Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Make these words more than words. And give us all the spirit of Jesus. Amen.
The ministry of Jesus the Christ was inescapably political.
At every turn he was setting himself at odds with the powers that be. Rome. Jerusalem. Religious authorities. State authorities. The confusing conflation of the two found in that day and age…
Every act of healing, every act of love,
every proclamation of the jubilee
every lesson taught;
every meal shared;
All of it – political.
A precarious statement from this pulpit given the political activities in the state of Indiana this week. Faith and politics is a mixture that rightly makes us uneasy.
But, Jesus wasn’t running for office. Nor was he lobbying for a bill to be signed into law. The particularities of Jesus’ context were different than our present day circumstances. But that Jesus set himself against the Powers, the Principalities, is plain to see.
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
This is the insurrection of God!
I have a tradition of trying to turn Holy Week into a time of devotion, a time set aside for personal reflection and renewal. Certainly, it is that. But given how we begin this week, this particular service, I wonder if I need to reframe what we are up to this week. What if the political prelude of the procession of palms is the context for the entire story? Rather than treating it like a liturgical prefix, what if we paid attention and saw it as the catalyst for all that will follow. It is the culmination of Jesus’ ministry.
This story isn’t about how everyone around Jesus got it wrong…about how they didn’t understand his true purpose. It is a story about how Jesus shows us all how far we must go – all the way to the heart of creation itself. It’s not that everyone got it backward. No. Rather, it’s that they simply didn’t take it far enough. They didn’t take it all the way to the cross, to the tomb, and to the third day.
Jesus is bringing the politics of the Kingdom of God into the heart of the political landscape of his time and it baffles everyone.
When faced with the politics of the Kingdom of God,
there is almost always a political action in response;
a flexing of political muscle…
…an attempt to close things down. And that’s precisely what happens.
The powers shut it down. Isn’t this just what political power often does? It sets limits. It closes things down. It builds fences to keep the wrong kind of people out.
And, of course, in our own time, we often use Jesus as an excuse to do just that. We call it the Kingdom, but it’s not.
This is the insurrection of God, a breaking things open.
Jesus is trying to open things up. He’s asking for mercy. He’s offering grace. He’s trying to open our hearts and minds. He’s trying to open our communities. He wants to give everyone space to breathe, live, learn, and grow into what God created us to be.
Why are we so afraid of giving one another that freedom?
And why, when we are granted that freedom, are we so quick to renounce it?
This is Holy Week. From top to bottom this entire week of liturgies is a retelling of an act of rebellion that was meant to open us up – to open all of creation – to throw open the gates of Hell, overthrow Death and proclaim life. Can this be our politics?
Look around you at the stations of the cross.
What is devotional is political is devotional again.
A first century march on Jerusalem is an act of politics.
A twentieth century march on Selma is an act of devotion.
Can a twenty-first century procession around the block in Berkeley – that act of devotion – be an act of politics?
Of course it can.
This is the politics of the Kingdom of God
This is the political devotion that is Holy Week.
It is a politic of love and not domination.
It is a politic of love and not violence.
It is a politic of love and not greed.
This is the insurrection of God.