Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Not the Messiah We Are Looking For

April 12, 2017

Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Jesus travels on a borrowed donkey, The crowds hail him as “Son of David” – meaning the king. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew tells us “the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ ”

Who is this indeed?

There were a variety of expectations in those days about what the Messiah would do and who the Messiah would be. Would he free Israel from Roman occupation? Would he be a great general? A king? A prophet?

Jesus however, was not the Messiah they were looking for. Military heros ride horses not donkeys.  They enter with armed soldiers. And of course Messiah’s don’t get themselves killed. Especially killed without a fight.

We shouldn’t be too hard on the crowds who didn’t understand what sort of Messiah Jesus was. We don’t understand either. We struggle with giving up our war horses. We struggle with giving up the thrill of military power. Jets flying overhead, tanks on parade, rows of  highly trained soldiers. We struggle with non violence. We are  afraid not to react to any provocation. We are afraid of being seen as weak.

This past week, we launched missiles into Syria. We have maneuvered war ships nearer to North Korea. We warn others not to “cross lines”.

Why did we do this?

Fear, I think.

Fear “they” will think the President is weak. Fear “they” will think the US is weak. We have been warned, this past year, that “they” are taking advantage of us, “they” are laughing at us, and “they” want to control us.

And so we fire missiles and maneuver war ships and sober faced officials give statements.

To what end?   Is the world safer this week? Has anything actually changed? Syrian leader Assad is still brutally killing his own people. Most of the rest of the Middle East is embattled. North Korea continues to dare the world to react to their missile tests.

We, like first century Israel, are confused about who the Messiah is and what the Messiah requires of us.

The Messiah we want, the one who wins wars and punishes enemies, is not the Messiah we have. The Messiah we have, rides a donkey, not a war horse. The Messiah we have does not strike back. The Messiah we have prays for enemies. The Messiah we have treats everyone with respect because they are a child of God, not because the earned it. The Messiah’s way is not the way we have always done things.

To follow this Messiah is hard. Perhaps even impossible.  Oh, I can follow for a day, especially if I don’t leave the house. But to follow when I encounter difficult people? Nearly impossible.

So if following the Messiah we have is so difficult for us as individuals, how much more difficult it is for nations.

What if we lose? What if the “bad guys” win? I don’t know. I don’t know what happens if we “lose”. But when so many suffer because of the status quo, can anyone really “win”? Are we willing to give up some security, possessions, privilege  so others can have more?

I have no idea what this looks like for me, for a city, for a nation. And it is more than a little scary to think about. I mean, exactly how much would I need to give up? How dangerous will this be?

But what we have now, the way we do things now, is scary too. Most of us have managed to isolate ourselves. Many of us can, for the most part, avoid seeing the suffering of others. We can take a break from the suffering of others. But suffering persists whether we look or not.

Following the Messiah we want has not and is not working. Perhaps it is past time to trust and follow the Messiah we are given. Riding a donkey, not a war horse. Loving our enemies, Blessing those who curse us. Sharing what we have with those who have less.

We have the Messiah, we have been given, Jesus. The question is can give up our false messiah and will we follow him?

 

 

 

What happened in Samaria, doesn’t stay there.

March 19, 2017

 

Sometimes it is good to spend some time with familiar stories.

John 4:1-42 is the well known story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria, or the Woman at the Well.  It’s a big story and there are many things to think about when we read it. The writer of John pays a lot of attention to this story. At 42 verses it is one of the longer stories in the Gospel of John. I think it has some things to say about women and how Jesus interacted with them.

  • Jesus talks to her, by himself. Apparently Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a man talking with a woman without someone else around.
  • Jesus also doesn’t have a problem treating her like a person of equal worth.
  • Jesus knows she has been married several times and now lives with a man. And he seems not to care about her marital status or her sex life. His mentioning of her previous husbands and current partner are a statement of reality, and in no way can be read as condemnation or judgement, or as approval. Her marital status and sex life have nothing to do with her encounter with Jesus.
  • After her encounter with Jesus the woman testifies, preaches, evangelizes- call it what you like- to women and to men. And they listen to her and follow her to Jesus. No man other than Jesus “allows” her to do this. Her calling is clear to her and to the others in her village who listen and respond.

This story also has some things to teach us about how we should interact with those who have different theological view.

  • Again, Jesus is respectful, he doesn’t belittle her views. There are no condescending comments about Samaritans.
  • He isn’t distracted by her “lifestyle”or her Samaritan ways.
  • Jesus doesn’t hide who he is or pretend he isn’t engaged in a serious conversation with someone of a different tradition. He doesn’t paper over legitimate differences.

Most interestingly to me, Jesus says that both the Jews and the Samaritans have gotten some of this religion stuff wrong. Neither group completely “owns” the truth. The truth is not ownable.

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[c] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Spending time with familiar stories helps us remember what we ought to do. Because mostly, I need the reminder.  I need to remember what Jesus taught and how Jesus acted.

Jesus is sometimes not as direct and clear as we might like. It would be much easier, in some ways, if Jesus had simply given us a series of rules and guidelines.

Women this…

Men that….

People with different theological positions…..

But he doesn’t. I used to find this quite annoying. I really wanted rules and some clarity about how to live. Jesus’s way is more subtle and more flexible. It is attentive to the particular situation one is in. It is attentive to whom one is speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to think about what we are doing and why. Jesus’ way requires us to think about who we are speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to constantly ask the Spirit for guidance.

The people Jesus encountered knew Jesus by what he said and by what he did.  And it is the same for us. We know Jesus’s will by what he says and by what he does.

The same is true about us. People know who we are by what we say and more importantly by what we do.

 

 


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