Jesus was executed by empire and that is the fate for anyone who speaks out against empire’s abuses. But that is why we are here. The church is no social club for the suburban well-to-do. This is the place to face truth and to do something about it. We do so in the tranquility, in the trusting peace that empire’s worst is not the last word.
I am not going to go into all of the business of Roman imperial theology this morning. It is after all getting close to Christmas. Family is here and everyone is dressed nicely. The children presented such a lovely gift to us.
But I do want to leave you with a provocative thought.
You have to have guts to hope. You have to be willing to take chances, to define what it is that drives you, to stake a claim, and know that you will get your butt kicked more often than you care to. But knowing that helps you know also, that a butt-kickin’ isn’t the end of you. It’s just a lesson. Sometimes, you can get a butt kickin’ in as well.
The Sermon on the Mount was Ghandi’s “go to” text for the Jesus way of non-violent resistance. These three chapters (5, 6, and 7) of Matthew’s Gospel crystallize the most valued ethical teachings that have been attributed of Jesus.
Jesus says in his society there is a new way for [people] to live:
You show wisdom, by trusting people;
You handle leadership, by serving;
You handle offenders, by forgiving;
You handle money, by sharing;
You handle enemies, by loving;
And you handle violence, by suffering.
You are no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or freeborn, no longer “male and female.” Instead, you all have the same status in the service of God’s Anointed, Jesus.
While my deconversion has been very difficult for him, he’s been incredibly understanding and our relationship is still strong and mutually supportive. In fact, we’re working on a book and documentary film together right now, which capture our ongoing conversation about faith, values, and the wisdom of loving people even when you seriously disagree with them.
The Chinese Bamboo seed when planted will not break ground for four years. You can water it, and you don’t see any result, year after year. Then in the fifth year, the bamboo grows up to 90 feet within a few weeks.
We can learn some things from the Chinese bamboo tree. Things are happening now that we do not know and cannot see. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Thomas: “The kingdom of God is spread over the Earth but people do not see it.” Then, unexpectedly, surprisingly, like the bamboo, we may be fortunate to see what emerges.
It isn’t so simple as Christ versus Culture as some of my fellow Christians frame it. Sometimes culture is a better option than Christian doctrine. One might say, that sometimes Christ is culture over against Christian doctrine.
“Dare to be a Daniel.
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm.
Dare to make it known.”