I started thinking about this Sunday’s gospel reading and how maybe I should, you know, read it. Jesus hits me where I live, dude. It’s one of his better badass moments, in my humble opinion. The heading for the pericope is “Jesus Predicts His Own Death.” Yeah, well, he does, but just like every pericope in the Bible, that’s just one take. That’s taking what’s literal and holding it out as the entire meaning of the passage. The take home message is not the action Jesus took; it is our own reactions to it.
The story starts not with Jesus’ prediction, but the Greeks who showed up. Take any group that’s been hated over the years, and you’ll get the underlying message. The Hebrews did not like the Greeks. As Lisa Cressman said at Epiphany a few months ago, it was kind of like a corporate merger. The Hebrews have little cups of creamer, and the Greeks have powdered. You cannot combine those people. You just really can’t. It’s like trying to get Jeopardy fans to watch Wheel of Fortune. Most Jeopardy people consider Wheel of Fortune a redneck game show. I am only a Wheel watcher when someone else has it on in the background. I don’t say anything. I just play with my phone.
Do you get the enormous thing that is going on here? GREEKS showed up to PASSOVER. Let’s put this in perspective. What if atheists showed up to your revival? Would you let them in? Would you possibly expose them to new experiences, or would you kick them to the curb? Can we party with the Haiti-ians, or can’t we?
So like, right now for example. The Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all, “What about the strain on our resources?” Well it’s like when I had this garden party for my father’s birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. ’cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin’. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier. And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much
This is one of my favorite scenes in all of moviedom, and it illustrates verses 20-22 perfectly. In his response, I understand Jesus more fully than I did before I got up this morning. Jesus says in verse 23 that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” To me, this is shorthand for the thing that Diane and I call “the bubble.” Right before I sing or preach, leave me the fuck alone. I have too much to process on my own to worry about you. Let me stew over what I am here to do and how I’m going to do it. When my bubble is uninterrupted, I can sing better, and my sermons will come out clearer because I’ve had time to run it in my mind once before I get up in front of you. Jesus will not allow the Greeks to interrupt him, but it is not like they can’t join the party like everyone else. Do you see the distinction? In verse 25, it says that ANYONE who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it……
ANYONE. Greeks. Jews. Haiti-ans.
You don’t get to speak to Jesus. Have some wine and get with the program. See if you like it. Refer to John 3:19 (where the take home message is that people live in darkness because they WANT TO) and it will give you a better understanding of what Jesus means by the difference in eternal lives. Basically, it boils down to this. You can live in darkness if you want, but the direction you choose to go dictates where you’ll go eternally. As a liberal Christian, I don’t believe in the traditional ideas of heaven and hell….. but as part of the body of Christ on earth, I want to have a legacy that bears the story of “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Speaking of which, Lindsey (7th and 8th grade friend), Mr. Witkov saw me wearing a t-shirt with Jesus colorblocked on the front like Andy Warhol and the words, “I once was lost” on the back. He said that I should change it to “I’m always lost.” Fucker. As a Jew, I forgive him. It would have been funny to me had I been older. At that point, I knew I was lost in the darkness and I couldn’t get out. I needed Jesus more, not less, and the more I needed him, the further he felt away. I couldn’t invest in Jesus, because he couldn’t invest in me. I was gay. I was nothing. I was a sinner who knew it and was doing it on purpose…… as a child. I did not choose to have sex with women as a child, but just like every other child in the world, I knew who I WANTED to kiss by then. Sexuality is not independent of personality, which is why there are so many celibate gays in the priesthood. Gay people still take their vows of chastity seriously, but it does not erase WHO THEY ARE. No one has ever had to sit a straight person down and explain to them why they can’t be straight and try to beat them into submission until they cry uncle. Going to church for gay kids can be torture if left in churches that say they’re sinners before they can drive. The sum total of their worthlessness can be found in pews where conservative pastors don’t give a shit what they say to the youth group. It’s just the youth group. They don’t pay attention, anyway.
