Who Will You Sing and dance For? Who Will You Follow?

When I turned 50 a few years back I reckon it came with permission to enter that witty, disgruntled and cynical mob, the ‘Grumpy Old Men’.  So I’m one of them and wear the title with pride as I look around me this sunny morn.  A ‘grumpy’ who is tired and disinterested, especially in the mediocre ramblings of public figures who believe they have something to say but leave me trembling with rage or disbelieving their audacity and arrogance.  Can I bear another full-of-himself CEO telling me how hard it is to make a buck and how prices must rise and wages drop?  Can I bear another financial institution defend its line of high interest on anything I look at, let alone touch and how fortunate we are to have these beacons of virtue watching over our financial interests?  I am tired of us dropping bombs and ‘sending troops onto the ground’ in war torn parts.  Our creative imagination has dropped off the radar such that we only think of blowing the stuffing out of people – what happened to sitting down and talking?  We’re led to believe that ‘they’ won’t talk, when we have often been the first to drop a bomb, scare them to death and hope ‘peace’ will follow – what sort of peace do we think comes at the end of a gun???

The political commentary is also astoundingly stupid.  Those with vested interests froth over their chosen leader like some fawning puppy blind to the ignorance, naiveté and injustice.  They believe that economics, science or anything deriving from human wisdom alone will help us and make a difference, despite it is our glorious wisdom that got us here in the first place.  Then the ignorant comments of leaders who promote racial ignorance and religious bigotry through their sheer stupidity or desperation to make political mileage out of unfortunate and needy people like refugees and indigenous people, is galling.

Do I sound like a grumpy?  What I find most annoying is that we all buy this nonsense.  We all whinge but accept it anyway because there seems to be no choice.  Perhaps the constant strain of ignorance wears us down until we submit to it – anything to make them go away.  Or else we tune out and watch TV, surf the net, describe our lives in meticulous tedium for all and sundry on Facebook or engage in one of the many addictive habits at our disposal.  But is there a choice?  Are we obliged to live under the tyranny of tedium, the insistence of ignorance, the danger of deranged dogma or the acute asphyxia of addled arrogance?  Is there a real alternative, another way?

Well, this week we come to the well worn anecdote that surfaces every year to the preacher’s chagrin as they have to concoct another way into its rather simple meaning – or is it so simple?  We have arrived at ‘Palm Sunday’, the story of Jesus riding innocuously into the Holy City of Jerusalem on a humble donkey to the shouts and singing of the people who waved palm branches (at least in one of the versions).  It’s a nice story and we get the kids up to wave branches and they make things in Sunday school and we sing ‘Hosanna’ songs about Jesus, donkeys and people singing.  It’s nice and then we go home to transform back into ‘grumpys’ or distracted people subservient to the mass stupidity we are indoctrinated with and feel oppressed by.  Even this lovely story fails to change us – can anything give us hope?

Perhaps we haven’t really heard the story or looked behind it to understand the profound implications or understood Jesus’ threatening words that imply indeed an alternative, another way in the world that holds great hope and life, a significant way of another world – the one to come that is already here but not quite fully realised.  You know the one, the mysterious Kingdom or Reign of God in our midst.  So Jesus took a donkey and rode it with low brow pomp and heart-felt yearning amongst common people lost in a world of oppressive powers who feared them being free.

They saw and they knew and they began to sing!  Have you ever recognised how singing can bring people together around a common theme or hope?  It unites one and all behind the team we stand for, behind this one riding a donkey through the power zones of life challenging the status quo and the powers that be.  Jesus was taking the mickey out of Caesar.  On the other side of town before the other gate, Pilot, the Governor of the region and Caesar’s agent-in-place to ensure Imperial control and stability rode in on a war horse grand.  He was led in by platoons of soldiers dressed to the nines with swords and shields and spears.  Pilot paraded in pomp and power threatening all and sundry with Caesar’s wrath and might.  All were expected to bow before this spineless wimp who hid behind Caesar’s ‘Divine’ presence, all-powerful and abusive in arrogant display.

Jesus laughed his way through the parade and revved up the crowd who were suddenly fearless and bold, reaching out in new hope to this peasant-rabbi from the sticks up in Galilee.  The powers-that-be in his own land, the priests and religious leaders were aghast and afraid for what Pilate might do and if Caesar heard…  They had it well in this oppressed land and they didn’t want to risk losing their place, their power and their control over people, small and dumb.  Jesus was risking everything because he was obsessed with this vision of God, this vision of justice and love and all that icky, feel-good stuff that obsessive, do-gooder people seem to care about.

