The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian


Strange Fruit: The Cross as a Way of Life (Due out 2010) p2

posted by Robert Gelinas

(Here's another installment from my current writing project)

The Loveliest
Lynchee Was Our Lord[1]

That’s a difficult question, isn't
it?  How do you follow strange fruit?

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it
this way before, but—as followers of Christ—we have wrestled with that for
centuries.  How do we follow strange—unnatural—fruit?  After seeing a lynch victim, one author
wrote, "He had been stripped of all his clothing but what appeared to be a
loin cloth positioned below his hip.  The figure was eerily reminiscent of
the image of Christ being crucified on the cross."[2]   This is a comparison that many have seen, Ida B. Wells being
one of them.  A former slave and orphaned
by a yellow fever epidemic that took her parents, she was left with five
siblings to raise on her own.  In the 1890’s Ida launched a campaign
against lynching after a friend of hers died at the hands of a lynch mob.  Putting her skills as a writer to use
she chronicled the practice for a larger audience.  Her campaign against
lynching often made reference to the lynching of our Lord for the comparisons
between the two forms of execution are obvious.

Like Frank Embree and countless
others, Jesus was kidnapped in the dead of night by a lynch mob, put through mock
trials and found guilty without proper procedure.  His execution on the
cross was a scandal–the ultimate in degradation.  While the Romans didn't
invent crucifixion, they perfected it through practice.  Untold thousands
of victims had hung to their deaths with humiliation and torture also the chief
goal in the excruciating process reserved for non-citizens of the empire. 

The cross…a scandal—the ultimate of
disgrace—a curse.  Jesus was stripped bare and hung in dishonor. 
Impaled with unfathomable brutality and unable to swat a fly, his nail inflamed
nerves pulsated.  He hung there, mocked, lips chapped, tongue swollen, family
disgraced. 

He was strange fruit.

Robert Lewis wrote, "We could
not make sense of the New Testament in particular, or Christianity in general,
without its central figure—Jesus Christ.  Christianity is not a philosophy
or an ethic, but a person:  Christianity is Christ.  But neither can
we make sense of Christ himself without his cross."[3]  Christ was strange fruit indeed as he
hung on that cross-formed tree.  It was the Apostle Paul who said,
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it was written:  'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."[4] 
But the question still remains: 
How do we follow strange fruit?

By becoming strange fruit! 

To be a disciple of Christ is to
follow Jesus, even to the cross, for the cross is core to knowing Christ. 
The goal is for us to be able to say, "I have been crucified with Christ
and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."[5]
The Apostle Peter understood that we are to become strange fruit.  Jesus told Peter that he himself was
going to have his arms stretched out and led where he didn’t want to go.[6]
 Legend says that he was crucified,
literally, upside-down and then he in turn calls us all to see the cross as a
pattern for our lives:  “To this
you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that
you should follow in his steps.”[7]  To be a disciple of Christ is to follow
Jesus…even to the cross.  The cross
is core to us knowing Christ. 


[1] Title
borrowed from Paula Giddings’ Ida: 
A Sword Among Lions

[2] Giddings,
Paula J., Ida:  A Sword Among Lions, (New York:  Amistad, 2008), p275

[3] Lewis,
Robert, The Glory of Christ
(Chicago:  Moody Press, 1997),
pp291-292

[4] Galatians
3.13

[5] Galatians
2.20

[6] Jn. 21.18

[7] I Pet. 2.24



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Comments read comments(2)
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Yo Chris

posted July 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm


Awesome.



report abuse
 

Gary Ivory

posted August 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm


I am reminded of the song “strange fruit”! This is indeed a powerful metaphor! I am reminded of a theologian that said “we worship an executed redeemer”. I think that this has tremendous implications for making a case against the death penalty. Gary Ivory, M. Div.



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