Yesterday my wife forwarded an email that seems to have gone to our whole church. The numerous recipients were invited to go to the following web site: http://www.andiesisle.com/didsheknow.html There they would find a long verse accompanied by a song. This very traditional piety left something to be wanting as I read it and listened to the song. Part of the verse read:
Part of the Good News—the Kin-dom proclamation of Jesus—was missing. The bold text in the following NT passages show what was missing:
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
Why were these pivotal concepts left out? Glen Beck would have omitted them because they speak to the social gospel. The fact remains that Jesus came primarily to bring good news to the poor. Most of his followers were poor disenfranchised tenant farmers who had lost their land to entrepreneurs. All of his followers were under the yoke of Roman oppression. Jesus was not the “sweet little Jesus boy.” He was a person sent by God to challenge oppression and the exploitation of the poor. He stood with the poor and disenfranchised on the fringes. As Fr. Greg Boyle says so well, “Jesus was not a ‘man for others.’ He was a man with others.” Jesus stood with people on the fringes of society and promised them hope—the Kin-dom, a new world order. This is the fulfillment of the Old Testament predilection for the poor, the widows, and the orphans.
What else was left out of this saccharine poem? Jesus came to release captives and to let the oppressed go free. He also came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor—the Jubilee Year where all land would revert to its proper owner. Sounds like redistribution of wealth. Jesus envisioned the redistribution going down to the people who needed it. Taxation in our time sends wealth up to those who already have more than enough.
I write because this poem like many other pious writings falls seriously short of understanding what Jesus was about. He did not come down from heaven because heaven is not up there and out there. The Kin-dom is within—within creation as God unfolds and in the fullness of time manifests in the person of Jesus the Christ.
Fortunately the very next email I received was “Christpower” from Bishop Spong. http://secure.agoramedia.com/spong/week432story1_prev.asp I encourage you to read a poem about Jesus the Christ that is based on today’s cosmology. Creation is the first and primary revelation of God. Jesus emerges as the fullness of that divine disclosure. He did not come to save us. What Father would ask his Son to die to atone for our sins? Anselm got it wrong and we have believed this faulty theology ever since. Jesus came to teach us how to live and how to live biblical justice. Jesus came to teach us how to live life in this world and grow in oneness with Abba God. Any other picture of Jesus is incomplete and distorts the Good News.
The incarnation is about God fully immersed in our history and our lives. Incarnation is about preaching good news to the poor, setting captives free, and liberating the oppressed as well as giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and mobility to cripples. Incarnation is about the Jubilee Year—giving every human being access to the resources the Creator wishes all to have. Jesus came so that every person would have life and have everything he/she needs. (Jn 10:10)
The verse asks, “Did she know?” What did Mary know? She knew her heart would be pierced. She knew Jesus was challenging the authorities. After all she was his first teacher. He would pull down the mighty and lift up the lowly. This is what Mary really knew. She knew he would usher in the Kin-dom—God’s reign of justice among all God’s people.