Monday, September 30, 2013

Readings: Isaiah 1:10,16-20; Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus, like many prophets before him, had sharp words to say to religious folk: “They do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23: 3b-4a).  Likewise, Isaiah writes “Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong” (Isaiah 1:16).  Our faith must not be in word only, but in deed: the religion of, not about Jesus.  We must remember his peacefulness, love, grace, and shrewdness.  That he comforted the poor and broken and challenged the rich and prideful, but loved all.

In these forty days leading to the Cross and Resurrection, we must remember Christ’s lonely, broken heritage.  First, as a refugee baby in a war-torn land, one who escaped infanticide, oppressed under Roman imperialism, born by a questionable birth, raised in poverty in the Palestinian badlands where “nothing good comes from” (John 1:46), Jesus is called.  Jesus was not middle class, rich, American, or politically advantaged, but, given his low statue, followed His Father’s austere path of love and justice.  This should give us comfort and challenge, knowing that anyone, anywhere, in any number of ‘impossible situations’ can be a humble and radical servant in God’s kingdom and find rest in it, even with persecutions leading to death!

Then, the Holy Spirit brought him into the desert for forty days.  Wait, into the desert?

Yes, and during lent, we realize that we too, like Jesus and Israel, are all in a desert.  We are all wandering this side of life, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes stutter-stepping, wondering what is the purpose of this life, who are we, and who is God.  But, like Elijah, we learn that in the silence, not noise, is His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Like Paul, we realize that His grace is enough, because His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  And like Jesus, we know that the “greatest among you will be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).  Therefore, in silence, weakness, humility, and service, we are made strong, the greatest, and hear God.  These values, which are diametrically opposed to those of our culture, are the simple values we can cultivate to follow the simple Way of dying and life, nonviolence and revolution, Cross and Resurrection.

Later, in Jesus last week of life, sweating blood and shaking with fear, Jesus went to carry His Cross.  Let us carry our Cross everywhere we go.  Let us remember our death we die daily, our baptism, and our thirst, hunger, and God’s providence in our deserts.  Let us remember that Jesus had many disciples and friends; his mission was not individual but the restoration of all. God, help us not to be prideful, but humble, not Pharisaic, but faithful, not to judge but to serve, not to oppress but to love, and not to be violent in word, deed, or intention but peaceful, not to hate or condemn, but to even pray for our attackers and enemies, and loving them, even while suffering shame, abuse, or even torture affixed by three nails to two wooden beams.  Easter is coming, Easter has come, Easter is.