Here is a charged question for you, “Who’s side are you on?” Even though I am not sitting next to you right now, I can sense the unease, sadness if not anger rising up through your screen. Some of you are thinking that I am about to “say” something political and not “religious.”
It has been a hard week for our nation. The division among us is more pronounced than it ever has been if social media is to be believed. The anger and sadness is palpable and real.
I can’t fix the divide, I can’t make anyone feel better and I certainly can’t change anyone’s mind. (If I thought I could, I need to get some professional help.)
I am reminded this week (more than ever) that the brokenness of our world is unfixable by human efforts. Not only that, but the brokenness that resides in all of us seems to be growing not shrinking. Remember what I said last Sunday? “Where two or three are gathered there will be a difference of opinion.”
So, I ask again, “Who’s side are you on?” I’ll answer that for myself… “I strive to be on Jesus’ side.” (Was that what you were expecting?)
I want to be known as a follower… a disciple of Jesus… and it is not easy sometimes.
I know that at the end of my life, nothing else will matter.
When I went to seminary (the graduate school where I was trained to be a pastor), one of the things they wanted us to always remember was that “Jesus was an outsider who befriended and cared for other outsiders.” Not only did our professors tell us that, but they added to that statement by saying, “if we future pastors wish to follow Jesus’ lead, we must also do the same.”
Not that this should be a surprise to anyone since Jesus clearly stated his mission as he began his ministry. He went into his hometown synagogue and read from Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 (from Isaiah 61)
Just to make sure no one misses the point of him reading this, he adds, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21
Jesus is the one who comforts the estranged, the broken-hearted and those who feel far from God and others.
It is Jesus who cared for…
The Syrophoenician Woman
The Blind Man
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector (and traitor)
The Criminal on the Cross
The Woman with the Flow of Blood
The Man with Demons
The Woman with Demons
The Sick Man Who Lowered Down on a Mat
The Widow who Lost her Son
And the list goes on…
I want to be counted among the one who cares for the broken-hearted and excluded. I want to be like Jesus who came to serve regular people who have been hurt and marginalized by circumstance and other people.
As you may know, one of my ordination vows explicitly asks me to do this very thing. “Speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love for the world.”
It is not a convenient vow to make. Nor is it easy because I know that no matter what I say or do someone is not going to happy when issues of justice arise. As I remember, Jesus was not the favorite of those who used their power to metaphorically hold people down and keep them in their place.
Here’s what I do know, if you are sad, I will be sad with you. If you are gloating, I will not gloat with you.
The world and human systems are often predicated upon winners and losers. I do not see any winners, I see only losers, myself included.
The first verse in Psalm 121 begins this way, “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?” It is a rhetorical question. The answer is, “It is not the hills.” Let me add to that list of one. Our help doesn’t come from Washington, or political parties or any president that has ever served our country. “My (our)help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2
Our help comes from the Lord who came to earth to show us how much he loves us despite our brokenness. Jesus came and died to remove the ugliness inside of those who believe in Him so that we might trust in God alone.
I can’t help but think of that church sign I saw online once… “The donkey and elephant will let you down, put your trust in the lamb.” Jesus is the perfect lamb of God who gave himself for us and stands with those who are on the outside looking in.
God bless you,