Mark 12:13-17, 28-34
These are notes from a sermon preached on July 10, 2016 at the Condon (Oregon) United Church of Christ.
God’s role in the world
If I cry “Violence!” I’m not answered; I shout—but there is no justice. Job 19:7 CEB
Doesn’t it feel like our prayers we prayed last week have fallen on deaf ears?
Job‘s theology breaks with Deutero thinking. Yet both Job’s and Deutero theology misunderstand the nature of God.
The book of Job in particular reflects a callous image of God as a way of explaining bad things.
God is persuasive not coercive.
Jesus reveals this in his life. He forces no one to follow.
Free will means we collectively choose to live like this.
God is as horrified at some of our choices as we are.
**The Good News is that God does not give up on us.
The nature of human power
Human power is about self, about control, about fear, and about looking the wrong place to fill the emptiness in our souls.
Humans crave something but don’t know how to quench it.
God’s power is motivated by love and desire for the common good. God seeks to convince us to act out of love.
In our Jesus story about taxation we learn about human power. Power focuses on the wrong place.
[Go thru each and show in story.]
**The Good News is that Jesus points us away from human power.
Violence seems to take on an inevitability in human society.
“I woke up this morning looking for someone to blame. Someone to hate. Someone who I could make the single target of my fear about the officers killed in Dallas and what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was such a desperate feeling to want to discharge the uncertainty and scarcity.” Brene Brown
We saw this need for blame in the tweet from former congressman Joe Walsh blaming the President.
We saw this need for a target from the shooter who set out to kill white police officers following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
We see this in ourselves when we dismiss the complexity of race in America and blame the victims who are killed.
We crave certainty and control.
As whites we work hard at avoiding the feelings associated with our complicity in racist systems.
Job reveals that the nature of human existence is grief-filled, violent, and full of conflict — especially when we lose sight of who we are.
Jesus‘ detractors were looking for excuses to arrest him. His teachings of love rather than human power were a threat to the status quo.
Ultimately, they will resort to violence.
But God dreams another way. God continues to lure us toward becoming our better selves.
In the words of MLK, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
**The Good News is God dreams love for us. God lures us away from power & control toward relationship.
Our salvation lies in relationships.
In this story in Mark, Jesus diminishes earthly powers. They will not ultimately solve anything.
Jesus points us not toward money & Caesar but toward the salvation that comes in relationship with others.
Our salvation as a human family lies in relationships with each other not in power or violence or maintaining white supremacy or the literal or metaphorical walls we put up.
Jesus underscores this a few verses later. Asked about the Greatest Commandment he says, [wait for it]
Our neighbors are:
When in healthy relationships we:
—give of ourselves
—love wholly, want for others
—assume an attitude of humility
In regard to the events of this week, it means…
We believe the lived experiences of our neighbors. Just because we don’t live it does not mean they don’t.
Our black neighbors are subjected to a pattern of racism in police encounters. Statistical and anecdotal evidence supports this.
We can choose to maintain our white, “we know best” arrogance about other’s lives or we can listen with the humility of neighbors who strive to love as Jesus teaches us.
So the core question becomes do we believe our neighbors or not?
Do we love our neighbors enough to endure the pain of learning and confessing our white history of subjugation and arrogance?
Do we walk humbly with our neighbors in the present?
Do we love our neighbors enough to believe their lived stories?
If we choose not to engage in relationships doing this hard, messy work, [pause] we can expect more weeks like this week.
Solutions imposed and exerted in Caesar’s image will always fail.
Solutions arrived at using non-coercive strategies through relationship with our neighbors offer us hope.
In humble relationships built on trusting and believing and listening to one another, therein lies our salvation.
In our small white community this means choosing to read our history and choosing to change our old ways of understanding.
We must avoid blaming. We must call out our neighbors who lump all blacks together.
We have to give up the blacks vs cops narrative. It is false. It is nonproductive and simplistic.
We are wise if we rely on multiple sources of information. Our media have a perspective of their own that is generally of the status quo.
The prophet Micah reminds us what God requires of us: to walk humbly, do justice, & love faithfully.
Jesus shows us that it is accomplished in humility. When Jesus crossed cultural boundaries, he did so not as a colonizer but assuming the lesser position.
We must humbly cross some boundaries if we want a better world.
**The Good News is we are created by God. We are created to learn, grow, and change until the very last breath we take.
Hear the words of Brene Brown again,
“I woke up this morning looking for someone to blame. Someone to hate. Someone who I could make the single target of my fear about the officers killed in Dallas and what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was such a desperate feeling to want to discharge the uncertainty and scarcity. Then it dawned on me that this is the exact drive that fueled what’s happening right now.
Instead of feeling hurt we act out our hurt. Rather than acknowledging our pain, we inflict it on others. Neither hate nor blame will lead to the justice and peace that we all want – it will only move us further apart. But we can’t forget that hate and blame are seductive. Anger is easier than grief. Blame is easier than real accountability. When we choose instant relief in the form of rage, we’re in many ways choosing permanent grief for the world.”