As a grumpy I laugh at this – the rabbi from the sticks sticking it to the most powerful figure in his world.  Jesus sent him up and laughed in the face of violent, oppressive power.  He gave the simple, ordinary people something to believe in, to feel good about, to hope in.  He revealed the lunacy and evil of a corrupt, abusive system that only worked for the elites – and the people loved it!!!

I confess that my heart soars in the face of this, a good piece of ironic mockery that rubbishes the accepted norm and invites the world to turn upside down and enjoy a party together.  Just think about it: the religious leaders can lay down their fearful, obsequious, sycophantic ways and relax into the way of God.  Caesar and his minions could use their power in truly impressive ways that build up the Empire for everyone.  The common people can be liberated and live together to build communities that support, nurture and inspire the best in each person.  A pipe dream?  Perhaps, but then Jesus believed it sufficiently to die for the vision, the belief, the way of God.  His followers through the centuries have discovered that he offers an alternative worth living and dying for, a Kingdom that surpasses the pale imitations we encounter daily in the world around.  What song will you sing?  Who will you song for?  Who will you follow?

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By geoffstevenson

The Dying-Rising Life

Jane was a seemingly fit and healthy woman in her 50’s.  She went through some ordinary activities one day and found them curiously more difficult than normal.  Work colleagues asked if she was alright as she looked unwell.  She was able to visit her doctor that day. Knowing her medical history and that of her family, the doctor sent her immediately to hospital fearing some form of stroke.  The stroke worsened over the next 24 hours and left her with left side paralysis.  An MRI confirmed the diagnosis and she spent a week in intensive care followed by a week of physical therapy in hospital and then 2 weeks rehabilitation.  Her post stroke care continued for 3 weeks more of outpatient rehabilitation and that was the extent of treatment.  Jane had extremely limited use of her hand and arm – effectively nothing.

Jane had to come to grips with her new existence.  From an active, outgoing, professional woman who loved sport to someone with slurred speech, an incapacitated left arm and a heavy limp using sticks or a walker.  Jane’s life as she knew it had stopped and she, along with the medical establishment, believed that this was as good as she would ever be.  There was enormous grief, confusion, anger and frustration.  Life changed dramatically and conclusively.  In order to get herself together, Jane needed to let go of how she had understood herself and of the typical expectations she had upon her body.  In order to embrace a new life with new expectations and to face the enormous challenges, Jane had to grieve her loss and embrace her ‘new’ body.  This was the first element of ‘dying-rising’ that Jane had to engage with.  It wasn’t the end, though.  Jane was eventually put in touch with the Taub Therapy Clinic and enlisted in the new, somewhat experimental constraint-induced movement therapy. *

Jane’s good arm was immobilised and she was forced to use her unworkable arm for several hours a day over a few weeks (as opposed to just an hour or two a few times a week in traditional therapy).  The exercises were repetitive and began in very simple ways – grasping and holding a sponge ball.  They got harder – squeezing the ball, then picking up heavier objects.  Fine motor skills were introduced and Jane had to work at it for hours of intense work. Some electrical stimulation treatment was also given to reinforce the nerve and muscle work.  After just a few weeks she could go home and continue the workouts until she could write and draw with her left hand, walk on her leg.  Jane’s recovery was quite amazing – one of many to undergo processes that redevelop the brain’s neuronal connections to replace the damaged regions caused by the stroke.

Neuroscientists describe this as helping the brain to unlearn its belief that the injured body parts are no longer workable.  Post stroke when the initial shock and debilitation occurs, the brain learns to believe that the body parts controlled by the brain’s own injuries, no longer function.  This process helps the brain recognise it needs to rebuild the connections – to unlearn it belief and allow the arm to function again until sufficient connections build up and the patient recovers significant use.

Again, for Jane, this was a dying-rising experience as her brain had to let go of the belief and expectations that the arm, hand and leg would and would not ever function normally again.  I see deep parallels between Jane’s experience in unlearning or reversing her belief system such that the seemingly impossible could happen, and Jesus’ words about losing life to gain it – the dying-rising life.

In John 12:12-20 Jesus speaks about this way of engaging life that gives up, lets go, and dies to old expectations and limited ways of being and living.  Jesus invites us into a way of living that embraces new possibilities for ourselves and our world by giving up our set ways or expectations based in materialism, wealth accumulation, power, greed, individualism, exclusion etc.  If we want life that is promised by God, life as it was created to be, then we might need to let go of what is in order to grasp new possibilities and opportunities.

