If they were keeping you in a box…

glowing sky
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/3400702016/">Nicholas T.</a>

John 20:1-2

Before dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the grave and saw that the stone had been removed from the grave. So she ran and told Peter and the other student (the one Jesus loved), “They’ve taken Jesus from the grave, and we don’t know where they’ve taken him.”

Why is it that whenever Jesus isn’t where we expect him, we immediately conclude that someone – but who? – has stolen Jesus from us?

Someone has stolen Jesus from the church. The church has stolen Jesus for it’s own institutional justification. The right/left wing has hijacked Jesus for their own purposes. Someone has made off with our precious Jesus.

If Jesus is alive, then it seems that we ought to let Jesus be Jesus. A living person goes places. A living person makes unexpected choices. Sometimes even choices we disagree with. A living person does things for that person’s own reasons.

So it is with Jesus.

Next time Jesus isn’t where you expect him to be, instead of assuming someone has kidnapped him, consider that he may have just decided to step out of the box we like to keep him in to get some fresh air.

Now What?

Jesus crucified
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/664713/">Hobvias Sudoneighm</a>

John 19:16b-18

The soldiers took custody of Jesus, and forced him to carry his own cross up to Skull Hill (Golgotha in Aramaic), where they crucified him. They crucified two others on either side of him, with Jesus in the middle.

There is nothing good about Good Friday. It’s everything that’s wrong, unjust, cruel, and ugly on display. It’s shock and awe. It’s what happens to those who dare to say that those in power are wrong. It’s what happens to those who dare not just to opt out of the way things are, but to lead others out as well.

The gospels hold this gruesome image before us and say, “This is what it takes.” With Jesus hang all the 3000 children around the globe who die of malnutrition and dehydration every minute of every day. The gospels hold up this man on a cross as a representation of all the suffering and dying taking place in every moment of every day, as if to say, “See!”

And having witnessed this evil, one remaining question is, Now that you have seen, and now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Unashamed

statue of dog attack
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalunablanca/1045612155/">Dave Barger</a>

Isaiah 50:4-9

God gave me the smarts to know
How to motivate the exasperated.
And God helps me every day
To listen to what people are really saying.
God opened my ears,
And I didn’t bolt. I didn’t run away.
I didn’t cover my face when they spat at me,
But I gave myself over to their attacks
And let them rip out my beard.

God help me,
They’re not worthy to be considered insults.
They may as well be striking flint,
Because they’re the ones who are shameful.
God will soon prove me right.

You wanna mess with me?
Bring it!
Who’s gonna get in my face?
Bring it!
God’s on my side.
Who are you to say I’m wrong?
They’re all washed up,
Nothing but moth-eaten rags.

Today is not just “holy Wednesday.” It’s also the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Jesus and Dr. King both knew the truth of Isaiah’s words. It’s not the one being abused who has anything to be ashamed of, but the abusers. It’s not the abuser’s insults and cruelty, painful as they are in the moment, that count for anything in the grand scheme of things. Those who watch the old news reels of police turning dogs and fire hoses on unresisting protestors feel shame not for the protestors being attacked, but for the illegitimacy of their attackers.

Nobody (well, nobody worth listening to) remembers Pilate or Jim Clark with respect or admiration.