"They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?’” I don’t think the men in white robes are waiting for an answer. Their question is suggesting that there is somewhere else to be looking.
Will we live with our hearts at peace or at war? That’s the question each one of us must answer, and we do. Every day we answer that question and our answer to that question determines our way of being toward others. How do we want to be toward the other?
The people in the synagogue were looking forward to some hometown privilege. They see themselves as special and they are ticked off when they realize that Jesus won’t play to their presumed privilege and that they are being passed over. That’s what enrages them. They are raging mad about being passed over.
And I can’t help but wonder if we might not be the hometown crowd, if we somehow see ourselves as Jesus’ favorites. I can’t help but wonder if we don’t also assume some privileged status when it comes to Jesus, as if he always chooses (or should choose) our side, our church, our party, our country. And I can’t help but wonder if we’re not also in danger of being passed over.
How far will I go for this gospel I claim to love and follow? What am I willing to do and what am I not? I struggle and wrestle with these questions every day.
Because here’s what I see in the world and read in the life of Jesus. Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, the gospel asks us to make a choice, to take a stand, that will inconvenience us, be contrary to our self-interest, or put us in conflict and even opposition with others, ourselves, our family, our country, our religion.
We are sixteen days from the midterm elections and one day from the start of early voting. Ads are running, rhetoric is raging, and lines are being drawn. And here’s what I wonder. What if Jesus’ name was on the ballot? Would you and I vote for him?
We tend to back the one who will “do for us whatever we ask” of him or her, the one who supports our beliefs, the one who advances our agenda. Isn’t that what James and John want from Jesus? “Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They are privileging themselves over others, and we often do too. Give us. Do for us. That’s politics as usual. “But it is not [to be] so among you,” Jesus says.
For most of us, I suspect, Monday greatness is about being number one, a winner, a success. It’s about power, control, wealth, fame, reputation, status, and position. Have you ever seen the losing super bowl team dancing around with two fingers in the air shouting, “We’re number two, we’re number two?” Probably not and you probably never will. Can you imagine a political slogan about making America last or a servant of other countries? Besides, who wants to be the servant of all? That’s for the uneducated, minorities or foreigners, and those we can get away with paying less than a living wage. At least that’s often how it works today. Being last and servant of all is not what we usually strive for. That’s not the greatness to which we aspire.
“It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss— This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish…
Last week I was on the way home from running some errands. I stopped for the light at the square and a young man walked across the street in front of me. I recognized him as one of "the least of these." I recognized him as the guy who came by my office just few days before. I recognized him as the same guy who had come by the office five or six times in the last week and a half. I recognized him as the one to whom I said, "I will not help you and you need to leave."
O Lord of life, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens: Our lives and world have once again been shaken by violence and gunfire; this time in Las Vegas. We are weary because of our groaning. Every night we flood our bed with tears and drench our couch with weeping. Our eyes waste away with grief. Our spirit shakes with terror. How long, O Lord, how long?
The boat of our life is far from land right now. The night is dark, the waves are high, and the wind is strong. There is every reason to be afraid but I don't want to live in fear and I don't want you to either. I want us to see the light that shines in the darkness of this night, a light the darkness cannot overcome. I want us to hear the waves slapping against the bottom of Jesus’ feet as he walks toward us. I want us to feel the wind of change. I want us to make room in the boat for Jesus.