Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus the Lord, our King who hung upon the tree of the cross. Amen.
This is not what we expect from our king.
We turn to our rulers looking for certain things: elegance, a sense of power, safety, a show of force. We expect them to do mighty works. We want them to be great and to make us great.
How odd it is, then, that as we celebrate the reign of Christ our King, we don’t read about his miracles. Or the Transfiguration. Today, there is no holy dove descending from heaven, no voice of God proclaiming:
This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
Every pastor and theologian has a list of authors that upends their way of thinking, those authors who, page after page, grab us by the shoulder and push us in new directions. The Rev. Dr. James Cone ranks among those thinkers; few seminarians are the same after reading Cone’s God of the Oppressed or The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Risen One who has set us free for the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Our Gospel reading today opens on a scene unfamiliar to us: in the midst of our Easter joy, as we celebrate these great fifty days, we enter a room full of fear. The disciples, in the wake of the Crucifixion, are huddling in a locked apartment, hiding out of sight. They saw what happened to Jesus, and they are terrified that it might happen to them – that Jewish zealots and Roman soldiers might come after them as well, that they may have to bear their own crosses. They have heard Mary Magdalene’s testimony, that Christ is risen, but we can see their doubt. Picture their faces: jumping at every sound, the pit sinking in their stomach every time they hear a group of pilgrims walk by, every time a band of soldiers marches by. In the midst of Passover, the disciples are holed up in Jerusalem, afraid that the crowds outside might turn against them. Continue reading “Come Out From Behind Your Locked Doors”→
The Church has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism, and sadly the Lutheran tradition has played a large role in that story. From Luther’s own writings to Lutherans’ abject failure to oppose Hitler (the responses ranging from mere complicity to out-right collaboration), we need to reckon with and repent of our racism.
As we head in to Good Friday and turn our attention increasingly to the Passion narratives, especially Saint John’s, we are also entering a trying time for ant-Semitism. Saint John often used “the Jews” as a short-hand for religious leaders, especially the chief priests; as we read this story aloud on Good Friday, many will wince at the implications. The Jewish people in Europe were often charged with, and frequently attacked over, the charge of deicide, or the murder of God. For the Church to fully and humbly repent, it is vital that we put John’s language into its full and historical context.
To that end, I commend to your attention Rabbi A. James Rudin’s recent article over at the Religion News Service. The rabbi offers a brief history of Passion plays, their unfortunate anti-Semitic connections, and contextualizes the role of the chief priest as a Roman puppet. As we retell the story of Christ’s crucifixion, Rabbi Rudin reminds us, we must place the blame squarely upon the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire and their agents.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to confront the powers and principalities of this world. Amen.
Throughout the Gospels, we see Christ engaged in a struggle with spiritual forces: driving out demons and forgiving sins. Even at the start of tonight’s reading, Jesus and the disciples are performing exorcisms and miraculously healing physical ailments. But then it takes a turn into the political realm.
The political climate in ancient Judea was complicated to say the least. Governed by King Herod the Great and ruled, ultimately, by Rome, the Jewish people had seen their century of relative freedom under the Maccabees fall away. The palace intrigues of the Roman world are famous, retold in Shakespearean tragedies and modern television dramas, but the political scandals of Jerusalem are just as captivating. Herod was nothing short of a monster: he murdered rivals, priests, and even his own wife and children. He utilized a secret police force to suppress opposition. He curried favor with the Roman oppressors to secure his own authority. Continue reading “Jesus Came to…Confront the Powers and Principalities”→