Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Confrontation Monday, Part III

Quoting Jeremiah, who was almost killed himself for threatening in the name of God that the temple would be destroyed because it had become a haven for perpetrators of injustice and a den for robbers--- Jeremiah, you see, stood in a long tradition of prophets who insisted that what God demanded more than worship was justice, not worship and justice, but worship more than justice. How often do you hear God saying, “I’m tired of your justice, what I want is worship?” Never!

But God is always saying, “I’m tired of your worship, take it away from me! What I want is justice! Justice shalt thou pursue!”—quoting Jeremiah, who almost got killed himself for saying that God would do to the temple what God did to Shiloh, which was destroyed by the Philistines (except that the people decided at the last minute that his word, was, indeed, from God), quoting Jeremiah, Jesus shut the temple down. Drove out those who were selling and buying, turned over the tables of the money changers, kept people from carrying anything anywhere within the temple. Jesus came in, raised enough Cain to shut things down altogether.

Now I have to tell you that there are a lot of different theories about what he meant by this action. And I’m at loss, because my favorites, Walter Wink and Marcus Borg and Ched Myers don’t agree with each other! But what they do agree on is this: through this confrontation in the temple, Jesus confronted the structures that oppressed his people. And his voice, his actions, his powerful witness against injustice so threatened them that they killed him.

And when the chief priests and scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him. Did he know that that would happen? I’m guessing that he did. It’s not that he wanted to die. Like Romero, Jesus expressed a desire to live—take this cup away from me, he prayed. But his death was inevitable. Not, and hear me well, NOT because God desired a sacrifice, a Jesus to die in our place. What kind of God would that be, after all? Not one that I would choose to serve.

No, not because of the substitutionary atonement hoohah that some of us have heard most of our lives, not because of divine necessity, not because God needed him to die—God was rooting for him to LIVE—just as God was rooting for Romero and Rachel and Tom—but because of human inevitability—this is what domination systems did to people who publicly and vigorously challenge them (The Last Week).

But, say Borg and Crossan, Jesus was not simply an unfortunate victim of a domination system’s brutality. He was also a protagonist filled with passion. His passion, his message, was about the kingdom of God. He spoke to peasants as a voice of peasant religious protest against the central economic and political institutions of his day. He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All of this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’s passion animated his life, and got him killed.

Jesus of Nazareth, broken for his world.

Frederick Buechner says that Lent is a good time to ask ourselves a number of questions, including this one: Is there any person in this world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

I don’t know how Rachel Corrie or Oscar Romero or Tom Fox or Jesus of Nazareth would have answered that question, had it been asked of them. They answered it with their lives, but could they have really answered it beforehand? I don’t know. What all four of them could have answered, I think, and what many of us can answer as well, though, is this: Is there any person in this world, or any cause, that you are willing to live for, to be passionate about, to pour your life into?

Because if you head off into something in order to die, then you’re just flat out crazy. But if you head off into something because it makes you feel alive, because it’s the only thing that makes sense to you, because it animates your life, because you just can’t help but make a B-line for it, well, then, chances are good that you, too, will be broken along the way, but that even in your brokenness, you’ll know that you are blessed, blessed, blessed.


by Pastor Cindy, who knows of confrontation


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