kindred

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Jesus for President

This week’s sacred story comes from Luke 19:28-40, where Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time. He is greeted with a kind of royal fanfare, but with whatever the people have on hand - a donkey and worn coats as opposed to a chariot and red carpet.

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What a rollercoaster! What a whirlwind within a week! It feels like we’re sitting in the eye of a hurricane -the outer bands of the storm have already thrashed us about, and we know there’s more to come - perhaps even the “dirty” side of the storm. But before that, and before we reach blue skies on the other side, there’s a pause.

In the eye of the hurricane there is quiet. For just a moment. A yellow sky.

In this suspended moment, we might notice that what’s happening is bigger than us, bigger than the church, bigger than what we can fathom or understand.
In this moment, we might also be drawn deeply into our skin, into the tangible, the world immediately at hand - and we might recognize familiar faces between God’s story and our own - how we are both impacted by friends, politicians, and society or crowds.
In this moment, as we look around, we might become keenly aware that we’re in this together, connected.

We’ve been calling this season a journey which we know is metaphorical and yet it also has been experiential, with real grit and gristle.

Sometimes I wonder why we tell this story, year after year. It’s not like we don’t know the ending For me, it’s beautiful and hopeful to hear that God is with us in the form of a newborn baby on a still and starlit night in December...but what I really need to know is if God is still with me in the hustle and the heartbreak and the hurt. This is the week where the rubber meets the road to Jerusalem, where we see God in the mix of triumph, tragedy, and politics.

The word “politics” comes from the word “polis” which is Latin for “cities” and so politics is anything having to do with civil affairs, basically how we organize our public life together. It’s a necessary and part of society.

And sometimes I would really like Jesus to stay tucked away in a convenient compartment of life, someone I can visit on the weekends or in my proverbial free time but God is apparently hell-bent on not just redeeming some small portion of my being but all of it and not just mine, but the whole world, the whole of society which...inherently includes politics - how we live together.

God with us in the world - through, with, and under all things inherently makes a political (although not necessarily partisan) claim. When Caesar Augustus was born it was announced to the people as good news, evangelion, the same word we translate as “gospel.” These words were etched in the stone, erected as monuments. So when we say that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the Gospel, it’s not only religious but treasonous.

“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him,”

“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him,”

When the crowds throw a royal parade and cry out to call Jesus king of kings, it means Herod is not the ultimate king. When it is written that Jesus is Llord, the implication is that Caesar is not. When we say Jesus is the leader of the free world, it means the president of the United States is not.
Philippians 3:20 tells us that we are Citizens of heaven. That doesn’t mean where we live doesn’t matter but it does mean our allegiance is first to God and not a country or a flag. This week reminds us that Jesus is ultimately executed by the state not for blasphemy but for treason.

So while politics and world affairs often feels like the last place we would experience God’s presence, it is also where that good news seems particularly powerful - in the intersection of self and society, local and global.

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The gospel, god with us in body, in place and time, god who is and creates life, death, and resurrection makes a claim about our whole selves, and our whole world. It is both political and so much bigger than politics and partisanship. It shows us that God has something to say about how we govern ourselves and the systems that organize our public life together. It has something to say to each of us.

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