What’s Going On?

Drive-by Good-bye

We postponed the Drive-by Good-bye event until Tue 6 April. Hansen will be at the church from 5-7 pm, so you have a wide window to stop by after work and around dinner. If it snows 5 more feet that day, well, God has a great sense of humor!

 

Holy Week

Our most recent worship service was for Palm Sunday, this weird little holy day commemorating when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, most likely on 29 March, in the year 33 CE. The scene described in Scripture is layered in irony, sort of performance art that spoke, in detail to lived experience and cultural memories, to how Jesus always reaches to deeper ways of seeing the world and living grace into it.

For instance, people waved these eponymous palms at him, not out of mere excitement, but as a symbol of national identity. Jews has been oppressed for so long, in so many ways, by the Roman Empire, and these folks were pleading with Jesus to ‘fix’ everything, by overthrowing the occupying force and returning to the good ol’ days where we were in charge. Power was their fixation – understandably so, for those of us who put so much stock in how governments can help or harm the people we love. And yet, in distinction to fixing things through a contentious and violent revolution, Jesus’ point was to heal their hearts and to heal their circumstances, with slow and deliberate spiritual evolution. Later in the week Peter would get those goals mixed up (as we often do), when he cut off a policeman’s ear; Jesus healed that officer, but was arrested anyway!

Healing social circumstances is different from politics, but not divorced from it. Jesus’ attempts to heal through the public square are most evident on the Monday of Holy Week, when he came to the Temple and blew up over the rampant financial exploitation of the poor. This act was most certainly personal and emotional, if you look closely at how the text echoes his own family’s experience some 35 years previous. He cared about the poor, because his momma was poor. But flipping those tables also challenged the sincerity of the religious leaders, the morality of the Roman leaders, and the cruelty of the entire economic system that is built on the back of the poor, so that drachma trickles up. Hmmm, Money-Changer Monday sounds awfully familiar…

Next, Jesus turns his attention to challenging the religious teachers (with vicious language, I might add), right in full display of the women, foreigners, impure, and disabled people who were very much disempowered by their culture’s toxic prejudice. In response to that endemic injustice, Jesus welcomes the marginalized, and, as he tells his disciples more pointedly later, hopes for a day whence any ideology that serves to marginalize people is overturned and erased. Imagine that in our world today, where we wouldn’t have to argue over facts and foolishness, and could simply focus on better ways to care for each other. What a prayer…

That level of social justice was too much for Judas, so this is where he decides to go in for middle-ground-ism. Is there a Too Much Tuesday in your life, or are you willing to keep learning how to reshape a world so that all people have a place and dignity?

For Wiped Out Wednesday, there are no stories recorded in the Bible. The best guess is that Jesus and his disciples rested together in Bethany, a suburb to the east. What a radical way to heal soul and society: to commit to sabbath, without apology!

Thursday is best known for the Last Supper. In that meal, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am giving you a new commandment. Love one another.” The Latin for ‘command’ or ‘mandate’ is ‘mande’, so this became Maundy Thursday, where we heal our own selves and heal our neighbors and neighborhoods, by the simplest and most difficult commitment to love each other, as awkward as it might be to, for instance, wash someone’s feet, or to share a meal with someone who doesn’t even know how much they are begging for forgiveness and belonging.

Of course, that very night Jesus is betrayed with a kiss, and put through a farcical trial. (Does this mean we are called to heal the justice system as well?) The next day he is rushed to the cross and tortured to a faster death, so that certain rituals could continue on their precious schedule. Another perspective certainly worth healing is the valuation of custom over human well-being. Any law or habit that does not provide for or protect human well-being, and especially those that promote human suffering and repression – I’m talking to you, Georgia – those perspectives and commitments are tantamount to erecting a cross in our own midst, and they are a scandal to any meaningful faith or conscience.

It is called Good Friday, by the way, most likely because holy and solemn and pious things are ‘good’, in a sense very different than we more often think of ‘good’ pizza or feeling ‘good’ about our NCAA bracket. It is Good Friday, because he was good, not because what happened to him was good. And wouldn’t some version of that sentence soothe some souls, to really know that you are good and worthy, and it is the things that happened to you that are not…

The Bible helps us date the crucifixion to 3 April of 33 CE, with a handful of clues, perhaps most of all, when it mentions the darkness that came over the land at Jesus’ last breath. That might sound like foo foo miracle talk – and the earthquake and torn curtain that are also described may be religious symbolism more than history – but real science (astronomy software) shows us clearly that a lunar eclipse actually did pass over Jerusalem about 3 pm that very afternoon. Regardless of whether you believed anything about Jesus, that must have been an ominous sight, just a few hours before the most holy day of the Jewish calendar.

