Sunday, December 05, 2010

What Does It Take To Get Through To These People - Advent, Week II

Reading Luke 7, particularly verses 33-35, for today brings up a fair point.
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; 34the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 35Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’
Jesus has been praising John the Baptizer, all the while pointing out that even his greatness will be overshadowed by the greatness of the residents of the aborning Kingdom. The official religious leaders are willing to grant a certain authority to John, more out of fear of reprisals if they do not than any acceptance of his message of repentance (it doesn't help matters that John referred to a "generation of vipers" and those same leaders heard themselves in that reference). They weren't so sure about Jesus. Yet, Jesus cuts through both their fear and hypocrisy and, in the midst of all that, seems to demand an answer to an implied question.

The problem, I think, is the real out-working of that shop-worn phrase, "God works in mysterious ways." The people were hoping and praying for a leader to release them from the twin captivities of Rome and apostate and quisling kings and rulers. The official, and self-appointed, leaders of the people were well-acquainted with Messiahs, those both self-declared and those the people raised to the title. Jesus seemed just the next in a long line of slightly mad pretenders to the throne, but they were certainly not going to just write him off.

Yet, their experience of him led them to do just that. John the Baptist, no Messiah nor second coming of Elijah (despite the common belief he was just one or the other or perhaps both), they dismissed during his life as possessed. Jesus, in many ways, was worse. Rather than submit to any testing by the guardians of the tradition, he traipsed off willy-nilly, gathering a rag-tag group of followers including collaborators (a tax collector) and freedom fighters (a Zealot), and spent quite the large part of his time with those outside the blessed circle.

The point seemed clear enough to Jesus, yet was lost on those who, one would think, would understand it best. Self-appointed leaders and experts were quite sure they knew the score, exactly how, when, and by whom God would act to set the people free. Jesus comes along and overturned this supposed understanding, in the process chiding the learned and experts for their blindness.

Our world is a mess right now. In part, it is a mess because we have spent quite too long a time heeding the counsel of self-appointed leaders and experts who tell us how things "really" are. No matter how often they are wrong, no matter how often the despised are actually right, they continue to have the ear and hand of the powerful. Jesus' example should be clear enough in this context. Don't argue, don't engage, don't play the game. Just go about the business of loving those most unloved by our oh-so-Christian nation - the immigrant, the Muslim, the sexual minority - and care not a bit for the clicking tongues and harrumphing of the wise. If asked, just point out that, being wrong pretty much all the time, it might be prudent to be silent in the face of new possibilities, then go back to whatever it is we should be doing. Nothing prepares the way for Jesus better or more in line with his own ministry than ignoring those who set themselves up as the moderators of the acceptable.

Virtual Tin Cup

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