March 28, 2021
We have all been searching for meaning…searching for answers…since the beginning of time. Why is there so much pain in the world? Why so much hate…so much fear? The people who waved Jesus into Jerusalem, shouting his praises…were looking for answers…for meaning…for hope…just like us. . And they had seen something in Jesus that made sense to them as maybe an answer…in Jesus they finally saw something that looked like hope. And they were right….although they did not understand it fully yet. Jesus is the one who makes sense of it all. The way of Jesus in this world…the way of mercy and joy…the way of kindness and forgiveness…the way of inclusion and restoration and healing.. .is the answer. It is the meaning of all of this. And the truth is we know this, don’t we? It resonates deep within us…even when we are most cynical. We know, deep inside, that Jesus’ way of radical grace is RIGHT. Simply right. It is everything life is meant to be.
Matt and I watched “Uncle Frank” last week. It’s a movie about a gay man and his relationship with his family. It is painful. It is heartbreaking. And it is beautiful. And the end scene…when the family, once separated by fear is simply hanging out together, enjoying each other in the back yard….is RIGHT. It’s just right. It’s everything life is meant to be.
And that’s exactly what Jesus was about. It’s exactly who Jesus is. In a world that divides us up by multiplying fear….in a world that feeds on rigidity and rejection….Jesus invites us to enjoy one another in the backyard…men and women, tax collectors and fisherman, gentiles and jews, lepers and samaritans, soldiers and zealots, diabled beggars and wealthy landowners. Jesus invites us to the way of mercy and joy…the way of kindness and forgiveness…the way of inclusion and restoration and healing. The way of radical grace.
And the crowd that gathered with their palms and coats and “hosannas”….they saw what Jesus did…how he lived…his radical grace… and they were drawn in. They recognized the simple “rightness” of it. But when Jesus was arrested, they fell prey to the fear mongers, as so many people are apt to do, aren’t they? When Jesus was arrested, they listened to the religious folks who whispered that he was just a sham. What Jesus did…what he said… that wasn’t real religion. It was too easy. It wasn’t rigorous enough. He wasn’t pure enough. He didn’t speak for God. After all…look — he’s a criminal!
The crowds who saw everything beautiful and everything right in Jesus….were easily swayed by those who claimed authority. And fear of being wrong drove them to silence when the shouts were raised to crucify Jesus..
Sometimes…we get afraid of being wrong. We do. We are afraid that the voices who are so sure of what is good and bad…who is good and bad …we are afraid they are right. And sometimes, that fear silences us…keeps us from speaking up when people are put down, attacked, and hurt by others. It happens. I know. It happens to all of us.
But those voices….those voices that tear others down….they are wrong. Because you know what? It is Jesus they are going after. It is always Jesus who is on the receiving end of our disgust…our derision…our quickness to judge. It is Jesus who is the Asian woman in Florida called a slut…Jesus who is the refugee teenager at the border called a criminal…it is Jesus who is the drug addict in prison called scum….Jesus who is the Black young man called a threat…Jesus who is the gay uncle who is called a pervert….Jesus is the mother trapped in poverty called a leech. It’s always Jesus. Jesus who walks alongside…who identifies with those who face hate…who face rejection. Jesus who faced that hate…that rejection.
I know it’s been said often…but the truth is…whenever we draw a line between ourselves and others….separating ourselves from others….Jesus jumps over the line. And Jesus erases the line.
The voices that tear others down are wrong. But Jesus is right. Jesus who lifts people up. Jesus who invites us to his table…his backyard gathering. Where all of us are welcome. Where all of us are family. Where all of us are loved, simply for who we are. And it’s beautiful. And right. It’s the way life is meant to be. And you know what that is when that happens? Those backyard moments? That’s the kingdom of God. Jesus, the king of kings and prince of peace, is, truly, the one who shows us what God’s rule looks like in this world…the rule of peace and freedom…of justice, truth and love…of kindness. It’s Jesus. It’s always Jesus. Even on the cross. It’s Jesus. Jesus IS the answer…for us all. Amen.