This dying-rising life is already implicit in our lives.  Our first substantial ‘death’ leading to new life was actually birth.  We had to ‘die’ to the comfort, security of the known world within our mother’s womb – warm moist, dark…  We emerged into a cooler world of light without fluid or the snug fit.  As we developed we died to limiting understandings of ourselves and the world.  We learned that we are unique individuals separated from mum and dad and the world around.  We learned to venture further away from our parents and the security they offered to explore and engage in new experiences.  Each phase of life and development required dying to old, younger, naïve ways to embrace significant new ways of being and living.

M. Scott Peck speaks of infatuation as a process that enables us to enlarge our ego-boundary and embrace another person into an intimate relationship. We are enabled to overlook the differences which would normally prevent us from embracing another person so intimately because of infatuation and the flow of chemicals that allows us to see past our fears and to begin intimate loving.

This is also a dying in order to rise, a letting go of the independent, solo existence to partner with another and begin something new together (‘a man leaves his family, a woman leaves her home and the two become one’).  We could look at each phase of life and see the wisdom and reality of Jesus’ words in ordinary life.  His words, however, push us further into a spiritual path as well.  We are challenged to die to the priorities of the world that we learn through cultural conditioning – such as the use of violence (war) to bring about peace; that security is found in financial security;  that power is about control and strength – love, compassion etc are weak.

Jesus’ words challenge our lives at every point inviting us to engage in a new, deeper way of living that is filled with deep joy and hope by letting go of the expectations and attachments that control our lives.  The habits, the rituals, the comfortable paths we tread can be opened to deeper scrutiny and have their assumptions challenged and reversed.

Jane was locked into a world that was helpless and seemed hopeless and had to unlearn what she believed about herself.  She had to let go in a way that seemed counter-intuitive but it was the only way to gain life.  Like Jane, we are challenged to unlearn and relearn, to die and rise, to live in new ways!  We are invited to embrace a life that God offers but requires letting go of the things that constrain and limit us.  The spiritual pathway of prayer, reflection and meditation is a source of enormous strength and encouragement in the dying-rising life.  *See ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ – Norman Doidge.

enormous strength and encouragement in the dying-rising life.  *See ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ – Norman Doidge

By geoffstevenson

The Way of Sacrificial, Vulnerable Love…

I picked up a book the other day.  Its title reached out intriguingly and sparked my curiosity – ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy.’  I’ve read and enjoyed the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  So I picked up the book and read the first chapter.  It discusses stigma.  The leading character, a heroine of sorts, an unusual person in whom brilliance was balanced by brokenness, exclusion, abuse…   Lisbeth Salander is portrayed as an androgynous, socially inept, tattooed, computer hacker with a photographic memory and no real education.  There is more because she was institutionalised through childhood and labelled with a range of descriptors by psychiatrists, social works, doctors, counsellors and any professional who came close enough to experience her odd character.

One feels somewhat angry and troubled by Lisbeth and there is deep sympathy aroused, amidst the confusion you feel about her decisions, lifestyle and her silence in the face of abuse – physical, sexual and psychological. This interesting little book takes up the issue of stigma because Lisbeth is stigmatised, internally in her own mind and externally within the broader society.  Lisbeth is driven to believe she is not only different but strange, mentally ill, bad and to be blamed for all the abuse she experiences.  The labels placed upon her lead professionals to observe her more acutely and they view her through the lens of a stigmatised personality.  Lisbeth is ‘at risk’ and a risk to the world around.  She does things that in another person would be viewed as within normal boundaries.

I realised that we categorise people, often with stigma and define them in particular ways that expect certain behaviours of them.  I am working 3 days a week in an Aged Care Facility at the moment and it is all too easy to allow the medical notes to guides one’s impressions and understanding of people.  Dementia, decreased cognition, various illnesses, inability to walk or frequent falls…  There are a few who live with various mental illnesses.  There is a temptation to read these notes to gain a picture of a person in order to ’know how to respond’ to them but the tendency is to see them through the eyes of diagnosed descriptors and not see or hear a different, deeper reality behind who they are and how they respond to the world.  I wonder whether some respond the way they do because this is how they have been expected to live and be?

