Jesus came to visit our service yesterday morning. Well, sort of. Every once in a while I’ve preached “in character.” I’ve been Mary Magdalene, the Gossip of Nazareth, the Holy Spirit and a few others, but never dared to be Jesus, until yesterday.
As is probably true of all of us right now, the elections hover at the edge of everything we do, casting a pall of frustration and agitation and worry over everything. I’ve been really good at not mixing faith and politics, and I’ve never told anyone who to vote for, nor will I. But, it actually feels weird not being able to say anything about it… like there is this huge elephant in the room. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that everything Jesus said and did was political, which is what got him killed.
So, in an attempt to talk about religion and politics, while keeping things somewhat light, I played the part of Jesus attending a Prophets Anonymous meeting. In my monologue, we find out that his disciples had asked him to stop talking about anything political before it got him killed. But as he talks more, we find out that even those things that didn’t sound political were.
Here’s an excerpt from Jesus’ monologue (for the full audio version, click here):
I’m a good Jew, just like the rest of you, but one day a while back I was in the synagogue on the Sabbath and you know how they take turns reading Torah from the scrolls? Well, it was my turn and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to me and I started to read where they’d left off. Guess where it started… yep…
“The Spirit of our God is upon me;
Because the Most High has anointed me
To bring Good News to those who are poor.
God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive,
Recovery of sight to those who are blind,
And release to those in prison – the proclaim the year of our God’s favor” (Is. 61)
And I knew in that moment that those words were exactly what God was calling me to do, so I said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled.” Here I thought my hometown would be supportive of me. Not everyone gets a call from Yahweh. But they were so angry, or perhaps scared, that they literally dragged me out-of-town and were going to toss me over the side of that hill out there… yea, you know the one, with the rocks all down the back side. Thankfully I was able to get away. But I couldn’t get away from the call.
So, I’ve spent the better part of the last two years doing exactly what was in that Isaiah passage. I really feel like I’m making a difference to people, giving them hope, connecting them to God who loves them no matter what, whether they follow the 613 laws of Judaism or not. And I’ve had some amazing messages, thanks to that Spirit flowing through me.
I was sitting on the Sea of Galilee with this whole crowd of people, mostly poor and working class folks, up on the hillside and suddenly I felt these wonderful words:
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful… and the pure in heart… and the peacemakers… and those who are persecuted…
I was on a real roll! That one was so popular they now call it the Beatitudes and they call the place the Mount of the Beatitudes.
Who knew that was political? Suddenly I had the Roman government watching my every move thinking I’m going to start a rebellion. I told the crowds to pay their taxes… give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s… but give unto God what is God’s – their hearts, and minds and souls. “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
That one got me in trouble, too. Especially after I told them a parable I made up about a Good Samaritan. You know how well the Jews and Samaritans get along… I hear there is even talk about building a wall between the two. So, now that I’ve pointed out that, in God’s eyes, our neighbors are everyone, the leaders of the synagogue are out to get me, too. Do people really think that God doesn’t want all of humanity to live in peace and harmony and to love one another?
I know that is why God sent me out into the world, to bring God’s unconditional love.
I tell you, I get so tired of the judgment and the lack of compassion for the poor, the widow, the outcast, the strangers. I try to tell them to “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.” No matter what I say, it doesn’t seem to make any difference. They think God is on their side only… just like the sling shot competition in Nazareth between the Bethany Bandits and the Nazareth Knights. Both teams prayed beforehand that God would let them win, and then when the Bandits won they claimed it was because God was on their side and caused them to play so well.
Seriously? God may be a sling shot fan, but do they really think God takes sides??
Perhaps we should all try being on God’s side for a while… the side of ALL. Of neighborliness. Of ONE. Of the common good.
Yesterday was what really scared my friends into confronting me. We had just arrived here into Jerusalem and I wanted to go up to the temple to pray. But when I got there it was like entering a marketplace, not a holy place of worship. I saw clearly what I hadn’t seen before, that worship had become a business transaction, an exchange of money, a slaughter of animals… it had nothing to do with the heart being aligned with the love of God. I got so angry I just exploded (still not sure where that came from, I’m a pretty peaceable guy). But I went ballistic… turned over the tables of the money changers and the people selling doves. Then I actually yelled at them, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations‘? But you have made it a den of robbers!”
Of course, now word is on the street that the leaders of the synagogue (who, as you know, are in cahoots with the Roman government) are plotting to kill me.
What am I supposed to do? It seems like everything I say, whether I want it to be or not, is too political for someone, offends someone. All I really want to do is help people to see God’s vision for God’s Kingdom on earth; a place of equality, peace, harmony, non-violence, compassion and most of all love. Who knew that love could be so political??
My friends think I can just go greet people at the kosher store down the street and teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Stay out of trouble. But then I feel like I’d be selling out. This is who I am and who God has called me to be. It is what I feel deeply in my heart that I try to live and share.
I can’t do it. I can’t sell out. Come what may, I have to be true to myself and to God. I will continue to preach love, to share love. I guess they can do what they will to me. But I’m on God’s side.
Gee… thanks for all your help! I really appreciate it… I’m going back to work!
Love & Light!