Wednesday, May 13, 2015
I have a hard time with the adversarial language in John’s Gospel. In the lesson for this Sunday, Jesus describes “the world” into which he sends his followers as enemy territory, a place where they do not and should not feel at home. He suggests that they must strongly resist its evil influence, lest they themselves be corrupted. Reading language like this, it is easy to imagine that Jesus wants his followers to maintain an attitude of self-protective superiority, looking down on the neighbors he is sending them– and us– out to serve. Surely there is a better way to understand passages like this!
For me, at least, it helps to remember the language we use in the baptismal covenant, when we “renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God” and also “renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” Those spiritual forces and evil powers are not our human neighbors, whom we are commanded to love as we love ourselves, but demonic systems of privilege and injustice that harm our neighbors– systems like racism, religious extremism, militant nationalism, and “winner-take-all” economics.
Resisting and trying to dismantle the injustices that create poverty and violence is harder and more uncomfortable than just feeding the hungry or caring for the wounded, but it is part of our mission as followers of Jesus. After all, that’s what Jesus did himself. The “evil powers of this world” hated him for calling their authority into question, but by standing up against them he and his first disciples showed the way to eternal life.
Monday, May 4, 2015
I watched a video on Facebook about a month ago. It can be found on You Tube at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqGPa84jM2M&list=RDoqGPa84jM2M). A young male person of color was sitting on what was the front steps of a completely wrecked house. He opened with “the world is coming to an end” and for the next 3 minutes he listed everything from environment to discrimination, assaults and violence to sexual exploitation, consumerism to greed. The list was long (he was talking fast) – long, discouraging and overwhelming. When my brain would not accept another word, he finally stopped, stood us and said, “the only solution is Love… the kind of love that is mindful, forgiving and an act of kindness. Love that changes our hearts so that anger becomes sympathy, hatred becomes compassion and cruelty becomes kindness.” He closed by saying, “The world is coming to an end. The Path to a new beginning starts within you”
How can we accept the invitation from both today’s gospel and this young man to see all of our relationships transformed in the image of that love -- a love in which no one is anonymous or dispensable, no one is cast aside as irredeemable, and everyone exercises the kind of relaxed and joyful generosity that happens when nobody is keeping score in any arena.