It is the vulnerable who usually succumb most to stigma and who feel ostracism because of the way they are identified, treated, excluded and looked upon with suspicion.  The vulnerable and those who are ‘different’ are feared or held at arm’s length, misunderstood, shunned and judged.  This is what we do with people who arrive here from different ethnic backgrounds, especially by boat.  It is what we do with indigenous Australians.  We do it with people who look different – long, dishevelled hair, tattoos, different sorts of clothes, those who speak with rough intonations and course sounds…  We dismiss those who think differently and cast them and their ideas aside, believing that they are wrong at best and dangerous at worst.

This is carried out from positions of power where one can feel superior or in control – one of the majority who ‘rule’ – casting judgement upon those with whom there is difference, who are weaker or locked away from fear or suspicion.  This reality has been obvious through the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.  Powerful people who perpetrated serious abuse hide behind power and privilege, whilst vulnerable, abused children are stigmatised and wounded.  We live in a world where might and power are forms of security, where positions of authority are often revered and where people who hold them are trusted, even when they err.  We live in a world where particular characteristics engender trust and acceptance whilst others invite rejection and judgement.  Power of position, wealth and consumption brings, we are told, security and stability in life and the world.  In our religious traditions we have all too often viewed the world through our particular understanding of Bible, theology or faith.  We believe and therefore we are correct – it is no longer faith but certitude and becomes legalistic.  Those who disagree or have an alternate voice of faith are rejected, as are those who cannot say for sure what or if they believe – the honest agnostic.  There are those who cannot and will not believe in anything and revere their position as atheist.  All are discounted and the judgement is often based on verses such as this week’s gospel – John 3:14-21 – which includes the well-known John 3:16.  This oft-quoted verse is used to defend one’s personal position, such that it implies that those who ‘believe’ (like me?) are saved and those who don’t aren’t.  There is an irrational lack of grace in how we sustain judgement upon other people, whether by faith, ideology, or the various stigmas we discussed above.

This passage speaks of deep grace, in which God declares a love for all the world which is truly astounding!  The claim is that Jesus came not to condemn but that the world should be saved through him.  It implies the depth of sacrificial love whereby Jesus gives himself for the way of God in the world – a sacrifice for the sake of God’s Reign.  The condemnation that people bring upon themselves is that they choose to live in darkness rather than light.  Do you and I want to live in darkness?  Would we prefer lives of prejudiced darkness that seeks to exclude, ostracise and judge others or a life of gracious acceptance of all people, living peaceably with all?  Do we prefer to forever reject the different, the scary, the disagreeable, the stigmatised…?  Or will we be willing to embrace such people and discover the rich humanity in their vulnerability, the story of courage or love or even hope in their despair?

John speaks of the light that is invested in Jesus, a light that enlightens the world with sacrificial love and gracious acceptance, seeking to save the world by enlightening our lives and opening us to compassion.  This light draws us more deeply into relationship with God and inspires a community where each person has a place and is recognised for their own uniqueness.  This light inspires a belief that is active in living in the way of Jesus, a loving, relational way towards neighbour and stranger – that is salvation and life.  It shines an eternal light that challenges our world view, our inner and outer convictions, our judgement upon others (and ourselves!) and the ways of power, wealth and material consumption.  We are invited into an enlightened path that is paved in love and grace, hope and peace, joy and life – in God!

By geoffstevenson

The Relational God With Us!

Everyday an older man took time to nurture his spirit and find deeper peace.  He went into his bedroom and sat in his chair.  He read a little from his old Bible and then pondered some notes that reflected on life and the Spirit.  Finally he prayed quietly, for himself, his family and the world.  As he engaged in this daily practice his cat joined in and jumped on his lap, purred and mewed, rustled and rubbed against him – quite a distraction.  So the man tied the cat to the bed post so it would not distract him further.  The cat seemed content with this so long as it was near the man at this time each day.

The man’s daughter, wanting to develop some good family practices, took up her father’s ritual.  She had less time than he but went into her room, tied her cat to the bed post, sat in her chair, read a little Scripture and said a prayer.  She was then on her way.

Her son, wishing to carry on the family ritual but having less time than his mother, went into his bedroom, tied the cat to the bedpost, sat in the chair for a moment then went on his way.  The ritual, rather than the content became the most important thing.  For the old man, it was the relational element of coming close to God and drawing strength and peace in God’s presence.  His daughter only caught a little of this and the grandson, nothing.  The ritual survived but the content was lost!

