Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cathy Jones

Thoughts on Psalms 140 &133; Jeremiah 26:1-16; John 10:19-42.

The psalmist in todays scriptures seems to be in a difficult place. S/he repeatedly prays for protection from violent men, men contemplating war. How often have we heard the same prayer, from women in Africa and the Middle East and here at home; from men forced by their rulers or economic circumstances to wage wars they would never have started if they had had a choice.

Then in The Message we read Psalm 133, which turns out to be the Rodney King psalm! Most of us over 30 or so can remember Rodney as the man held responsible for starting the terrible race riots of 1992 after the policemen who had beaten him severely (and been videoed doing it) were acquitted of charges. Rodney, although never an upstanding citizen himself, was no part of the riots. When asked by the press what he thought about them he replied naively and unforgettably:

Cant we just all get along?

Jeremiah might have said the same thing when he was threatened with a violent death as he carried the Lords admonitions to the people of Jerusalem. This was not an unusual issue for Old Testament prophets, so Jeremiah must have realized what could happen, but he did it anyway. He was actually saved by the current rulers who seemed to recognize either his authority or the truth of his words.

In the Gospel passage for today, Jesus finds himself in a rough spot as well. Im not sure when in his ministry this was, but he had gone to the Temple (there was only 1) and was teaching there. The religious authorities angrily questioned his intentions and, when he did not give the answers they were looking for, actually took up stones and tried to stone him!
I guess he could have rallied his followers and fought back but, as we all know, that was not his style.
Violence never was.

It appears he was able to talk them out of it, at least temporarily, and withdrew into the wilderness down the Jordan where John the Baptist had been baptizing. Apparently, as he stated elsewhere, it was not yet his time. He still had a lot of teaching to do, a lot of preparation so that those left behind would be able to attach meaning to what was to happen.

When was his time?

Well, as we know in retrospect, it was the day we are moving inexorably toward a week from Friday. When he went to Jerusalem that time, he was not able to talk the authorities out of their violent intentions. There can be little doubt that he knew those intentions, and probably even the certainty of the event. There can also be little doubt that he did not really want to diecertainly not like THAT, by the Romans signature execution style for troublemakers. But he was willing to make the sacrifice.

Human history is actually full of persons who disavowed violence but nevertheless resisted evil. There are many that we have rarely heard of. For instance, we in particular should honor all those brave souls who stood up for the civil rights movement in the face of terrible hatred and violence. Martin Luther King. Jr. taught them  that their risk was meaningless unless they did it non-violently out of a Christ-like love for their oppressors.

We have a tradition of sacrificing something we care for during the time of Lent. This habit can serve to remind us that the path to the foot of the cross can involve contact with violence, even occasionally (hopefully rarely!) demanding the ultimate sacrifice.

But Jesus tells us all that the ends do not justify any means.

The ends AND the means are peace and love.


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