The Slow Love Revolution
(Readings: Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20; luke 23:33-43)
If today is “Christ the King” Sunday, why is the gospel about death and crucifixion? Why is the only mention of a king from those who mocked him?
I don’t know about you, but I usually prefer to look at the world “right side up.” I’m a little averse to heights, and not super keen on being deep under ground. I like a meeting with a clear, logical agenda. I like to be able to plan: travel, my day, menus.
So when Jesus goes all upside down and inside out about what it means to be powerful, to be holy, to be of God, I, a Christian, a priest, get a little uncomfortable. Because if Jesus is the example of what it means to be full of the Spirit of God, to be faithful, and to be my model of how to be in the world, his example means there are costs for me, too.
A lot of the people who hung around with Jesus thought that he was the one to make the people of Israel great again. They thought he came to bring revolution, to make Rome pay for their mistreatment. A good bit of his speech was pretty politically provocative. He told parables that highlighted what people already knew about economic inequities, about abuses of power, about religious authority taken too far. And then he got killed. That’s not how you’re supposed to win a revolution. Not only did he get killed, he did not even resist. What kind of king lets himself be led off to death without even trying to organize an attack?
Well, this kind of king: Someone who, as he is dying a brutal, painful death, mocked by those killing him, is building community with and forgiving those around him.
The King of Love, my shepherd is. That’s what we sang just a bit ago. They were not expecting the King of Love. Most of the time, WE are not expecting the King of Love.
Or if we are, maybe it is a kind of love that has answers. Nice, clear, this is right/that is wrong kind of answers. But the tough love of Jesus is a lot deeper, a lot more complicated than that. The sacrificial love of God, often as not, calls us to vulnerability, to the hard work of forgiveness, to learning to be at peace — not just amid a world of violence, but also within communities and sometimes even within households and relationships where we are hard-pressed to envision relationships that are healed, that are life-giving.
The reign of Jesus could be called a “Slow Love” movement. Revolution is exciting. But the Slow Love Revolution has taken over 2000 years and we’re still working on it. That’s not exactly a thrilling pace. It’s a movement that is about building a community
based on compassion, mutual respect, shared suffering, and mutual rejoicing.
Being part of what Michael Curry, our presiding bishop, calls the Jesus Movement is very often not going to turn out to be what we expected. Following Jesus is not:“safe” – because sooner or later, he calls all of us to lay aside our assumptions, our privileges, and our barriers, in favor of love: untidy and unruly and all set to mess with our plans.
It is not easy. Belonging to Jesus is not like belonging to a country club. You don’t just pay your entrance fee and you’re done. It’s not like belonging to a book club—you can’t just read the book and be done with it. Or, if it is like a book club, it’s one that requires we actually apply what we learn from the book, and not just take it as a nice story. And we read it again, and again. And we’re always trying to figure out what the authors meant. While trying to apply what we learned.
It’s not terribly fashionable. Time was, here in the United States, going to church was the fashionable thing. What a blessing that we are now tragically unhip. Now we can get back to the work of actually making the gospel relevant again.
But what I keep learning as a Christian, as one who always longed to be one of the “cool kids” but never quite got there, is that following Jesus always makes us a little outside of so-called normal. And that’s a good thing. Jesus was not a normal kind of messiah. He’s the broken mold. He is love that doesn’t fit the usual boundaries. And so here’s the good news for us who want to follow his lead: Who we are is good enough. All of who we are is held in love. The broken pieces in us are forgiven; they, too, are loved.
Lately, I’ve taken to walking with my dog in the cemetery near my house. I find that it grounds me, gives me a longer view on things. So many generations of people seeking to love and be loved. Our lives may be short, but the love of Jesus is long.
And that is why doing the work of love is so important. Because we are each holders of one piece of it. We are each a piece of the reign of God. And the work of spiritual discipline and growth is to allow God to continually shape us and call us deeper and more fully into God’s heart.
Letting go of what binds us. Setting us free to see and serve the needs of others. Helping us be willing to take the slow road, the one with the bumps and the detours and the danger signs and the wild beasts. Because that is also the one with the heart- stopping views, the support and connectedness of community, and the deep sense of being who and what and where we were created to be.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints. (Collossians 1:11-12a)
The Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Albany, CA November 20, 2016