 

In the modern world this is a problem, losing the content of the relational elements in life – especially with God.  Life is lived amidst the pressures of time and the various things of each that demand our attention.  Time with God is a rare occurrence for many people.  Time for other people is also scarce.  Whilst social media has provided enormous benefits in connecting people across the boundaries of time and space in a virtual network of cyber-relationships and these are as important as letter writing and such of previous generations, they lack the personal contact.  We can share feelings, thoughts, ideas, struggles, joys… with one or many across the social media spectrum but there is something different about coming together face to face.

In this week’s readings (one from the Old Testament book of Exodus – 20:1-17 – and the other John 2:13-25) we encounter the relational nature of God.  The Ten Commandments (more accurately Ten Words) are too often associated with rules, regulations, strictness and a sense of the God portrayed in movie version ‘The Ten Commandments’.  There God appears as a very big, mysterious God who is a powerful being ‘up/out there’.  This God imposes strict laws, is angry and wants to beat these hapless humans into order.

The invitation of God is to engage in a deep relationship.  Rather than address God through rituals or images and icons, all of which can be helpful, we are firstly to engage with God.  Rituals help us structure our lives and set apart special time to pray, to reflect, to nurture our Spirit in the presence of Divine mystery and Love.  Images and icons can provide a focus as we pray and help us avoid distractions.  They can lead us more deeply into the way of the Spirit.  They can also become ends within themselves and this is what the Ten Words warns us of – don’t turn rituals, images or icons into idols that are worshipped in and of themselves.  They become empty and lifeless, such as the ritual of tying up the cat and sitting in the chair.

The Ten Words invite us to engage with the Living God who is in and around and through us, the presence of Love, the Spirit of life and hope and peace – God with us!  These opening words are an invitation into deeper God-human relationship that is life-giving and liberating.  We are not alone and we do not worship empty idols.

The second half speaks into the reality of our life with each other and implores people to seek relational living alongside each other.  ‘Do not kill,’ seems somewhat novel in this age when the daily news speaks endlessly of violence and death across this world.  Even amongst the related monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, who each have this commandment in their Scriptures, there is violence and killing.  The list refers to the relationship between parents and children built on respect and love; between neighbours who do not envy or lust but love and embrace in friendship.  It is about not bearing false witness, gossiping and spreading stories that put others down rather than build up.  Do not steal from one another, whether material goods, reputation or life.

These commandments are about how we relate to one another in communal ways that build each other up, share resources and live with kindness, compassion and justice.  They reveal a God involved and gracious, although there is also warning that refusal to live within this paradigm of life, the consequences will be disruption and pain that enters relationships and poisons life for generations.  Think of the hotspots of hatred and violence across the world based around age-old disputes carried on through generations.

In the Gospel reading (John 2:13-25), we read about Jesus in the Temple, ripping it apart.  This comes very early on in John’s story of Jesus (it is one of his last acts in the other Gospels).  In John’s version he decries the people who make God’s house a marketplace and speaks of the true temple of his body in whom God is profoundly revealed.  This temple, says Jesus, will be torn down and rebuilt in 3 days but no-one gets it.  The fascinating thing here is that God is revealed not in the grandeur of the great Jerusalem Temple but in a body, a human body that will be tortured and killed.  In Jesus, God is incarnated and revealed in the flesh and blood, the vulnerability and pain.  God is revealed in you and I as well – again, Paul reminds us that ‘in God we live and move and have our being.’  Humans were created from dust of the ground and God breathed the Spirit into us.  God is incarnate within us as we live and embrace this path of love, grace, justice, hope, freedom and peace.

This is a relational God who is revealed within us as we respond to the way of life that we are invited into through the 10 Words and the way of Jesus.  These are ultimately about loving God with everything we are and loving each other, neighbour, friend and stranger as we love ourselves.

Let rituals, icons, images and habits, along with nature’s beauty point you to God who is Love!

By geoffstevenson

The ‘Dying-Rising’ Life of Jesus

Have you ever felt misunderstood?  Have you ever been in the position where those around you simply don’t get it?  They don’t get who you are or what you’re on about.  Perhaps you are trying to say something, you know what you mean but struggle to put it into words and those listening in simply do not understand – they cannot see.

