Jesus is Still “Ghetto”

Kingdomtide 2013: Feast of Christ the King

Gospel Reading: Luke 23:35-43

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”  Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.“ Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.“ Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.“ He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”



Jesus is Still “Ghetto” by David Morrison

The Gospel tradition treats the “kingly” nature of Jesus ironically, as if to almost give mockery to the world system’s way of empire and dominance. Matthew’s gospel depicts the stately magi bowing down to Jesus as a peasant toddler calling him “king of the Jews.” John’s gospel has Jesus running away and hiding when the people try to crown him as king. Later, he makes it absolutely clear that he came as a complete servant as he washes the feet of the disciples. Luke describes the inscription over Jesus’s head on the cross: “king of the Jews.” After two millennia, the gospel story is still a subversive message to the powers of the world: God has manifested his power in Jesus through utter vulnerability, and those who follow him are called to the same “kenosis,” or “emptying,” as St. Paul envisioned Christ and what it looks like to follow him as he quoted a hymn that was in circulation at the time:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

Throughout Christian history (as well as each of our own personal histories), we have placed an expectation for Jesus Christ to be all-powerful (as if Christ were Zeus or some other pagan deity, or even a comic book superhero). We do this all the while ignoring the glaring truth of the Gospel: God manifests in absolute weakness and humility. On the cross, we see an immense miracle—the death of God. As long as we refuse to follow Christ into this humility and forgiveness, our world’s history will be violent, and our personal stories will be identities defined by conflict and opposition.

Like everything in the universe, nothing can be done without the grace of God. We can’t overcome the spirit of the world’s system unless God’s grace has overcome in us. Christ must be “done unto us.” He invites the thief on the cross right now in and through those who are willing. We overcome the world only when we pray like Mary: “Let it be done unto me…” Any other attempt to overcome the world will deteriorate into a violent route and we will ultimately become the very evil we originally set out to defeat. Eric Hoffer is often quoted as writing (though it’s a popular paraphrase): “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

It’s significant that Jesus is crucified as a criminal, in the midst of criminals.  In popular Christian circles, there’s often an emphasis on what is termed, “the fivefold ministry,” referring to the recognition and use of the ministries mentioned by St. Paul in Ephesians—the “apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor, and evangelist.”

However, the Scriptures have a “hidden” fivefold ministry that should never be forgotten or marginalized because too many are too busy grasping church positions, “anointing,” and titles.  Jesus made it clear that this five-fold ministry will be clearly first and foremost on his mind when he returns to judge the living and the dead. The true, “fivefold ministry” is: the poor, the prisoner, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger as outlined by Jesus in his parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

When faced with Christ as the Judge on that final day, it won’t matter what title anyone achieved, or how charismatic they were. The central question will be: What do the “people of the Beatitudes” say about you and me? In his TED Talk, Bryan Stevenson said it best:

“Ultimately, you judge the character of a society, not by how they treat their rich and powerful, and the privileged, but by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated. Because it’s in that nexus that we actually begin to understand truly profound things about who we are.

Thus we have the nature of Christ the King—born in the ghetto, lived in the ghetto, died and rose again in the ghetto. And to this day, twenty centuries later—Jesus has never, nor will he ever, leave the ghetto. In fact, Jesus is “ghetto.” And this is where his followers are found.


Remember me
by David Morrison

Lord, remember me as you come into your kingdom.
And as that grace of remembrance comes alive in me,
may it cause me to remember you as you’ve remembered me
in your upside-down kingdom:
as you hide yourself in solidarity with those who are the “least of these.”
Lord, remember me, as you come into your kingdom.
Vulnerability as strength
Laughter in dark places
Authenticity as truth


“Bless us Christ; keep us in the spirit of the Beatitudes: simplicity, joy, and mercy.”
-A Taizé Prayer


11-24-2013 6-12-18 PM

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About David Morrison

I've lived here at the community with Marsha, my wife, since its founding in 2003. I serve in various ways from pastoral care to landscape maintenance; from coffee brewing to bar keeping.

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