthful world.

I say all this to make but one point. It is this: if Jesus died in the cause of certain values, if those values are the root of my believing, then the nature of my relationship to the execution and death of Jesus is vital.

We brush aside the possibility of an unbearable God because we will not face up to the fact that new movements have brought about new mediations of God and new understandings of God. At the root of it all there is an unwillingness to face a Golgotha God, now in the form of a message which tells us that many of our structures, systems, totalities, theories and institutional modes,--humanly and temporally crafted to carry divinely and eternally uttered words and truths--are dead or dying. They must be allowed to die and be buried for there to be an authentic resurrection.

If this does not take place, we not only turn away from the reality of the Golgotha God, we create illusionary expressions of the Resurrection of Christ. It is not that the death event or experience is simply a corridor to the future. Rather, one must confront it and let it address the depths of the soul.

At a deeper level, I am attempting to say that the resistance to change and revision, or the acceptance of change and revision are to be seen flowing from a distinctive spirituality which I believe can be defined in the vision of a dying God.

Such a dying in the face of 'things' demands a mature and deliberate acceptance of death. One needs to see in death a distinctive value. Resistance points all too often to a desire, if not a panic, to hold on to an unhealthy form of stability and security, which, though grounded in understandable anxiety, prevents development and liberation.

Excerpted from "Journeying With God," by Austin Smith; Sheed & Ward, London 1990.
illustration: detail of Christus am Kreuz mit Maria und Johannes by Albrecht Altdorfer, 1515-1516

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