31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work…
The Pharisees are the ones that warn him, and Jesus sends word through them back to Herod that shows an attractive side of Jesus we don’t see much, that is, the “I don’t have time for your bs” Jesus. If Jesus had had this encounter today, it might sound something like this:
Look, you all can go tell that fox Herod, that I’ve got news for him! I am busy. Busy casting out demons, busy healing people … today AND tomorrow, and then on Tuesday, I’ll be wrapping things up. At the same time, today through Tuesday I’ll need to travel to Jerusalem. That’s the plan. Because, of course you know, that’s where all the best killings happen. Ah, Jerusalem, you’re so busy killing the prophets and stoning pretty much every person of integrity, all positive influences and optimists and messengers of hope. I wish I could have just gathered you all up, all of you Jerusalemites, I might have saved you from yourselves, but you wanted nothing to do with things like “cooperation” and “compassion” and the “greater good.” Alright. I’ll be leaving. I know your home is here. But I’ll tell you what, the next time I see you will be when you are saying, passionately even, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”Paraphrase mine
It occurred to me, that it would’ve been hard to hang with Jesus through the rest of his life, knowing that he wasn’t going to play it safe, and that the pain he would endure for the love of all people would surely be experienced by many of his followers as well.
Friday night we began to hear the reports of the white supremacist terrorist who killed 50 people at two mosques in the idyllic community, whose name is not lost on us, of Christchurch, New Zealand. It is a story that strikes us all with horrible grief, for it is all too familiar. I’d like to read you an excerpt from an article written by Daniel Burke, the CNN Religion Editor, entitled:
Why religious sanctuaries have become sites of unholy violence
Analysis by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
Updated 1:39 AM ET, Sat March 16, 2019
(CNN) A Sikh temple in Wisconsin. An Islamic center in Quebec. Mother Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina. The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
On Friday, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, were added to the sad litany of sanctuaries desecrated by unholy violence.
In each case, the houses of worships were attacked by white supremacists, according to law enforcement officials.
In each case, a religious community has been left grieving, pondering its future and feeling unsettled in sites that were supposed to be sanctuaries
Hate crimes in the United States alone rose 17% in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, according to the FBI. That includes not only attacks on religious individuals but also on their holy sites. In 2017, nine mosques reportedly were attacked each month on average.
It seems almost sacrilegious to call houses of worship “soft targets.” They are designed to be open and welcoming to strangers, congregations of common people, unarmed and unafraid before each other and before their God.
For many religions, that’s not just a policy; it’s an article of faith. That’s why the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh kept its doors open despite fearing the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States and throughout the world.
He goes on to say…there is something uniquely disturbing about violence in sanctuaries, and it relates to the dual meaning of that word. Because sanctuaries — temples and mosques and churches — are not just consecrated buildings. They are sacred in another sense as well.
Temples and mosques and churches are sites of refuge from the world, places where the soul can seek safety, havens free from hatred. When believers bow their heads in prayer, they make themselves, intentionally, vulnerable. Their thoughts are tuned to the eternal, not clear and present dangers.
If, after these relentless attacks, houses of worship become surrounded by barbed wire and policed by armed guards, that sense of sanctuary will have been lost, and may never be regained.
But perhaps the greater fear is that terrorists and white supremacists know this about sanctuaries, too. That’s why they attack them.
I think Burke named it clearly…it being the unspoken threat that lurks behind the gathering of people to worship especially when they represent a diversity of spiritual beliefs and practices, and are inclusive of all people…that is something a hateful minority is unwilling to either understand or accept.
I have often thought in the last 3 years, it sure is a tough time to be trying to build a church…or a synagogue…or a mosque…or a temple. And yet, this is precisely what Jesus is speaking to in today’s Gospel. Do you realize how easy it would have been for his disciples, when they fully began to understand where Jesus plan was headed, to just walk away? Super Easy. They could’ve done it even being vague…Sorry, Jesus, this is just not gonna work for us. We think that your plan to defy Herod, and continue to Jerusalem for God’s sake is, well, not a strong plan. Peace out.
But they didn’t. And why? Because they had been so transformed, they believed that even to risk crucifixion, the way of life that Jesus taught, modeled, and called them to live was worth it. Violence and corruption and domination by those in power ruled the day, and what Jesus was offering was so radical, the disciples soon came to believe that while it was certainly risky, it was also their only option. Their best hope.
And so it is with us today. We may have moments when we think about avoiding places where diverse crowds of people gather to learn, celebrate, or worship. We might notice an increasing tendency to draw ourselves inward; a desire to stay closer to home. But unless our health or the health of our loved ones calls us to that particular rite of abiding by the hearth more often…this is simply not who we are.
There are two types of courage. The first type is the bravery that inspire salutes and gofundme’s and grateful tears. It is a brave that aggressively confronts evil in the moment. James Shaw, Jr. exhibited that kind of bravery last April when he disarmed a shooter in a Waffle House in Nashville. Abdul Aziz displayed this kind of bravery in the Christchurch shootings, by baiting the shooter to chase him, and throwing whatever he could find including a credit card machine and the shooter’s empty gun at the shooter in an effort to distract him from those he sought to kill.
But there is another kind of courage that people of faith demonstrate every single day and that is first deciding, and then affirming that we will not be dissuaded from welcoming the stranger, including the outcast, and gathering to worship our Lord. We know that staying connected to the Holy Spirit is risky and it is our only option. It is the God-given, faithful plan. It is our best hope. And to act on it may be a less dramatic form of bravery, but it demonstrates courage nonetheless.
And so today I call on all of us to name these truths:
We must acknowledge and confront white supremacy wherever we see it, subtly or otherwise
We must also acknowledge that it is risky and that certain precautions, such as having a security team in our churches, are wise and do not discredit our faithfulness.
We must also acknowledge that continuing to gather with God’s beloved people, to hear God’s word, to pray for a world in which all people are valued, protected, and welcomed…a world in which the reign of God breaks in and spreads, muting and erasing the barrage of news reports that continue to warn us of our modern-day Herods, whose desire for power and uniformity are neither original nor divinely-sanctioned by any religion, no matter how God is named.
But rather than give in to the fear, and to defy fearmongering, which has always been part of evil’s strategy, we together, by our very presence here week after week, are agreeing to echo Jesus in our response to this threat by saying: You know… we are a little busy here. We are busy helping to cast out demons. We are busy healing one another by God’s grace. In fact, we won’t be free until…Tuesday. And then it looks like, oh, look, we have more work to do, possibly in Jerusalem, or Venezuela, or Orlando, or Parkland, or Las Vegas, or Charlottesville, or London, or New Zealand.
Jesus is in our midst in ways we can’t fully understand, but have learned to trust, and that is why we are a people who will continue to practice our holy rites, week after week, month after month, year after year after year, saying once again, with one voice:
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.