Justice is Personal

Dark Heart.jpg

Today is Maundy/Holy Thursday.  We celebrate a Christian Passover meal – remembering the First Communion Christ served.  We also remember Jesus’ agony in the garden as he prayed to God, his Father, knowing what the next hours would bring and asking if this “cup of poison could be taken away”.  We follow the scriptures reflecting on the pain of betrayal by his close friend, Judas, and the series of ‘court appearances’ as he is accused and flung from one jurisdiction to another (the temple’s, King Herod’s, and finally the Roman governance).  We know the story well – it’s graphic images make us grimace and we feel genuine sorrow and repentance in awe of Jesus’ great sacrifice for our sins.

Adam Hamilton gave a sermon this past Sunday that focused not just on the triumph of Palm Sunday, but continued through the Holy Week events up to the crucifixion.   During this sermon, he helped me understand that the Gospel accounts of these events are crafted for us to be more personal than we realize.

The 4 Gospels describe in great detail the mockery that Jesus endured by the soldiers, the high priests, Herod, and Pontius Pilate.  But there is no graphic detail about the flogging or the crucifixion itself.  Yet, the movies and the Bible studies often compel us to focus on that physical pain in it’s extremes. 

Why do the Gospels focus on the mockery instead of the greater sacrifice of torture and loss of life?  Because the Gospel authors are reminding us of the emotional pain and humiliation Jesus endured on our behalf.  Here is the triumphant King of the Jews, swept into Jerusalem with HOSANNA’s and palms of happy welcome – suddenly, and cruelly crowned with thorns, slapped with a reed ‘sceptor’, anointed in spit.  His only posessions – his clothes -  are gambled away.   People demanded he proclaim himself as King! while they continue to mock and twist his words.  These soldiers and officials felt it was their ‘right’ to humiliate Jesus.  Some of them were offended by Jesus’ teachings that criticized their world-view or their lifestyles. They knew that they could finally do or say whatever they pleased because they were surrounded by people who felt the same indignation.  Some didn’t even know much about Jesus before this moment but they enjoyed the opportunity to join in – to publicly shame a person, as a group, for a few laughs.  They didn’t care why they were humiliating him – it wasn’t personal – it was fun.

If we focus on this point for a moment, we become acutely aware of Jesus’ emotional pain and we understand it personally.  We’ve all felt humiliation like this at some point – even more than we can imagine the physical suffering of a flogging or crucifixion.  

But more importantly, we have inflicted such pain on others.  Few, if any of us, can honestly say we have not been cruel to another person at one time in our lives.  Visciously scolding a grocery clerk or waitress because we felt it was our ‘right’ as the customer.  Hurtfully berating a person who’s annoyed us or hurt our feelings.  There are the times we were cruel anonymously.  We may not partake in cyber-bullying, but haven’t we all chimed in from time to time during a group discussion condemning a celebrity or a public individual who’s made a foolish blunder?  Recently, Monica Lewinsky gave a TED talk about her experience of being on the receiving end of such intense shaming.  She was 22 when she made the mistake of having an illicit relationship with President Clinton.  She has been called whore, slut and worse, and her life has been ruined because she will forever be identified with that 22-year-old version of herself. But who, among us, hasn’t made a mistake in their early 20’s?  “Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop.” (view her TED talk here http://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame)  People are dying, committing suicide, because we allow public shaming to endure. 

Sad.  Painful.  Jesus endured all his humiliation and physical pain with dignity and then proclaimed “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:34 KSV 

But now, we know what we are doing.  It’s time for us to accept God’s forgiveness and change our ways. Justice work is personal.  Let’s make a start with a simple prayer that Adam Hamilton noted in his sermon – the song “Show Me Love” by Hundred Waters, which it was featured in the 2015 Super Bowl Coke Commercial:

[Verse 1] Don't let me show cruelty, Though I may make mistakes

Don't let me show ugliness, Though I know I can hate

And don't let me show evil, Though it might be all I take 

[Chorus] Show me love, Show me love, Show me love 

[Verse 2] Don't let me think weakly, Though I know that I can break

Keep me away from apathy, While I am still awake

And don't let me think too long, Of the one I'm bound to face

[Chorus] Show me love, Show me love, Show me love

Respond to this blog, or contact me directly, with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about social justice in the personal and in the Pascack Valley region.

In Christ's Peace, Lisa

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Hillsdale UMC

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