With reference to Luke 20:27-38
So much swims around our conscious minds on this day. As well as whatever we have going on in our own lives, we are aware that we are only days away from the most bizarre and divisive election most of us have witnessed, on the other side of our nation’s border. We are a few more days away from Remembrance Day, remembering and honouring those who served and serve in the military for our country. We are also aware of the great cost of war, not only to military personnel, but more and more to civilian populations – women, children, the elderly, the ill – no one is exempt from the cost of war. Whether military or civilian, the wounds run deep, if not in the body then in the psyche.
How do we make sense of it? A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting three wonderful spiritual leaders from the United States. They called themselves the inter-faith amigos. Rabbi Ted Falcon, who along with Pastor Don Mackenzie, and Imam Jamal Rahman co-authored Religion Gone Astray writes:
“I was born a month after the attack at Pearl Harbor, when the incredible horrors of the Holocaust were increasingly in the news. Much later we were to learn of the anti-Semitism in the Roosevelt administration that put a damper on our country’s response to the mass deportation and murder of European Jewry.
I grew up in a world where violence was perpetrated against Jewish people, not by them. But when, suddenly, after over two thousand years without political power, the Jews established the State of Israel in 1948, things changed. We became a player on the world state, and then we made our own set of political and humanitarian errors. As Louis De Bernieres wrote:”
“All war is fratricide, and there is therefore an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous route back and forth across the path and under the feet of every people and every nation, so that a people who are the victims of one time become the victimizers a generation later, and newly liberated nations resort immediately to the means of their former oppressors. The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral mettle of a race, and it shamelessly and even proudly performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other.” P.53
It is so important that the world learn this lesson, and it’s hard to learn when you are in a perpetual avalanche of national and civil conflict.
So, with all else going on, why would I even look at the lectionary reading for today, which seems to have nothing to do with anything relating to our lives on November 6th 2016. Jesus is approached by a group of Sadducees, scholars who didn’t believe that life continued in any way after death, and they give him this bizarre scenario of a woman whose husbands (all brothers) all mysteriously die without leaving an heir. `Whose wife will she be in the hereafter?’ they ask.
Which kind of reminds me of what happened at Presbytery two weeks ago, when we were trying to vote on remits, and people went for the gritty details of the remits. Don Seaton, a Presbytery member from Vernon spoke. `Folks, I think we are in danger of falling down a rabbit hole here … (e.g. going after stuff that really doesn’t matter) versus looking at the big picture – getting the view from 30,000 feet in the air.
And yes, this reminds me far too much of the US election. It feels like we have fallen down a rabbit hole, and have had some mind-messing drugs from taking a bite out of that magic mushroom…
email scandals and building walls and `you’re a puppet’; `No, you’re the puppet…’ Whoa – see how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole!
So – back to Jesus Through the question asked by the Sadducees, Jesus has an opportunity to expose their assumption that the cultural practices of the day, are relevant to our spiritual realities. Well, actually they didn’t even care about that – they were just playing stump the preacher. And here’s the kernel of hope, or rebellion, or whatever… Jesus says, It doesn’t matter. He’s not really saying it’s like that old Jim Reeves tune “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through…” but there is something about the kingdom of God, whether in this world or another, that says, we don’t owe allegiance to another person – be it husband 1st or 7th, or wife, or boss, or president. We are children of God, equal, loved, free. We are spiritual beings. Right now, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. In naming the faith ancestors, long passed, and yet claimed by God, Jesus seeks to demonstrate that all are alive to God, and all have access to this divine relationship.
And so in the midst of the turmoil of these days, our allegiance is to something bigger, brighter, and much more life-giving than power politics and the suffering it ultimate it causes humanity.
This week, I put out an invitation on my Facebook page, and on BAM (Below Average Ministers of the United church of Canada). I believe that refers to below the average age of ministers… 🙂
The invitation was this: So, my friends… not wanting to get swallowed up in the ugly vortex that is the unfolding American election, seeing a lot of transmitted pain in violent words, and actions – What, please tell, seriously, would be your prayer for our American brothers and sisters in this final week? I invite you to think on this, pray on this, and share your thoughts/prayers.
I received several thoughtful responses, but one I found particularly beautiful. It comes from John Maich, whom I’ve never met, but he said we could share his prayer. John has managed to crawl out of the rabbit hole and offer a prayer from 30,000 feet. I’d like to conclude with John’s prayer.
Ancient of Days you are the Master of the all-encompassing now. There is no time outside of the grip of your almighty and gentle hands. We trust in your providence and the grace which drives it. We are afraid. Afraid of what tomorrow brings. Afraid of difference and afraid of change. In the midst of our fear we fail to discern your image in the Democrat or the Republican, the native born or the immigrant, the dark of skin or paler face. More embarrassing still we, in the midst of our fear embrace the sins of one blindly while rebuking the sins of others loudly. Remind us again of how we have been forgiven so that love and grace may flourish anew in our hearts and minds. We thank you that we are strangers and aliens at present in this world, that the Kingdom you have welcomed us into will not fly flags with stars or stripes, maple leaves or bars but rather will find its place under your love which will be our banner. Hold us firmly and shelter us securely in the days and weeks to come. Show us our neighbour and help us to be brother or sister to those in need or distress for we were lost until you found us and carried us home. Though we still fear for tomorrow we remained convinced that there is nothing in the heavens above nor the earth below which can separate us from the love made known to us in Christ Jesus, especially not defeat at the polls come election day for you will still be our God and you will still call us your people. You alone, O Lord, are worthy of glory, praise and devotion. Amen.