A little crazy

I heard today about a minister who knocked on the door of every single person in his congregation this fall and told them who they ought to vote for. The pastor’s efforts evidently fell short because the candidate lost. Undeterred, this pastor took to the streets to protest and has promised to keep it up until justice is done.

Now, it seems to me that pastors ought to avoid politics. Our primary job is to point to Jesus, and so this fall I tried to help our folks see Jesus at work in the political process, not tell them who to vote for.

And yet, this election has made a lot of people more than a little crazy. I don’t recall a time like this, ever. How do we process it?

Consider this. We love to stand up for the hurting and the marginalized. We love to stand up for minorities of all kinds because it’s SO OBVIOUS that injustice is being done to them. Of course.

But we also like to think that we’re good people. We believe in human progress. We think that life is supposed to make sense. We think we’re in control of our lives. And so when injustice strikes US–good, reasonable, thoughtful people–we can go a little crazy.

But who said life is supposed to make sense? It doesn’t. Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden? We’re fallen creatures. Since then, lots of things have happened that make no sense.

But Advent reminds us that sense is making a comeback. Jesus is coming. Swords are going to be beaten into farming tools.  WE may be helpless to set things right, but God isn’t.

Believe it. It might keep you from going crazy.

King on a cross

Last Sunday on the church calendar was called “Christ the King” Sunday. It’s the day the church celebrates that Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of the Universe. With many people shaken by the election, “Christ the King” arrived just in time.

Yet we find King Jesus, not on a throne, but on a cross, dying, between two thieves. At a time when so many people are hurting, perhaps we should remember the last words Jesus spoke to another human being before his death. Jesus told the second thief, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The thief was moments away from dying; he had nothing good in his record, and yet Jesus assured him: “Today, you will be with me.”

What does this mean?

It means that the blessings and forgiveness of Jesus Christ are available to you, right now, in this moment. We have a hard time taking hold of them because this kind of forgiveness is so hard to comprehend.

We have a hard time forgiving people who hurt us. We carry grudges. We make deposits into our bank account of hurts. We make sure the balance never gets to zero.

And we have an even harder time believing that God forgives those we don’t like.

This is why your life is such a mess. It’s why you worry; why you’re so self-conscious; and why you look down on others.

You’re not forgiving. You’re not asking for his forgiveness.

It’s the most important concept in the world.

It’s the heart of the Christian faith.

If it wasn’t, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would not have spoken about it on the cross with his dying breath.

They tortured and mocked him and he forgives. The only perfect person who ever lived, took the punishment that we deserved, so that God will treat us, forever and ever, the way he deserved.

 

Giving to Caesar?

One of my Facebook friends was just lamenting that people she knew were unfriending folks who supported one political candidate or the other. She said, “You’d think that Christ followers would be able to remain friends on Facebook, no matter how they voted.”

As divisive and upsetting as this presidential election has been, it’s actually tame compared to the political climate of Jesus’ day. Palestine was an occupied Roman colony, and the Jews were deeply divided and passionate over what to do about it. Some thought it best to cooperate with the Romans. Religious conservatives thought it best to cooperate only on civil matters, but maintain Jewish religious purity. Others advocated rebellion.

Jesus didn’t fit into any category, so he was a threat to each group.

The collaborators and the conservatives—usually natural enemies—put a plan in place to discredit Jesus. They asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. The answer was sure to set one group or another against him.

Jesus asked for one of the coins used to pay the tax. It’s called a “denarius,” or “tribute penny” similar to the one pictured above. The coins are inscribed in Latin, which translate “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” Many Jews wouldn’t touch the coins. They considered them blasphemous because the inscription claimed that Caesar was a god.

Jesus’s answer, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” is the most famous pronouncement on the relationship between civil and religious authority in history.

The first part acknowledges that governments (even imperfect ones) do things to benefit their citizens: roads, bridges, water, police, and so on. The second part acknowledges there are things governments can’t do. Jesus would have us give to government and to God their due.

The coin may bear Caesar’s image, but every person bears God’s image.