I don’t know about straight ones, but what I find from gay youth is that the message their pastor sends is that they are miserable sinners…….. but I love you. It’s the “but” that kills us. It’s the “but” that sends youth from their homes to homeless shelters instead of loving families. In the United Methodist church, there is a book called The Discipline, and I’ve been fighting with one line since I was 13. The Discipline says that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” I lost my home before I even had it. I will say in my dad’s defense that none of this bullshit was coming from him. My internal struggle is that I have always been an empath with a drive to help people. Why wouldn’t I want to be ordained in the same church that baptized me?
It was not until Susan started Bridgeport United Church of Christ that I started to believe that even though the United Methodists weren’t on board, other denominations were. I could let go of my past and move on. I could believe in my idea that I belonged to a God that wanted me, and my considerable talent(s). I’m going to stop deprecating myself. It does not help. I want to know myself as well as the Greeks, those outsiders who wanted to be let in. They knocked, and the Disciples were told to let them in. I guess what I am here to say is that constantly hiding my light brought me so much darkness and I lived there because I thought I wasn’t worth anything else. My last year in the Texas Annual Conference, they were voting on whether to erase the line in the Discipline that says homosexuality is incompatible. My dad gave an impassioned speech saying that it’s easy to exclude “homosexuals,” but it is hard to exclude your parishioners, your aunt, your sister-in-law, your daughter. The vote was the closest it had ever been, but I sat in the gallery as my dreams were crushed and I knew that what I was doing was the right thing…. just slinking away with my tail between my legs. Luckily, my UCC experience got me ready to be an Episcopalian. It’s a head church less than a heart church. We want to study theological academia. We want to have the reputation that Atheists cannot call us stupid. Most of us abhor the Anglican church, and feel well within our right to dismiss them as crazy. We will accept them again when they aren’t stuck between 1950 and Leviticus. One day, I hope we will come back together when the Anglicans finally admit that they’re the assholes Jesus doesn’t want to carry his kindom. They live in darkness because they choose to make everything shame-based. Jesus is the person you come to IN your shame. You should not be shamed into salvation, but I promise that it is there. The difference does not come from God’s agreement. It comes from yours. Where are you on your acceptance scale? I know you can accept your family. Will you accept homeless people in your church? Will you accept whatever Greek might walk in your door?
In the Episcopal church, there’s a line in Rite I that just swallows me whole. It is such a beautiful sentence that I hate Rite II. It’s the remission of sins, bitch.
But I digress.
The line is, “we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom.” Jesus, would you look at that? We’re all in. The gate is open wide. Stop thinking of this passage as Jesus predicting his death because even in the midst of it, he’s still widening the net. Still thinking. Still doing. Still helping people even though he is encased in pain so great that even after 2,000 years, people are still talking about it. All Jesus did was continue being his sweet and loving self, hiding his pain so that he could be many seeds of hope instead of just one.
It’s the fith Sunday of Lent. We are approaching the cross, the stone, and the plan. Jesus said this out in John 12:35: You only have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” What are we going to do while Jesus is still here? What great things might be accomplished in his name rather than living in darkness and complaining about it? If you always do what you always did, you’re always going to get what you always got.” It’s a new thing I’m trying out.
Believing in myself.
Believing in my ability to receive the Greeks where they are, and invite them into my silence. They might listen. They might not. But their reaction is not my problem. I am looking for people who walk in light, not in Christ. How you get to God is how you get to God. I just relate to Jesus. In some ways, I think I am him. Not in a psychotic, should go back to the hospital sort of way. I have his spirit. I have his silence. I have his ability to move people with words. It is not that I am now walking in light, it is that Jesus showed me it was there. It was always there. I didn’t have to hide it anymore. People who believe in themselves to this degree are frightening. I get it.
But in the immortal words of Steve Jobs, “the only people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.”
Get out of your darkness. Let the Greeks in. Show them what you know. Share. Give them some damn creamer cups so that they will see their superiority and give up on that powdered crap. But like I said, nothing will happen unless they agree to it.
And they surely won’t agree if you don’t ask the question. I have stopped worrying about what comes out of my mouth so much. I know I am secure enough to handle people’s responses no matter what they are, because I have been a miserable sinner before. I have been through darkness. I have been in this hole before, and I know the way out. #wwld
Just like Cher Horowitz.