Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Cross

This week's scriptures are Luke 19: 28-39 and Matthew 27: 32-50.

This Sunday we're going to have some special stuff from the Wonderful Wednesday kids and some special music. I'm really looking forward to it and hope that you will join us.

Our scriptures this week are accounts from Luke and Matthew; one of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and the other a description of Jesus' crucifixion. One of the things that they remind us of is how easily we as human being can turn on those people we look up to when they don't meet our expectations. One has to ask, "how many of those folks waving palm branches and shouting 'Blessed is he who comes as king in the name of the Lord,' were also among those who passed by his cross a few days later and shouted 'if you really are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross'?"

I see myself reflected far too well in these folks. When what I expect...what I pray for...what I feel I deserve isn't what happens, I get angry. I'm even this way sometimes when I truly believe that what is happening is God's action in the situation. These folks in the crowd were suffering from the oppression of the Roman occupation. They were smothered by a view of their faith that was becoming more and more tied up in rules and regulations than expressive of God's journey with God's people. Jesus was offering something different, and they were sure that they knew what that something was going to look like. But they were wrong.

The first hint that they were wrong was the way Jesus came into Jerusalem. He came riding on an donkey or a young colt (depends on which account you read). The symbolism of this was that it was a mark of peace. When a conquering ruler came into a city riding on a war horse a very different message was being delivered.

Jesus came offering a radically different way of looking at the Kingdom of God and at our relationships with God and with each other. The miracles and the socializing with sinners weren't just an attention getting device so that Jesus could then say what the Kingdom was really like....no, these behaviors were what the Kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God is that place where the outcast (no matter what the reason for that status-illness, sin, politics, race) is welcomed, healed, made part of the family. And Jesus made that clear by becoming one of the outcasts Himself.

See Him hanging on the cross: naked, tortured, dying. Feeling so abandoned in His agony that he screams out "my God, my God, why have you gone off and abandoned me here." In that moment, Jesus, in His innocence and by His own choice, becomes one with every person who has ever been outcast, been torture, been abandoned...regardless of whether it occured because of something they had done or because their social or political status made them vulnerable.

Jesus walked square into the center of our anguish and said, "I will stand here too." And in doing this, He taught us an incredible, almost unbelievable truth: THERE IS NO OUTSIDE IN THE HEART OF GOD. To God, all that we are; our joy, our pain, our anguish, our sins, our triumphs, or tragedies....everything, are wrapped in God's loving embrace. We're all on the inside. All of us. Nobody's left outside. Nobody. There is no outside to be left there.

If we take this view of the cross seriously it will radically alter everything we do as God's people in this time and place. It is a risky road to travel....but it leads to Easter morning.

See you Sunday.

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