“Yesterday was a very busy month” - Someone on Twitter
For those who are politically or socially engaged, the last few years have been exhausting. And there are particular days that feel like they take weeks or years of our lives. With yesterday’s announcement of the beginning of impeachment inquiries, the next few months are likely to feel like a very long decade. And the ranges of responses to yesterdays news bear that out - from jubilation to speculation to wariness to weariness to frustration to anger. We are extremely divided. And those divisions are creating deeper fissures among people who usually can, should and do work together and support each other. If you’ve noticed organizations, advocates, and leaders who used to work together suddenly attacking each other, you know this is true.
But there is another emotion that seems to be bubbling up, and on which there is universal agreement. Inevitability.
No matter where one is on the political spectrum this moment has seemed inevitable. The President was always going to be impeached. If you were a democrat, it was only a matter of time before he did something so egregious there was no other option. If you were a Trump supporting republican the democrats have just been waiting for this since day one. If you are a centrist, a middle of the road liberal or a ‘never-Trump’ Republican; this was the only outcome with a President who eschewed any notions of tradition or standards and an establishment that thrived on them. We all knew this was coming.
And here we are. Divided. Conflicted. Apart. Exactly where we thought we would be.
This is exactly the kind of moment that Jesus enters into; the kind of moment where Jesus thrives.
Somewhere around 30 AD, Jesus walked into a divided and conflicted Palestine. A Roman territory with political ‘leadership’ that didn’t want to be there, religious leaders trying to hold on to legitimacy, and rising inequality and discontent. The division, discord and disunion was getting worse and worse. conflict seemed inevitable.
But encounters with the divine have a funny way of changing us. And Jesus was able to bring together tax collectors and fishermen, Saints and sinners, prophets and rich men, Pharisees and Sadducees and sex workers and highway robbers... who all came together and saw themselves not as a divided society but as a unified body of Christ. The 12 and the 70 and the hundreds sent out into the world to preach and teach, to cast out demons, to bring hope to the hopeless and to give voice to the voiceless.
Of course there were those who didn’t like this. Loud, angry voices who trafficked in division. Who celebrated discord. Who thrived on disunion. These powers and principalities, these voices of the dark kept sowing hate and distrust. And they did it until it got Jesus killed.
The consequences of course were drastic. Shortly after the region was engulfed in war. And by the year 70 the temple was destroyed, the Jewish people were forced into exile, and it would be a few hundred years before remnant Jewish and Christian communities could come back together to rebuild their own identities and to begin again building a Kingdom of God here on Earth.
I write this morning to remind us all that those powers are still alive and well. Those principalities that seek to keep us alone and scared and divided are still active and powerful.
Don’t let them kill Jesus again.
Don’t let them kill your spirit.
Here in Baltimore City we have diverse coalitions working to make our city better. Here in Maryland we have diverse people across the political spectrum committed to adequately funding education and repairing and restoring our environment, and we are privileged to have two leaders in that effort - David Hornbeck and Dick Williams, here at Memorial. And we can also dream of similar coalitions across our country — of black and white, rich and poor, democrat and republican and other, of hispanic and Asian, of immigrant and citizen, of First Nations and everyone else, looking past that which divides us to restore dignity, respect and above all hope to the office of President and to our national politics in general.
“So what can I do?” You might ask?
First, don’t assume everyone is against you. That Trump voting gun hugging cousin of yours may also be tired on the never-ending conflict and discord and wishes there was a better way forward.
Second, don’t demand repentance. The people you might be most frustrated with are not likely to ever say ‘hey I’m sorry I said that terrible thing about your favorite candidate’ - but they are liable to seek out relationship with you, and maybe reconciliation is better than repentance anyway? After all don’t we as Christians believe we are all unworthy of forgiveness? And yet God forgives us anyway.
Finally, put the news down. Call your friends. Have a coffee. A drink. Talk about the weather. The Pastor’s terrible sermon. The Ravens. Strengthen those intimate connections so that you too don’t become divided. Widen your circle and make new friends. And let your friends know that your love and care is not dependent on adherence to any particular ideology.
To get through this moment, to get through most moments, we need Jesus coalitions. Tax collectors and sinners. Pharisees and Zealots. Slave and Free. Jew and Gentile. Black and White. You and Me.
Let’s be the Jesus Movement.