Reflections on the Gospels from a Justice Perspective written for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church by members of the congregation

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

28 April 2013 John 13:31-35 Loving One Another

28 April 2013  John 13:31-35   Loving One Another

I remember one year when we were doing a thematic Bible study of all of the various passages about who we were supposed to love – God, each other, our neighbor.   Some folks told stories designed to help all of us remember the breadth of this required love – stories that illustrated the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the going the extra mile.  Others’ stories questioned the depth of this required love as they brought up folks like Hitler, condemned child molesters.  Then from the back of the room came a voice that calmly said, “you don’t know my neighbor!  I can choose not to do harm to him, but don’t ask me to do the impossible and love him too!”   I remember we all sat speechless for a moment, then we laughed nervously, but we had no response to that revelation.

I have thought about that day over the years.  How DO we learn to love one another?  I watch Jesus.   Jesus spent his life telling stories that invited us into a new vision, a new way of looking at “the way the world ought to work.”   He lived compassion for the poor, the weak, the outcasts, and the marginalized.  In his stories and in his living, Jesus strove to raise our awareness, our consciousness, of the universal brotherhood of all persons, of the interconnectedness of all things.   Compassion (L. com -, together  + pati -, to suffer) – our ability to suffer together -  comes from the  raising of our consciousness.  It is out of compassion that love flows.   What is the breadth and depth of that love?  Jesus watched Judas leave to betray him and immediately turned to the remaining disciples and issued the ultimatum – “everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”   Love became our Call when through his death and his forgiveness Jesus demonstrated that love can triumph over the worst of human destructiveness.   Consciousness – Compassion – Love.   When we can love, we can work for justice for all of God’s creation.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

John 10:22-30

This week's Gospel lesson presents a challenging and difficult message for the ancient Israelites, and for us as well. Jesus is being questioned by contemporaries who expected the Messiah to come as a conquering hero, a warrior like the Maccabees, who would lead a great uprising and overthrow the oppressive Roman government. Instead, Jesus comes as a compassionate shepherd who heals the victims of injustice and oppression, and he abhors violence so much that he would rather submit to an unjust death than protect himself or let his followers protect him by fighting back. What is more, Jesus claims that his example reveals the nature of God the Father: "The Father and I are one." In other words, he seems to be saying that the Israelites have been quite wrong to believe that God wants them to wage war against their enemies, or even to use violence in self-defense.

If this was Jesus' message to the Israelites, must it not also be his message to us? Do we believe in a God who condones or even encourages the use of violence to solve our problems? If so, have we replaced the Father of Jesus with an idol created in our own foolish image? On the other hand, if we know that our God abhors violence, can we honestly claim to serve Him if we aren't trying hard to do something about the pervasiveness of violence in our popular culture, the streets of our cities, and the foreign policy of our nation?