Posts tagged Jesus
Attributed to Carel Fabritius

Attributed to Carel Fabritius

I've seen a lot of great baby announcements. Families are becoming increasingly creative, setting the bar high for future parents-to-be. Yet. None of have been able to top this:

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'" Luke 2:8-14 

Now that is a baby announcement! In the darkness. On just another day. During business as usual. Something miraculous happens. An announcement is made. It is so glorious that one angel is simply not enough to deliver it. A host an angels fill the sky worshipping God- proclaiming peace on earth. Even though it is in the darkness on just another day during business as usual. 

The shepherds react. Who wouldn't?! How will they find the baby? Not by seeking the fanciest home. Not by asking directions to the path of the rich and famous. Not by finding the most impressive, most expansive, most expensive of anything. A manger. Swaddling clothes. Seems a little anti-climatic doesn't it? Host of angels. Manger. Its a rather unexpected place to find Christ the Lord in the darkness on just another day during business as usual. 

But they do. They find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, just as the angels declared. Incredibly moved, they must tell everyone. This is good news. News of good tidings. News of great joy. News that is desperately needed in the darkness on just another day during business as usual. 

And once they finish declaring it. Once they have told everyone they can think of- anyone who will listen... they return. They return to the darkness, to the day, to the work. 

This Advent season has been filled with the violent darkness of every day- of unarmed killings of black people, of no indictment decisions, the stark divisions and racial warring. We do the work of activism and protest, of writing and speaking, of artistry and teaching, of reading and witnessing, of studying and producing. In the darkness this is just another day, business as usual.  But we know the good news of Christ who saves. And in a few days we celebrate this Christ with intention and purpose. This Christ who made himself low, who came into the world with the sound of angels only to be wrapped in bands of cloth. We will pause. We will celebrate. 

And then we will return to our work. Remembering the good news. Faces still turned toward the heavens. We will keep work toward peace on earth till the Christ makes makes a second grand entrance. 

Merry Christmas, Everyone. 


Demonstrating Christ

"Be patient," they say. 

"Be peaceful," they say.

"Just wait," they say," for this is how Christ behaved... MLK behaved... the truly godly behave"

But I serve a demonstrating Christ. 

I serve a Christ who walked into the temple, looked around and felt anger. Who fashioned a whip for the purpose of driving folks out. Suddenly tables crash to the floor. Money clangs as it scatters across the floor. Feet pounding, tripping, running, racing to get out of there. Benches over turn. A whip slices through the air. A voice roars, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers."   

I serve a demonstrating Christ. Though we often skip this story. This story wedged in all four gospels, the final provocation for killing the man called Jesus.  But we skip it because it serves us no more. We have no need for this Jesus because we don't make animal sacrifices anymore. We are never in danger of bringing in too many bleating animals, of exploiting too much in a cash exchange, of walking through our church carrying cows, goats or doves. So we explain this passage not as a story unto itself but only in service for why Christ died. 

But what if this moment is about more. More than money. More than animals. More than noise. What if this is about a demonstrating Christ who was consumed by love for the temple, the gathering place where God met man. What if this is a story about the need for the nations to come. The need for the space to be cleared so that nothing stood in the way for the scattered to arrive. We commonly refer to this story as "Jesus cleansing the temple" and I would like to submit to you today that the Church still needs cleansing. 

Because America has erected a far more dubious system for keeping people out. 

Out of our schools. 

Out of our neighborhoods.

Out of our churches. 

Out of our leadership. 

Out of our communities.

Out of our conscience.  

We indeed have a sacrificial system, extorted for gain. Its called racism and black bodies are the ones dying. Indeed America has perfected the systemic art of thievery and segregation.

For what feels like forever we have watched the taking of black lives again and again and again. Unarmed their black bodies have been cause enough to extract a final breath. Black bodies have only been welcome here so long as they are willing to bend to the white will. Black bodies have been welcome here so long as they are willing to hand over all that they are in pleasure to the white whim. Black bodies have been welcome here so long as they keep in line, stay in their place, remain locked out or locked up. Any violation of the white will is cause for judgement, correction, threat, death. Head over to social media and it is overrun with photos of the white will violating white law and yet over and over again this does not result in death. And while the black community mourns, the segregation is on display. The racist thought patterns are on display. Displeasure with how we mourn, how we grieve, how we scream, how we cry is met with icy cold disdain. And touting civility as the highest form of godliness, we are asked to be patient, peaceful, wait. 

But I serve a demonstrating Christ. Surely Christ could have stood on the steps of the temple, at the entrance and waved his arm toward the commotion. Surely he could have declared to anyone who would stop long enough to listen, "Do you see what is happening in there?" "Don't you think someone should stop this?" Surely he could have taken his twelve from stall to stall and quietly pointed out each atrocity before his eyes. Calmly explaining his rationale to each seller, he could have ministered to each one persuading them to do what it right. Surely he could have been patient and kind asking each one to please leave the temple. Surely he could have used humor to catch people off guard. Or perhaps he could have waited- waited until the day was done, until Passover was done, until the Temple was done. Surely he could have... could have done anything other than demonstrate. 