The Silent Saturday of Holy Week was all about grief. When we are in grief, some of us pray and sing and tell stories and celebrate the dead. Or, some of us hide from our feelings and friends for a time, almost doubting the loss until we are ready to face its reality. (A fair response, to be sure.) Or, some of us punish ourselves to numb the pain. (Less fair, to ourselves and our fellow grievers.) And Scripture tells us that people were just the same back then.

So finally, Easter… In life and in death, Jesus points toward something better. There is something better than power, something better than greed, something better than our judgment and busy-ness, something better than letting suffering and death have the last word. There is, eternally, a better way of growth and love, a better way of inclusion and sabbath, a better way of healing and new life. Come. And see.

 

 

Boulder Gun Violence

We have been talking about gun violence in this church for a long time. We’ve prayed about it, yelled about it, argued about it, cried about it. Some of you are more shaken by the events in Boulder last week, because of the proximity. Some of you, I’m afraid, are rather numb and overwhelmed by this ongoing evil, proximity be damned. Some of you are still hiding behind ‘mental health’ and other excuses, giving a wave to ‘common sense gun laws’ but knowing all along that such legislation is impossible in our current chaos.

Owning and using a gun is one thing. Addiction to guns, as toys or tools, as symbols or social statements, is quite another. And that is sin. Addiction to anything is sinful, but there is no cultural manipulation around normalizing drunk driving or making child pornography some mark of virtue. With guns, there exists such a twisted idea of the 2nd amendment – even twisting Antonin Scalia’s own clear position that the constitution does not protect the right to bear assault weapons like the one used in Boulder, and Atlanta, and Orlando, and Parkland, and Las Vegas, and Aurora, and Sandy Hook – somehow, this tribalized glorification of gun culture has run roughshod over the 2nd commandment. That one, you might remember, is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Our country is awash in sin, and guns as some signpost for do-what-I-want freedom is high up the list. There was a greater sense of freedom that used to matter to the American story, and an even holier sense of freedom that Jesus leans on, but these days, guns and masks and defending police brutality all seem to orbit around this childish commitment to you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do. And how interesting that telling others what they can and can’t do with their bodies or their love or their protests about racialized violence, somehow seems to orbit in that same sphere…

Obviously what happened to the 10 victims in Boulder is sin. Obviously the trauma that hundreds more witnesses experienced is sin laid upon them. Let’s not lose sight of their very distinct experience of this very dispersed problem. Peace be to them and those who love them.

And just as obvious is the reach of this problem and the reach of this sin, to every politician and political entity that props up the opportunity and guarantee that this will happen, over and over again. The reach of this sin lands on every person who supports those politicians and entities, whether they be fake non-profits, fake news outlets, or fake cultural brokers that define fake patriotism.

We all live in sin. That is, obviously again, the human condition: something made beautiful that loses its way through a broken world. And we are all called to repent, assured of the grace that pulses through God’s own loving heartbeat. But far more often than personal repentance, the Bible calls for collective redemption. You, individually, are absolutely called to do your soul work, whether it’s in the realm of gun addiction or anger or fear or judgment or whatever. But we, socially, are drawn by a God of good news, to have a reckoning. We are called to move past our kneejerk reactions of sides and fairness and false equivalencies, and move to envisioning and embodying hope for a better world. We are called to overturn and erase any ideology that serves to prop up suffering, even if that ideology feels like your safe place, especially if that ideology has become such a painful fence between loved ones. We are called to a better world that does not include even the faint rationalizations for this sin of gun violence and gun culture. We are called to healing and new life. May it be so.

 

 

Worship Ahead

Easter is 4 April, where Hansen will borrow a Christmas word, logos, to point to light in the darkness, as a foundation of our world and of our lives.

Then 11 April will be a blended service, shared with about 30 other Presbyterian churches in our region. That service will be shown on www.plainsandpeaks.org, not on our YouTube channel!

And on 18 April, Jim Reed will take over the pulpit!

You can always watch any worship service by going directly to the church’s video channel, or through our website, or connecting via social media.

 

 

New YouTube Channel

Help us out and click here to subscribe to the new Church YouTube Channel. When we get to 100 subscribers, we can lock down a better name than “UC4tGfnE54Bs-7_9UIqzmFrg”! The channel we’ve been using for the last 8 years is going away in a few weeks, so this will be the best way to keep up with worship videos!