What strikes me is this climate of fear and anger we live in. Angry words sell advertising. Simplistic and violent views make for popular blog posts. People think a Facebook rant is meaningful in any way, or a meme will make a difference.
We do have many fearful things in our world. Ebola. ISIS. Economical distress. Genocide. Rape. Schisms and 'isms' of all kinds. But we personalize these things. We pick a person, or groups of persons, as reservoirs for our fears, and become activists against those persons. We attempt to control our fear by making ourselves feel powerful.
Jesus lived in a time of great chaos too -- in a land under the thumb of far away governments, locally controlled by tyrants. The people around him held lengthy, intense debates -- quiveling over details, and even violently disagreeing with each other. They seized as desperately at control as any Twitter pundit, or talk radio personality. Here in Matthew, they try to trip Jesus up, as a threat to their rhythms and patterns. Keep in mind, these same religious people will engage in Jesus' murder in a week (an indictment of our own propensity to elevate the importance of religion over people).
Jesus, even while experiencing human fear about his approaching death, won't engage in the religious power plays. In quiet, simple terms, he brings back all the law, all the prophets, all of existence to this: love God, love others.
In that spirit, and mindful of this angry, destructive climate, I wrote this prayer:
We confess that in our fear for survival we choose positions, words, and behaviors of power, anger, violence, self-righteous judgment, and war -- creating discord and disunity and debate, and distancing ourselves from our fellow creatures.
We acknowledge and aspire to the example of Jesus, who even in the midst of great fear, here at the beginning of Holy Week, chose to live, and ultimately die, in a deep-rooted -- a radical -- love. A love of self-giving, of self-sacrifice. A love that welcomed all -- ALL -- to know and love God and each other, even as it tore down false religion. A love that sows words and behaviors of peace and connectedness between creatures.
As we contemplate what it means to love you with body, spirit, and mind, and to both be a neighbor and love our neighbors, give us the courage to do it as Jesus did. May this radical love set us apart in the world. May we live it in this space, and may we carry it out and bring restoration to all your creation.
We love you. Amen.
Note: I believe how we talk and think about God are very important. And, lovingly engaging each other in dialogue about where we see things similarly, differently, and incorrectly is critical. The tricky thing is avoiding the tendency to begin to vilify persons and lose communion. Theological discussion that doesn't revolve around the greatest commandment -- as foundation, as action, as binding thread -- can be a violent thing, indeed. May we love lavishly, lose a few rounds, and ultimately truly experience being knit together.