Sitting in church yesterday, I thought about the pathos that colors almost every Baptist sermon I’ve heard since I was 11. They follow the same spurious narrative. Of course, I understand that I might upset legions of worshippers by using “spurious” to describe a pastor’s sermons. However, so many preachers explicate epistles of struggle around the time nearing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There seems to be a list of vocabulary used in every sermon.
Words like: nails, cross, tomb, Golgatha, ass, colt, foal and sepulchre seem inevitably thrown it for good measure. Directly from the holy Scriptures, we revisit the stubborn donkey, and the fact that Jesus assumed “no reputation” to save humanity from themselves. But what does the resurrection actually mean for the person?
We’ve been told the story enough to understand what it means for Jesus. We all have shrouded the symbolism of Easter under the guise of brightly colored dress, three and four piece suits, childish scavenger hunts, chicklet-inundated family pictures, and gobs of chocolate, hard-boiled idols. I have to wonder if—-after this year’s Easter—people will be any different before the year’s end.
Or, is everyone just stuck in the same miasma that last year’s “holiday” called us to. Have any of us gone back to see what “resurrecting” could mean for the myriad of faults we’ve all done? Yes, all have sinned. If we must be reborn, why aren’t we taking the time to see what it might take to try this idea? When nearly everything in American media reflects tones of anger, discord, hate, distrust and also disillusion, why aren’t we Christians re-imagining hope? I’m not saying that all churches are replicating the same “nails and hands” story, but if we are truly dedicated to Easter’s resurrection, all of us should be unifying behind the mission of revising our faith stories. The resurrection is about Christian renewal. Jesus came alive again.
We must find a network of life again. I told someone when I saw our current president make these huge media appearances —-shortly after inauguration— in synagogues and with religious leaders, that something about it disturbed me.
This disturbing feeling I had, was not about the idea that I didn’t want to give him the “benefit of the doubt”. He genuinely seemed to only showcase these bombastic appearances to feign an allegiance to an American ideal that seems terribly confused about just who Jesus is. It’s almost as if Jesus is this necklace, some of us default to, when we don’t want to truly own the consequences of our bad behavior.
To resurrect, is to bring back. And what we choose to bring back isn’t necessarily good. What we as Americans—some of us—have chosen to renew within our quilt of opinion and observation has cost us, and dropped us at a critical intersection of image and fact. We’re in the midst of understanding the cost we paid for electing a person who functions as a shape-shifter. So what’s the message I’d like to leave my readers as we near the Easter season. In your passion, find compassion. In the chaos, find the purpose. In this age, we’ve blurred the line between the picture and the purpose.
Some of us are so emotionally frustrated that we Christians forgot that we were called to peace, gratefulness, and more presently NOT strife. Jesus is peace… not our idea of him… not the rule of him, but our connection to him. And we can’t feign connection to Jesus by reading a script. It’s got to change your heart. It’s hard to be a light for Jesus, when we can’t adequately mourn, and we choose anger over and over again.
Anger without purpose will steal every shred of hope we can attempt to gain. So, I went back to the sermon notes I had and checked what I’d written while the pastor was up. Historically, donkeys were used to coax wild animals into submission. Yes, they were stubborn. But symbolically, the donkey was also chosen in Jesus’ entry to echo the foolish error of humanity, betraying Jesus, the perfect man. There’s another image we should see. It’s the picture of grace. When grace is absent from someone who is supposedly on the side of truth and justice, that’s a sign to cleave to mercy. Why mercy?
The prophet Micah, and even James, the brother of Jesus said that mercy triumphs over justice every time. By exercising grace and mercy, we are giving Jesus the place he earned in death and revival, the authority to exact the Justice we readily desire. Think of this, the next time your anger for justice calls you to strife.
We are in charge of the change we seek. Please don’t let this season go by without examining yourself. I’ve got some changes to make myself, and I’m not the sharpest Christian in the flock.