March 28, 2012
It is the gathering storm, the quiet before the explosion, because you can see the city in the distance, full of its glory, and yes, some dread. We walk the way toward what has become Holy Week, because the history, and then its symbols and story, tells our story. It tells of courage and cowardice, holy intrusions and human rejections, and the price of loving with abandon.
I often think, or feel, that it is all too much to take in or maybe accept. There is the man who is full of humanity and full of God both, there is the city, full of itself, and there we are, watching, participating, cowering.
Some would say that there is a bar tab that we can never pay, so he covered it for us. He paid off a resentful bartender with his own life. That story I can never believe, that God is the bartender, washing glasses, seething, and marking each drink down on a little pad underneath the counter. The bartender is enraged, looking forward to the day when he will have justice from these slobs. On that day he will declare, “Sorry, your tab is full, no more for you! All bills due!” And then he drags his own boy out of the stock room and kills him in front of us just to make a point, to make him feel better. “If I can’t kill you, then he has to go!” Bang. Jesus is punished for our tab in order to satisfy the wrath of his bartender dad.
No, the truth is harder than that, and more glorious. It’s not all about an economic transaction around debts and justice. Rather, one night, a man of sorrows slipped behind the bar and put on an apron. We poured out our souls to him and he listened. He told stories of another kingdom that is here but unseen. And then he said to us, without our deserving it one bit, “You know what, I’m taking care of all this just because.” And in that demonstration of supreme love, in an instant, we realize that we’re free, all is forgiven, the slate wiped clean. That’s when our shock sets in. At the same time we see two images before us: the one doing the loving and our own reflection in the mirror behind the glasses. The truth is told in that contrast. It’s all because of love, unmerited love. And it just breaks your heart. You’ll never be the same again, never.
Yes, you can see that city in the distance, the one that stones its prophets. Well, it’s not even in the distance.