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Tipping point

by davesandel on April 13th, 2019

Tipping point

Saturday, April 13, 2019

My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. My sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

– From Ezekiel 37

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” From that day on they planned to kill him.

– From John 11

Caiaphas cannot spread his wings or open his heart. Blinded by his mind, Caiaphas is locked into the certainties of Ezekiel and others: God determines to protect his people. He works through synagogue and temple. For centuries, the high priest has represented God.

Jesus, that imposter, certainly does not.

On the way to get coffee this morning I saw a badly dressed man sitting in the bus stop kiosk near our hospital. The park was decked out in spring green behind him. Just a few steps away a beautiful labyrinth waited to be walked. Sun shone through the kiosk glass. The man didn’t wave, and neither did I. He looked a bit defeated. I didn’t look closely enough to see Jesus in the kiosk too.

Jesus, that imposter, enters Jerusalem tomorrow. His disciples alternately hide him and lift him up for praise. He raised Lazarus from the grave, or so they say. Mary and Martha weep over their dead brother, and now he is alive.

What kind of man is this? He spends too much time with the poor and the forgotten. But his only sins are generous, compassionate breakings of our savage, selfish, Sabbath rules.

From this day on we plan to kill him. They may not know it yet, but the people of the temple, the people of God, the crowd – they will join us, and all of us together, we will kill this Jesus.

*           *           *

Psychiatrist and spiritual director Gerald May would call Caiaphas’ thinking “efficient.” Efficiency focuses solely on competence, accomplishment, and success. Hitler’s “final solution” was efficient. Efficiency is dangerous when it is separated from what May calls “love.” Love is our gift from God, and our natural response is gratitude and “consecration,” which just means giving back to God what we’ve been given. It is as natural as the second half of every heartbeat, or the breathing out after each breath in.

But this “love” comes TO us, we don’t go get it. Our normal western work ethic gets in the way. Even religion, made “efficient,” will hold us out of relationship with ourselves, with love, with God. David Brooks, a columnist and writer thoroughly immersed in American culture, recognizes this:

Society is a system of relationships. We need to become more communal than individualistic, more holistic than utilitarian, more emotional than cognitive. Religion speaks those languages. Without them, morality is inarticulate.

*           *           *

Jesus is in a liminal space. In these days as on the day of his baptism, as on his first day of ministry in Nazareth, an already-now-but-not-yet sense charges the air. He walks on toward Jerusalem. Give me words to praise him.

How will I respond, Father? This man, this heavenly, holy man comes straight toward me. He stretches out his hands, and welcomes me. Hosanna! The fear I feel inside is not right. Let me look beyond it, feel my way into your love.

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