I suspect there are many times when we feel lost or on the outer because we don’t fit in.  The way we are or think or believe or understand the world pits us against the dominant culture.  We are seen as odd or strange or deceived.  Perhaps we are trying to respond to the world from the depths of our being.  We feel deeply and passionately but what we feel runs counter to the dominant culture and people think we’re crazy.  Perhaps we have experienced something so deeply profound and transforming that we are different, will never be the same and others don’t know how to take us.  Perhaps we don’t even know how to deal with us.  The experience may be a positive transformation such as turning an addictive, painful life around.  It may be a profoundly painful experience that sets us apart because few really know what we are feeling or what our lives are now about.  Those who testify through the Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse have largely been ignored, ostracised and completely misunderstood.  They have been used, abused and left out to dry with no assistance, compassion or care.  When they have felt that they could speak up others have either not known what to do, been afraid to act or disbelieved anything significant happened.  What is it like to stand outside the main group and feel you do not belong?  What is it like not to be understood, to have your experience set you apart?  It is a lonely place and most people will do anything they can to avoid it or get themselves out of the place of standing alone against the world.

Standing in such a place takes courage and some degree of self-belief.  For many it takes faith in something or someone outside or beyond themselves – a trust that there is someone who will not let them go in the midst of the chaos and aloneness.  For many who want to pursue a path of justice (which incidentally is the heart of God and the outward expression of love!) there is the deep and outrageous sense of swimming against the tide.  Doing the right thing is often harder than toeing the line and swimming with the group.

This second week of Lent we read a central and pivotal story in Jesus’ ministry and life.  It comes from Mark 8:27-38 and lies in the middle of Mark’s story as a turning point where the intensity ramps up and the challenging words of Jesus find a new level of piercing, penetrating depth into the human heart and mind.  He takes his disciples on a field trip 40 kilometres north from Galilee to Caesarea Philippi, a city built to curry favour with the Emperor.  It is a politically charged place that honours Caesar who is worshipped as Divine.  It is also the site of various pantheistic religious traditions. This city brought together dominant forces and powers of the world of the Roman Empire and in this space Jesus confronted the disciples with politically charged and seditious questions.  ‘Who do people say that I am?’ he asked them.  They stumbled over an answer comprising the leading list of Jewish prophets.  Then, before the powers of this great city, he asked them: ‘Who do you say that I am?’  It was a bit like standing before the White House (or the Kremlin…) and asking a question about power or importance and who should be considered great or true.  The disciples are quiet until Peter bursts out that he believes Jesus is the Messiah (‘Christ’ in the Greek) and is pleased when Jesus affirms this declaration.  It was a brave thing to say out loud in public in a place like Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus went on to declare that they were now going to make the long journey to Jerusalem, Holy City that institutionalised injustice and greed, power and collaboration with Rome to the detriment of the people and of faith.  There he would be arrested by the religious leaders, killed by the Romans and rise to new living.  Peter took him aside and rebuked him in no uncertain terms.  They had just agreed that Jesus was the Messiah!  Everyone, everyone, knew that the Messiah would come from God and restore the political aspirations of the Jewish people, finally liberating them from the imperial occupation that they had lived with for centuries, the latest power being Rome.  The Messiah would be a military leader in the form of the great King David and would liberate them from Roman rule.  The implication, of course, is that the Messiah used military power and force to liberate.  Violence, military might and retaliation were all part and parcel of the common expectation for the Messiah and this is precisely what Jesus was not! This was, and is, not what God is on about!  This despite the reality that so many of Jesus’ followers, then and now, believe God is in favour of violence and power over and against those we proclaim as enemies.

Jesus was misunderstood!  He was misunderstood by his followers then and now.  He incarnated love, grace and the way of God.  He stood for justice over and against the powers of this world that dominated and oppressed people.  He walked with the marginalised and poor lifting them up into God’s heart.

Disciples, religious leaders and political leaders all misunderstood his way, although when they finally got what he was on about they rejected him all the more.  The way of Jesus is subversive of the powers that reign over the world.  When nations like Australia join coalitions to invade other nations and ‘seek peace’ through violence, this is contrary to the way of Jesus, the way of God.  When we exclude people and deny them basic human rights, let alone lock those we don’t like or trust or understand away in detention, we act contrary to the way of Jesus.  When we legislate to protect the wealthy and keep the poor in their place (Australia, USA…) whether internally or through low foreign aid, we choose contrary to the way of Jesus.

Jesus invites followers to come and ‘die’ in order to rise into new life.  This dying is to those things that dominate our lives and are contrary to love and justice.  This dying is the denial of the false hopes and promises that surround us and will  lead us into being more deeply misunderstood – but we stand in the way of Jesus, who walks with us and gives us strength to endure. Come and follow.

By geoffstevenson