Sunday, March 17, 2019

Today, tomorrow and the next day!

There is a contemporary passion play by Terrance McNally called Corpus Christi. The play and its history are intertwined with Bob and I because of a small production that started at our church in North Hollywood. The play was supposed to be for a weekend or two, but it ended up running for about 6 years and playing all over the world. If you want to know more about that look for playing with redemption on Netflix.

In the play the lead Character Joshua hears something.  It is soft at first but throughout the play he stops because he hears it again and again and it keeps getting louder. He asks his mother “do you ever hear hammering? Of course, I do your father is a carpenter”
Later in the play he says, about the hammering that only he can hear, “I think they are building something…something for me”

In today’s Gospel Jesus hears the hammering.  It is getting closer and louder. We have been invited on this sacred journey with Jesus. We are asked to listen to the words and the story with our hearts.

“In Luke 9:51, Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem where he knew that he would face opposition from religious leaders and eventually death (9:22). Along the way, he demonstrates the presence of God’s kingdom through repeated deliverance from demons and healing from sickness. Crowds of people from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem follow Jesus along his journey. Today, Jesus might have a host of social media followers tracking his journey on foot from Galilee to Jerusalem and turning out to see him in person as he passed near their town. Wherever Jesus goes, he brings signs of God’s kingdom.”[1]

Now I admit today’s Gospel seems a bit tame.  We often like our Jesus either storming a temple to overturn tables or feeding 5000 or raising someone form the dead.   There are no miracles here.  There is no rage against the machine nor is there a tender aww inspiring moment like suffer the little children unto me.

It was just the other week that Herod was inquiring who is this Jesus. What is he all about?

Now Jesus is told that Herod wants to kill him and his reply…
 you tell that fox…

When we use the metaphor of fox, we often think of someone as a trickster or clever or even sly like a fox but in Jesus’ culture when one is referred to as a fox it is an insult.

In the time of Christ, one could speak of a leader in terms of a lion or a fox.
“Lions and foxes can be contrasted with each other to represent the difference between great men and inferior men. The great men are called “lions,” and the lesser men are called “foxes.”[2]

So really Jesus is hurling a veiled or perhaps not so veiled insult saying really that guy couldn’t catch me if he tried.

Yet why are the Pharisees even bothering to warn Jesus? One commentator reminds us that

“It is difficult to evaluate the motives of the Pharisees in the story. It is also difficult to evaluate whether or not their warning is either sincere or representative of a real threat. As in all the Gospels, the Pharisees in Luke are largely antagonistic to Jesus and Jesus to them. There are hints, however, of a more positive reception by the Pharisees. In 7:36 and 14:1, for instance, Pharisees invite Jesus into their homes (although the scenes do not play out well for them), and in Acts 15:5 we hear that some Pharisees had actually become Christians. We thus cannot dismiss the Pharisees’ motives as necessarily being negative.

On the other hand, their report seems problematic: Luke 9:7-9 and 23:8 suggest Herod’s interest in Jesus was not in killing him, and when given the chance to condemn Jesus in the Passion account, Herod refuses to do so (23:6-12). We cannot be sure of Herod’s status in the passage, however, because of course Herod had both imprisoned and executed John the Baptist (3:19-20; 9:9).”[3]

I wonder if we as the readers are not intended to be in this in-between place of not sure who we can trust. That just might help us to feel as if we are standing in Jesus’ sandals even just for this moment.

Imagine you are doing the hard work that God has called you to do.  You are preaching gods message of love for all people.  You are walking with and ministering to the most vulnerable. There is only one group concerned with you at this moment and that is the Pharisees.  

The reason for this was The Pharisees are a sect of Judaism focused on the oral and written tradition they were the common class and heavily concerned with tradition.  They believed in a spiritual realm beyond this earthly existence. This is most likely why they would invite Jesus into their homes, and some would eventually become Christian.

 This is opposed to the Sadducees who were the elite and were happy with a peace between the romans and the Jews as long as they could keep their status.  They saw no concern of Jesus till they feared he might upset the romans.

So you are doing the hard work that God has called you to do.  You are preaching Gods message of love for all people.  You are walking with and ministering to the most vulnerable.
And you get this warning…Someone is out to get you…what do you do??

Last week Cathy mentioned the experience of a UCC minister, Rev. kaji Doussa Spellman, who does ministry at the border.  Here is her story in her own words

“A brave soul from the Department of Homeland Security came forward with a story that has rocked the country this week. They are keeping a dossier on journalists, activists and others, flagging their passports, in some cases, revoking visas, travel privileges in others, deporting as many as they can.

I saw the article and thought one of the blurred photos of the targeted people looked familiar.

