Domesticating Jesus   1 comment

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Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jeremiah 11:18-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew;

then you showed me their evil deeds.

But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.

And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying,

Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,

let us cut him off from the land of the living,

so that his name will no longer be remembered!

But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously,

who try the heart and the mind,

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

Psalm 7:6-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rise up, O LORD, in your anger;

lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;

awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,

and over it take your seat on high.

The LORD judges the peoples;

judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness

and according to the integrity that is in me.

O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,

but establish the righteous,

who test the minds and hearts,

O righteous God.

God is my shield,

who saves the upright in heart.

God is a righteous judge,

and a God who has indignation every day.

John 7:37-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said,

This is really the prophet.

Others said,

This is the Messiah.

But some asked,

Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?  Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?

So there was a division in the crowd because of him.  Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them,

Why did you not arrest him?

The police answered,

Never has anyone spoken like this!

Then the Pharisees replied,

Surely you have not been deceived, too, have you?  Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?  But this crowd, which does not know the law–they are accursed.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,

Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?

They replied,

Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you?  Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.

The Collect:

Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that those whose consciences are accursed by sin may by your merciful pardon be absolved; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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This day’s readings are full of anger.  A righteous man obeying divine instructions faces the dangers associated with his thankless calling and pleas for retribution upon his persecutors.  A psalmist makes the same request.  And religious authorities continue their plotting to eliminate Jesus, whom they perceive as a threat.

Like anyone else I have opinions, many of which I hold strongly.  Sometimes I think that anyone who disagrees with me is misinformed at best.  If I feel less charitable, I might perceive the disagreeing party as an idiot.  On occasion I think that another opinion is dangerous, but never have I agreed with or advocated an assassination squad, torture, execution, or a show trial for anyone.

Yet some of these suggestions have appeared in readings to date, and others will do so.  Characters who identify themselves with godliness supported such tactics in the pages of the Gospels.  Perhaps some of this is due to the fact the partisans of Jesus wrote the canonical Gospels, for one must consider who wrote a document when interpreting it.  Yet I stand convinced that any exaggeration, if present, is slight.  My study of history and recent and current events tells me that people who think they are on God’s side (and therefore all who disagree with them are not) and who feel defensive and homicidal can rationalize to themselves even the greatest atrocities, ranging from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Religious Wars to the Salem Witch Trials to terrorist attacks.  So, a plot among religious leaders to kill Jesus (ultimately via the Roman Empire) is believable.

It is easy to criticize these conspirators thousands of years later.  But think about this honestly, and perhaps painfully:  Which character are you in each of these readings?  I am not certain that I would have welcomed and followed Jesus had I lived in his time and place.  This conclusion disturbs my conscience and moves to seek divine pardon.  Jesus upset many apple carts in ancient times, and continues to do so.

Too often we of the Church have attempted to domesticate Jesus.  We have reduced him to a smiling man with a child on one knee while dispensing wisdom.  And we have oversimplified his character and occasional mood swings and chosen to ignore difficult sayings.  And when we have arrived at hard-to-digest material, such as the Passion narrative, we have reduced our Lord and Savior to a martyr about whom we make positive statements, but whom we dare not follow too closely.  We have passed off padlum as truth.

Well, Jesus is not domesticated, and God does not fit into a theological box.  Human minds cannot perceive the immensity of God and divine judgment and mercy.  So, much theological humility is appropriate on everybody’s part.    And we must submit ourselves to the mystery which is God without committing intellectual suicide. And we must be open to divine surprises, which are numerous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF CARL SYLVIUS VOLKNER AND MOKOMOTO, SYMBOLS OF RECONCILATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND SAINT ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-eighth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 13, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah, John 7, Psalms I: 1-41

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One response to “Domesticating Jesus

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  1. Pingback: Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent « LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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