But I serve a Christ who disrupts.

And we are called to demonstrate Him, right? 

So how long before you unseat privilege and power? How long before you turn over the tables of injustice? How long before you whip your congregation into shape, beat out racist ideology and roar your displeasure? How long before you scatter your donors and donations? How long before you throw your gains to the floor? How long before you are consumed by more than four walls. How long before you are consumed by love for EVERY body.  How long before the bodies which contain the Spirit of the Lord matter more than property, wealth, and power? How long? How long before you disrupt antiblack thought patterns? How long before you cast out problematic language? How long before you call out racist actions?

When will you take a stand? 

When will you be fed up?

You know, like Christ.  

The Impossible

He rode into town on a donkey to shouts of praise. Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel. Palms wave in the air and scatter the road as he clunks along. This is no powerful steed, so the entrance is slow and the praise long. "Hosanna! Save us," the crowd cries. They are desperate to be freed, desperate to become a nation unto themselves, freed -no- saved from the tyranny of the Romans. Surely this is the new David, the promised one. After all, he has already done the impossible. He raised a man from the dead. Everyone heard. Surely this is the new king. With disdain the Pharisees watch the growing fervor of the crowd. Shaking their heads, they throw shade at Jesus, "Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

Once the crowd has made way for Jesus to pass, he and the disciples enter a home and eat. Much to their dismay, Jesus washes their feet. This seems like a hard turn of events following the excitement and emotion of the crowd. But Jesus insists on loving them to the end. As if this were not confusing enough, Jesus then speaks of betrayal and denial. And none of it makes sense. Who would betray the next king? Why would anyone deny a king? Then comes another bomb, "My children, I will only be with you a little longer." What? What does that mean? Is this another parable, Jesus? Where could you possibly be going at a time like this? People are waiting for you. Expecting you. Hoping for you. You can't leave!

Jesus gives them all the wisdom, all the instruction he can muster: 

"I go to prepare a place for you." 

"I am the way and the truth and the life." 

"If you love me, keep my commands."

"Because I live, you also will live."  

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."

Jesus just keeps going. The disciples can't figure out what he means. Is he being figurative? Is this a puzzle. Or is he saying what we think he might be saying. Is he talking about death? The disciples desperately grasp for meaning, as Jesus goes on and on and on. Revealing more about what's coming next. And then, they come to the garden. 

Kiss. Arrest. Swords flash in the light of torches. Jesus bound. Questions and answers. Questions and answers. Lies and Questions. High priest. Roman governor. Flogging. Nakedness. A purple robe. A crown.made.of.thorns. "Crucify! Crucify!" A Cross. Nails through flesh. "It is finished." Death comes heavily.

Darkness. Pain. Confusion. Frustration. Fear. Silence.

Then resurrection comes. Resurrection comes! He is alive!

We retell this Gospel Story every year. And it never ceases to sound crazy. The Divine in flesh. A King who refuses a heavenly throne and then an earthly one. Blood covered sins. Resurrection from the dead. Resurrection from the dead. But we believe the impossible. We believe in salvation through blood. We believe in heaven, in a prepared place. We believe in the Trinity. We believe in God with us. We believe that the proclamation "Hosanna!" was just too small. Salvation in the most imaginative and painful way. We believe that souls live on.

And as wild as it sounds, this is sometimes the easiest to believe. In eternity. In forever. But my faith believes in other impossible things. 

I believe in the death of injustice, in the life of hope, grace, mercy, and love. I believe in the impossible. I believe there can be healing where there is violence. I believe reconciliation is possible- hearts can be moved, minds can be changed, politics broken. I believe that justice can roll down like a river and we can all taste its sweetness. I believe in the impossible. I believe we can treat people- all people- with dignity; we can recognize their humanity; recognize the divine within. I believe we can do more. Create more jobs. Build more homes. Turn food deserts into promiseland harvests. Subvert racial and gender hierarchies. Consider others more important than ourselves. Slay preferences that lead to exclusion. Set captives free. Welcome the stranger. I believe in impossible things. I believe in death because I believe in life. I believe in the death of -isms. I believe in the life of love. I believe humanity can change because I believe in the impossible. 

I believe in life, in death, in resurrection. Not just for me. Not just for my salvation, for God so loved the world.     

Though the world often feels like Saturday- silence. death. frustration. fear. Though the earth often feels like Saturday- disease. hunger. pain. violence. Though our communities often feel like Saturday- barnabas wreaking havoc on us all. Though our hearts often feel like Saturday- heavy. embarrassed. shamed. sad. I believe in the resurrection. I believe in life, in healing, in fullness. I believe in light, in joy, in peace. I believe in mercy, in second chances, in surprises. I believe in resurrection. 

I believe the impossible. 

Happy Easter, All.