March 28, 2010: “A World Gone Mad”

Posted on : Mar 26th, 2010 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday we are celebrating Palm Sunday. It has always been a bitter sweet day for me. As a kid I just could not comprehend how it was possible that things could turn sour so fast. The air must have been electrifying – the noise deafening – the mood exuberant. Thousands showed up, waving palm branches, calling out Hosanna! Hosanna! Barely a few days later Jesus would hang on a cross, alone.  Surely the world has gone mad. Oh, the naiveté of a child! I do so sometimes miss those days of innocence. The world does not take kindly to those who come into this world as the bearers of hope, liberation and justice.

We live in an upside down world. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the introduction to the Sermon (the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12) is all about the way the world should be. It gives us a vision of the Kindom of God, the way the world should look and function. It gives us a vision of the world turned the right side up – the way God intended it to be all along. As followers of Christ we are called to already live according to the values of this Kindom of God, to form alternative communities which function as kind of “mini-kindoms” which point to the time when God’s reign will be fully established – when peace and justice will kiss. (Psalm 85)

Meanwhile, we are still living in a world in which you can be heralded as a liberator and four days later be crucified. An upside down world, a world gone mad. Sometimes we are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that we have made “progress.” We can take a breather, we can relax. After all, we say, we elected the first African American president barely a year ago. See how far we have come. Maybe, but when I listen to the hate speech and racial slurs bubbling up, I become fearful. If you followed the health care debate, you’re not so sure. For instance, consider the appalling incident that played out last week at a rally where a man with a sign that said he has Parkinson’s disease and needs help, sat down in front of the opposing camp. Several protesters mocked him, throwing money at him, calling him a “communist,” and said, “If you’re looking for a hand out, you’re in the wrong end of town!”  It was plain nasty! When I mention words such as bonuses, Wall Street, bad debt – we all grimace. Did you know more people died because of warfare in the twentieth century than in all the wars combined in all of human history – and from the looks of it the 21st century will not be any different. The list goes on and on and on and on… It is even more urgent than ever for us as the Church to remember that we are supposed to imitate Jesus and his ministry of compassion and justice in this world.

Sometimes it seems that the church remembers, judging from the reaction of many churches to the outrageous statements made by Fox News commentator – Glen Beck – who famously said two weeks ago that if your preacher mentions the terms “social action” or “economic justice” in sermons or teaching, flee from that church or synagogue and boycott that congregation, because these are really code words for communism and socialism. And then he advised that you should report that congregation to the authorities. Thank you, mister Beck, for reminding us that we as the Church are indeed sometimes still getting it right, living according to the Kindom values! Social Justice is a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus. Concern for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the immigrant, the outcast, the vulnerable in our society is a pervasive concern in Scripture. As long as we preach it from the pulpits and live it as churches, we embody kindom values.

Thank you, mister Beck, for restoring my hope in the church, because other news stories these past few weeks had made me doubt; such as when Pat Robertson, a pastor, said that Haiti’s earthquake was caused by the country’s “pact with the devil;”such as the pending anti-LGBT legislation in Uganda. The discovery that pastors from the USA went to Uganda last year to spread vile lies and hate about LGBT people, fueling this wave of intolerance and hate is horrifying. And who is now spearheading and fueling the hate in Uganda? A Ugandan pastor. And it is not just in Uganda, it is also happening Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi. This is progress?  “These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.” (Desmond Tutu)

But it is also here – the Supreme Court is considering the legal rights of anti-gay protesters who show up at funerals of our fallen soldiers with inflammatory messages such as “Thank God for dead soldiers.” Who are these people? They are members of a Kansas-based church who blatantly disrespect grieving families’ pain to spread their vile belief that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment for the USA’s tolerance towards homosexuality.

We are living in a world gone mad. It is in this mad world that we start to understand the hope and comfort that lies in the Beatitudes – it is blessings for all who thirst and hunger and work for a world turned the right side up, who live according to Kindom values.

You’re blessed when you never give up in the struggle for justice.  Great is your joy when you experience God’s justice in human relationships. (Mathew 5:6)

Hosanna!

Kobie

This Sunday’s Scripture

Matthew 5:  1-12

You’re Blessed

Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount

(The Message, ed. Kobie & Dan)

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught them. This is what he said:

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6You’re blessed when you never give up in the struggle for justice.  Great is your joy when you experience God’s justice in human relationships.

7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God’s all-inclusive love provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into your understanding of the way God wants us to live.

11-12“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—even give a high-five—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.