I started yesterday's post complaining that the morning had been pretty awful. And it was. God-awful. There are days it just seems the whole effort of trying to make clear what it means to be a Christian, to live that life faithfully and in full knowledge that I shall always fail at it - all that isn't worth it. You see, there are people out there who, trash the name of Jesus whenever they speak it. Am I "questioning" their faith? Not at all. I am saying, right out loud for all the world to hear, that whatever they're talking about, it isn't the faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, their blathering and carrying on, full of hate and division, rage-gasms of bigotry and belittlement make a mockery of the cross of Christ because they are serving the one thing the crucified Son of God tossed aside as he carried that cross up the Place of the Skull - power. Whether it's political power or social power, economic power or cultural power, these folks and the myriad like them who prance around mouthing the words "Lord, Lord" should remind us that the devil, most assuredly, believes who Jesus is, what Jesus does.
If that sounds kind of harsh, well, I'm not apologizing for it. Reading through today's Daily Office readings we get the real story, the whole story, the only story, from the banks of the Jordan as Moses prepares for his own end, and the new beginning for the people he has led through the desert for so long; we hear Jesus recall this event as he tells listeners that the Bread of Life, the true gift that gives life in the wilderness of this world in which we are to wander together, is nothing more or less than Himself, his body; we hear the Psalmist declare the greatness of God, the wonder and power and grace of God toward those who fear God; we read St. Paul praise the tiny group of folks in Colossae who have heard, and in whom the Spirit has moved, offering them hope in the midst of confusion, strength to face the trials that come from being citizens of the Kingdom Christ offers to us, a kingdom of light and redemption and forgiveness.
So which story is true? Is the bullshit we read from people like Mike Adams and Rick Santorum and all the rest of the phony "Christians" who want our eyes closed while we pray to the god they made up so they can reach in our pockets and go through our purses for money - is that what the Bible is talking about? Is the craptastic nonsense from self-appointed religious leaders, whose lust and greed and gluttony and pride are on display for all the world to see the faith of the One who offers us His own flesh as the True Bread of Life? Are we renewed by the constant badgering about how gays and Muslims and atheists are going to destroy our world? Does any of this have anything to do with the peace and light we have as people bought at the price of the blood and life of the Son of God?
Do you understand now why I might be upset? There are the lies the people pursuing power tell the world, and there's the simple truth of the Gospel, a story that stretches from Moses through Jesus to our own day, a story of simplicity, of Divine presence and the promise of light and life to come. The world, which the Fourth Gospel reminds us, did not know or receive the Word that came lighten its darkness, can perhaps be forgiven for being confused. Which message is which? Who are the followers of this Jesus, the heirs of the promise of Moses, the descendants of the humble community in Colossae facing persecution?
We who are claimed by the blood of the risen Christ are heirs to a simple message. We are to bear witness to the unfathomable love of a God whose ways are not our ways, whose love for us is as great as the distance between our creaturely realm and the heavens where God sits enthroned. We are to celebrate a forgiveness of the breach between ourselves and God, and between one another, offering the Bread of Life as strength for the journey. The world is a place of hatred and lies, a place of violence and depravity, and yet God loves us, right here in the midst of all this demonic debauchery, coming down in the carpenter of Nazareth to tell us that this creation is far too precious to let go. Each of us, and all of us - all of it, from supernovae to mosquitoes - is the product of a prodigal love to which our lives are to bear witness.
Any other message, any other claim, any other words are lies. It's that simple, really.
Of course, God loves Mike Adams and Rick Santorum. They, too, are the precious children for whom the Christ suffered and died, and in whose resurrection we believe and hope we have a share. When they call upon the name of god, however, it isn't the God who is known as love. When they seek to divide us, they are not appealing in the name of the Son, whose body is the Bread of Life that creates community. When they dehumanize and deride others, their words are not inspired by the Spirit of Life, the Spirit that reaches down to lift us all out of the sinkhole of violence and death that is the world that doesn't want to believe there's a way out.
Which story is true? The only answer to this question, I guess, depends on what you wish the world to be. Do you look around and, like Jesus as he stood gazing down on Jerusalem, weep because of the boundless love that is repeatedly scorned, yet tread onward because that love is not one born in fear, but is the very essence of the power of God, revealed in the powerless, despised, spat-upon criminal hanging on the cross? For me, this is the test: Do you look upon the horror and hatred and violence and weep from a love that knows no end? Do you still carry a tiny flame of hope in your heart because you still believe these things do not define the world that is God's, and that God refuses to let go? Do you hear the cries of those whom the world despises and call them brother and sister?
There is only one Way, one Truth, one Life - it is the scorned and beaten, crucified and risen Jesus, the Messiah. We who bear the marks of the crucifixion in our own lives must do a better job of making clear that our story, a story of boundless forgiveness, of unrelenting hounding by a God who refuses to take our "No!" as final, is the only real story. All the rest is just crap, lies told by those who would take this glorious treasure for their own ends.