It was, because it was my passport photo. With a yellow X that the most powerful government in the world drew across my face.

But none of us would have known if someone in the department, someone with significant access to information, hadn't taken a very serious and personal risk to come forward.

So, I want to turn to the Centurion in the story from Luke. (Luke 7:1-10)

The Centurion was a powerful soldier in one of the most powerful conquering forces in the world. He was accustomed to being in command. And while he was accustomed to getting what he commanded, he could not command his servant to be healed. Healing doesn't work that way, of course. Because the illness will reach anywhere. It doesn't care about your financial gifts or your job title or your immigration status or your marital status or anything else. You can have all the power in the world but there will be things you cannot command.

There is always someone else who is in charge of you. And the Centurion knew this. But he humbled himself, when he saw that his powers were limited. And when he saw the true authority to whom he needed to bow did not bear any military titles, something in him changed.

And Jesus saw it and loved him for it. The Centurion's servant was healed.

I spend a lot of time with people whom the government issues guns and uniforms, particularly people from the Department of Homeland Security, especially from ICE.

For the ones who have spoken to me: I think that they know that I love them, too.

When I pray with the migrants who are vulnerable to their ICE quotas, whims and bad days, they know that I pray with and for them, too. They know this because they hear it. They know that we love and pray for them. And a lot of them hate us for it. It's easier, see, to caricature someone you perceive to be your enemy. It's harder to let them love you.

Jesus was a leader with a following who had powers that threatened the police state. (Not that I am comparing myself to Jesus), But Jesus' power and influence were palpable and dangerous because he had a strength that they could never touch.

And that strength was love. A love that could heal ANYONE. Even someone who would otherwise be discarded, replaced, deported. Jesus loved and told us we have to, too. But that love does not seem to be order of the day.

I look at the ways power is yielded in the land. And love exists – but it is certainly not in charge.

When I talk to the people the government issues guns and uniforms, one of the first things I point out is that they almost always have choices.

They can decide to be kind
They can decide to be generous
They can decide to be compassionate. 
Just like the rest of us.”[4]

Now comes the lament we need to cry out just as Jesus did “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those are sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…”

In the face of oppression and in the face of authority Jesus stands up and says Listen I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow… and so we are called to do the same.

Now some may say Rev. Kaji has no business doing what she is doing its too political…some may say I shouldn’t mention this or why am I mentioning this it’s too political, but Church is political just because of who we are called to be.

If this makes you uncomfortable good, it should…if it makes you angry good it should…we are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

The church Leaders in response to just this one incident reminds us that…

“The role of the church in society is to be present and purposeful in every facet of the life of all of humankind. This call to be church is irrespective of color, class, and gender identity. This call transcends social barriers and superficial borders. This call demands allegiance to moral law over any immoral statutes that do not honor the handprint of the divine in every human being.

Christian scripture teaches us of a Jesus who was present with people wherever they were. In our biblical teachings we learn of a God who hears the cries of people and responds with compassion and presence that transcends human barriers for the sake of love. We, the United Church of Christ, will commit to no less. It is both our God-given authority and our First Amendment right to practice our faith free from political persecution.”

We lament over our government’s response to our faith and our practices, but we will not stop loving and caring for those on the margins especially literally for those at the border…

We lament at mass shootings wherever they are…
We lament because when our government responds and it is a white male it gets 7% less coverage if it is a person of color
We lament because when a shooting occurs and it is a white male but when it is a person of color they are a terrorist.

We lament because there is a state of emergency at our border because we have forgotten that we are called to care for  the least of these my brothers and sisters no matter what their skin color

I have been to the border…I have been to the border in the high desert and the border at Tijuana.  I have crossed the border and walked besides people trying to survive in one of the most desolate places on this continent.  I have seen what people do to survive and I know why people go to minister there.

Today, tomorrow and the next day there will be more calls to action more needs for pastoral care and more ministers will be persecuted by our government in the name of the law!

You know I wonder…would anyone be interested in learning more about what happens at our border instead of trusting the news?

The united church of Christ offers mission opportunities to learn and be present in the midst of this. Why should I preach it…when you can see it, live it, learn to understand it, if you think it might be something you would like to do as a small group or even a large one maybe we can make plans.

I hope you understand Jesus lament is coming down to this very nation through the centuries.

Though many would like to see the church silence about this we will not be not about this or any other event where the marginalized are persecuted and they attempt to silence us.

We will stand up reach out and care for the least of our brothers and sisters or however they choose to identify themselves.

And we will say today…tomorrow and the next day…until the third day, if it must come to that, remember what happens on the third day, we will work to bring gods kindom here on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.


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