March 24, 2013
Mark 15: 25-30
A few weeks ago I got another You Tube clip of a flash mob sent to me. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. Everyone’s walking around the mall, doing their thing, mostly paying attention to their own stuff, when suddenly a woman starts to sing. As heads turn toward her, she stands up and really starts to sing out, then just as suddenly, some guy joins her from another table nearby. Now they are really performing for the crowd that turns toward them. People start to come out of the wood-work, it seems, smiling and singing along with them. Before you know it, a whole troupe of performers has walked out of the food court into the center of the mall, singing. People are singing along with them, raising their cell phones and taking little videos, so they can show all their friends what happened to them at the mall that day. Those little videos will get posted on people’s Facebook pages, and before you know it, it seems like the whole world gets to watch in wonder at this delightful event.
Flash back to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. A few people were in on the beginning, staging the event with the donkey and their cloaks, and leading the beginning of a parade. But it took over the whole community. People crowded around, shouting along with the disciples. The disciples were witnessing to the amazing deeds of power that Jesus had done, healing, opening a new view into the ancient Law, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind. In other Gospels, people were waving branches and singing these phrases that come right out of the Psalms. They didn’t have the video cameras to send us clips, but the stories we have in the Gospels are remarkably similar. It made a big impression on everyone. In Luke’s Gospel, before us today, the religious authorities were crabby and worried about crowd control. Jesus recalls a phrase from the prophet Habakkuk in which the stones cry out for justice when those in authority don’t hear the cries of the disenfranchised. Jesus is bringing about the new world in which God’s will for all people will finally be possible and no one will ever be hungry or orphaned or oppressed ever again.
And…..It’s over so quickly. In a matter of days, Jesus is arrested, tried by his own religious leaders, sent to the Roman authorities and sacrificed to political expediency and religious orthodoxy. We meet him here at the end of a long night of suffering, being stripped, nailed into the most excruciating form of death, and hanging before a different mob, one that turns his own words into mockery.
It is a mystery to me why Jesus would let this happen to him. I get the taunts, if he is God, why doesn’t he just blast his mockers off the face of the earth? Why doesn’t he just make us all into what we need to be, and then he can get off free of pain and death?
You can look all the way back to the earliest stories of God’s people, and find that people just like you and me have always let God down. We have chosen our to follow our own craving rather than what God wanted us to do, just like Adam and Eve. We have grown impatient and needed to control our own fate rather than waiting for God to speak, like those people who created the Golden Calf while Moses was with God getting a handwritten note for the people God loved and brought out of slavery. We’ve ignored opportunities to share our blessings and been so concerned with taking care of ourselves we’ve forgotten that our mission is to provide as God has provided for us. And in all the stories we’ve heard of how people hurt God in return for God’s loving care, we’ve heard that God still loves us. Nothing is as steadfast as God’s love. It never ends. And no matter how hard we try, we are never worthy of it. Even at our best, we do not deserve it, but it flows into us and around us from the scripture, from the beauty of the world we live in, from the love in our lives, from our experience of God’s presence for us.
God doesn’t want robots who just do what they are programmed to do. God loves us and wants us to know that love and to live in the gift of it. A pastor friend of mine shared a little video of his birthday gift from his son. It was a box all hand-painted and decorated, and inside was a collection of pictures from his son, Zack. On each picture it said, “I love you Daddy. Love, Zack.” Page after page after page said, “Daddy, I love you. Love, Zack.” He was using his birthday box as an illustration of how God tells us over and over and over again how much God loves us. And Jesus on the cross is the most powerful picture of God’s love. We know we need God to forgive us for all the ways we fail to love God and our neighbors. We see in Jesus’ suffering that our sin and lack of love is painful. God hurts when God’s people hurt and hurt each other. We see the lengths God to which God is willing to go to win us, even to come in person into our history and to suffer all the pain and injustice any human has ever had to suffer. And all this while we were still enemies, says the Apostle Paul, before our hearts were turned back to God. It is through this love that we are forgiven, and brought back and saved for life with God forever. And it is through that love that we are sent out to be Jesus in the world that needs the gifts of healing and forgiveness we have received. And all because God loves us so much. The message of the cross is this: “I love you. Love, God.”
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.