Year C Proper 27 Luke 20B
The Political Controversies of Jesus
We know that Jesus spent Monday evening in Bethany, probably in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, since that is where he spent Sunday evening. He arose early on Tuesday morning and he and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. If you will then let your mind drift back through the pages of history, let us assume for a moment that you are living in First Century Palestine. It is the Season of the Passover and you and your family are among the thousands of religious pilgrims who have migrated to the ancient walled city of Jerusalem to participate in the religious celebration. You were there on Monday when Jesus took whip in hand and radically ran the moneychangers from the temple. It had been an eventful day.
But now it is Monday and it has come time to retire with your family. As you walk down the Villa de la Rosa you pass by the palace of the high priest, the residence of Caiaphas. You notice that a light is burning in the upper floor of this exquisite mansion. You comment to your family that Caiaphas must be working long hours to see that all of the religious festivities go on as scheduled. Yet, if you only knew what was really going on in that palace that evening. If you only knew what was taking place in that smoke filled room.
Gathered around the table that evening in the palace was one of the strangest combinations of political and religious factions that anyone could possibly imagine. Yet, politics makes strange bedfellows. It is interesting to me to see how fundamentalist Protestant denominations find a partner in the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of abortion. It is interesting to me to see how fundamentalist Protestants and Jews are brought together because they have similar views on the protection of Israel. Groups that would normally not have communication are sometimes strangely brought together for a temporary goal. That is what happened that night in Jerusalem. Here is the background.
The three groups conspired together that evening: the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. Their common goal was to discredit Jesus of Nazareth in front of his constituency, the common people. It was probably not their intent to assassinate Jesus, which is what eventually happened, but rather to discredit him. They did not want a martyr on their hands. They would much prefer to make him a fool. Let's give him enough rope and he may just hang himself. Thus, each group would in turn ask him a question, not because they thought that they could learn from him, but because they wished to trick him. They were hoping for that one slip of the tongue. Each group would ask him a question that would be dear to their cause:
- The first question asked was from the Herodians.
- The next question was asked by Sadducees.
- The third question came from a Pharisee.
- Having routed the opposition, Jesus now, in essence, says, "It is my turn! Now I want to ask you a question.
When the Church Becomes a Culture of Complainers and Crusaders, What To Do?
On Wednesday morning of this past week, nobody was completely happy in this country.
No matter who you voted for – whether "witches," "wing-nuts" or "Taliban Dan;" no matter what kind of issues dotted your local ballots; there is no way everything went "your way." Besides, if we half believed all the rancid rhetoric that has flooded the airwaves this past month, a large billet of unrepentant villains and a huge ballot of disasters have been given voter approval. Or maybe not.
Not that there aren't important economic, ethical, social issues to be decided. Not that there aren't real differences of opinions. But now that the whirlwinds of media mud-slinging and dirt-storms are settling, how much is really going to change?
The over-blown, over-dramatic, over-exuberant circus we live with every election cycle can vaccinate us against genuine threats and valid moral outrage. It is so easy to invite invective. It is so simple to insult and demean. We no longer have a template that works against unfounded, hurtful, ungodly accusations.
These days if someone says something and it gets online, that "something" suddenly is validated, takes on a life of its own, takes on all the "truth" it contradicts.
Some of you might have read the article "Bullied to Death?" by John Cloud in the October 18th issue of Time. To quote the author, "In the past four weeks, four teenagers killed themselves, after being harassed by schoolmates. Technology is quickly changing how kids bully one another" (p. 60). We are all rightly horrified when the gossipy, on-line blogs and tweets of high school and college age students so demean and disparage a schoolmate that a young person chooses suicide over embarrassment and shame. School districts have been increasingly vigilant in condemning and expelling any bullying in gyms, buses, playgrounds, etc. Let's hope things are getting a bit safer for kids in school systems, at least from physical bullying.
But no one lives exclusively in the physical world anymore. Especially our youngest generations. Online relationships are just as "real" and equally relevant to our tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings as are their face-to-face contacts. That's why cyber-bullying is just as dangerous as physical bullying. Damages done "online" are genuine, full-body, head-on, damages — there is nothing "virtual" about them.
Not surprisingly, those who harbor hatred and venom towards the gospel have also harnessed the power of the Internet. Maybe it is a back-handed compliment to the threat that Jesus' gospel of forgiveness and love still offers to the forces of sinfulness and smallness. But the electronic world is swimming in the warm spit of spiritual backwash. And the dirtiest blows are often struck in the name of Jesus...