This weekend, followers of Jesus will celebrate the high point of the church calendar - Easter.
For many of us, it is a time to focus on our individual sin and forgiveness - to be thankful for the actions that Jesus took for US as beloved children of God.
And that is good.
Yet, Jesus also told us that his life and death would be Good News for the poor (Luke 4:18). So, how do we understand what Jesus did on the cross in terms of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited and the enslaved of the world?
What does Easter mean for my neighbors who live in abject poverty?
Firstly, let's recognize that Jesus chose to identify with the most vulnerable children and people at the bottom of the heap throughout his life and ultimate death.
Born homeless, as a member of an oppressed minority in the Roman Empire, he came to be seen as a troublemaker, rabble-rouser, dissident, community organizer, agitator, nonviolent revolutionary, renegade, rebel and traitor to the Empire.
He proved such a threat to the system that he had to be executed.
Easter is the time of year when we recall Jesus' execution as a criminal.
Jesus was not some nice, polite do-gooder. He was not an American pastor who preached personal responsibility, good citizenship, positive thinking, respectability and American values.
Jesus was no Joel Osteen.
No one would be threatened by such a bland personal morality, because it never extends beyond ourselves. It never offers an alternative to a selfish system that is Bad News for the poor.
No one would crucify this Jesus. Instead, you’d invite Him over for a cup of tea and a chat about the weather. Ho hum.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador once lamented, “A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed—what gospel is that?”
This Easter, let us celebrate the ultimate act of love carried out by this controversial, radical trouble-maker who challenged the status quo and the religious establishment.
Easter is truly Good News for my poor neighbors. It is the high point of the story of Jesus, who embodied God's wild and untameable love for the vulnerable and the broken. And ultimately laid down his life to overcome the death and violence that enslaves us all.
It is the story of a upside-down Kingdom that will come on earth as it is in heaven - a Kingdom that is nothing like the society we find ourselves in. A Kingdom that is Good News for the poor.
This Easter, let us recommit to walking in His radical footsteps by recognizing that it's not ALL about us. Let us deny ourselves, remember the poor, and take up the cross. For it is only in dying that we find life.