Less Fear/More Love: Lent.6

by admin on March 25, 2013

Palm/Passion Sunday
Reflections for 24 March 2013
Philippians 2:5-11

President Obama has just wound up a trip to Jordan and Israel. Visited some of the places several of us were at in January. He didn’t go there as a tourist; he went as a pilgrim with the intention of leaving there touched by what he experienced and having the hope of touching the hearts of the leaders there to actually move towards peace.

Before leaving Israel and heading for Jordan he took a motorcade—a parade—down from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity. He was met with Palestinian protest: Gringo, return to your colony.

For years several Middle East parades have marched across the TV screen:
• Iran continues to work on nuclear capacity and shows off its “legal armaments”
• US invasion of Iraq ten years ago
• Plundering herds all over the area
• Our service guys from war to police; to the silent showing of the causalities on PBS News Hour on Friday night.

In each case those parades broke the rules:
• It’s not nice to hurl epithets at a diplomat.
• Arms build up contra UN resolutions
• Takeover contra international opinion
• Plundering: decorum of civilized society
• Different role for our troops

Middle East parades break the rules.

Palm Sunday parade. Another Middle East parade. True to form this one breaks rules, too. In fact, breaks all the rules. After Jesus comes through Jerusalem: nothing—nothing in this life or life hereafter will be the same.

Focus text: Philippians 2.
Most profound New Testament Christology—where it all began. This is reflection on incarnation, death, exaltation—atonement.

This is worth memorizing: core understanding of being Christian, disciple of Jesus. “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.” All of the topics we’ve considered this Lent could be brought together under this theme.

Three ideas today; then how they play out.

1. On his way down from heaven Christ broke the rules of divine decorum.
Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. [Message version]
•Gods don’t do this. Become men, much less slaves.
•Mingling with outcasts
•Touching people with the god-life.
•He entered the messiness of human life.

2. On his way down to Hades he broke the law of death.
He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. [Message version]
•Death: the great common denominator
•The ultimate blockade
•The line between being/nothing
•It conditions us all with futility, anxiety, restlessness, and hopelessness.

3.On his way up to heaven he broke open the gate that separates this changing world from the eternal world.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name above all names. [Message version]
•We believe in materialism: this is it, stock up…but there is another realty in our lives.
•My experience =/ reality.

What about parades? Here’s a couple I was in or watched this week.

A. Gym rat bud @ Starbucks. Never seen me in anything but black running shorts and my favorite shirt of all, red tank “I was raised Lutheran, but I’m not religious anymore.” I thought: what brand of Christianity were you? Everyone is religious. I may as well been speaking in Chinese. Non comprendre doesn’t compute, not on radar.

Religion is about godly affections. Everyone has a god, maybe a couple of them. Martin Luther: God is where you put your trust.

Might be money, looks, stuff—addictions, drive to be noticed, accepted; could be resentment and anger. (Anger—I got some new deep insight about this from Dallas Willard: anger at the root of all human problems)

Contrary to popular opinion we are very religious and very lost in the dark. We can’t get past the rules of a materialistic, highly personalized, and largely disposable religion.

B. On the phone to another buddy. I’m complaining to him about my inability to save everyone I meet. “Get down from the cross, we need the lumber.” I had to admit I’ve been running for Messiah at large; and people just weren’t cooperating. I was stuck with reality. Reality: that which lies beyond your effective will. (Dallas W.) Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Many of us truly believe that is it weren’t for us the world would go to hell in a handbasket.

We can’t get past the rules of personal deification our own little kingdoms.

C. A major trend in returning GI’s from the Middle East theater. US Marine: I did what the Bible says not to. About his killing on orders and the psychological effects of that. “How will they cope?” We call is PTSD.

Critical incident briefings—-military group therapy. Maybe we should all sign up.

How do you cope with the real, ugly, revolutionary world? We can’t get past the rules of a life conditioned by complexity, confusion and downright fear.

What will it take? It’ll take a parade. Another parade in the Middle East. The gods of religion can’t handle any of these issues; they are too bound up by rules, categories, and our projections of perfection. We need someone who can break all the rules.

Today we come to the Great and Holy Week of the Christian faith. It’s about another parade in the Middle East. A parade that breaks all the rules of human living.

This is why this passage in the New Testament is worth memorizing—it is nothing less than the abolition of religion.
•Religions are based on negative attitudes toward the world—you either escape it or take it over.
•Religions are based on negative attitudes toward the human body—hence the cult of perpetual youth
•Religions are based on negative attitudes toward life itself—that’s what the gospel according to Shirley Maclean says.

And religion is governed by rules, contingencies and a reality that becomes the accepted order of things.

But in Jesus Christ we encounter not religion, but reality. A reality beyond all the contingencies of time, place and history.

When St. Paul speaks of Christ’s obedience unto death, even death on a cross, he is saying that all the powers and forces that determine human life, determined Jesus’ life.

New Testament: powers, principalities, thrones, dominions. CS. Lewis: in enemy occupied territory.

The fully human Jesus Christ was under these influences. He died—and was raised.

The fully redemptive Christ triumphed over these powers and frees everyone whose life is stuck.

This is what Palm Sunday is about, and its so-called “triumphal entry.” Jesus Christ triumphs.

Around this time every year some journalist does a piece on the medical aspects of Jesus’crucifixion. We seemed to be enamored with technique, fact, historical proof. Missing in the inquiry is the cross’ transforming significance.

Will you and I be better people because we know that Jesus died nailed to a cross with nine-inch nails? Does compassion, forgiveness, generosity, humility, hope work in us when we know facts, or when we think differently? “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus did.”

No, the proper posture for today and the rest of this week, isn’t sorrow, it is awe; it is worship; it is adoration.

It is not about more information, but about transformation. Jesus Christ defines God—God is for us, for the world; and now God is brought out into the open for all to see and know. It is having less fear and more love.

NT Wright: this is nothing short of a new understanding of God. Calvary reveals the truth about what it means to be God.

And that truth breaks all the rules:
•God is for us.
•Death has no dominion.
•Eternity begins now—so we can live it now.

If you’re sick of being in the wrong parade, or standing on the sidelines just watching; then today is your day. Your day to make a move and say Yes to Jesus Christ and join in his Middle East parade and finally move from fear to love.

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