What Would Jesus Cut?

The Israelites’ original concept of the Messiah was one who would restore the glory days of the Davidic dynasty. By Jesus’ day, many expected a mighty warrior king, like David, who would deliver them from Roman oppression.

Jesus eschewed the military overthrow of the Romans by his life style. His injunction to Peter, “Put away your sword,” is a clear indication that Jesus was rejecting violence. Jesus was truly nonviolent as were Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Pressed by their followers to strike back violently at their oppressors, Gandhi and King both held firm. “We will suffer their blows.” “We will not retaliate in kind.”

In the second part of Isaiah we see a shift in expectations. The messiah will be the Suffering Servant who will be bruised and striped. Wisdom (2:1a, 12-22) seems to pick up on this theme. The messiah will be the just one who calls people to task for injustice. The just man will suffer. His gentleness (nonviolence) will be put to the test. Whenever someone challenges the deeply held values of others, they are likely to suffer adverse consequences.

In the end, the just man who suffers for his witness will triumph because he trusts in God. God, according to the Psalmist, will save those who are crushed in spirit, the meek and the humble. Meekness and humility are at the core of our spirituality. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blessed are the meek.” We know that we cannot trust in our own designs and efforts. Our only trust is in God. Merton says that we are not about results. Mother Teresa says that our role is simply to be faithful. The results of our efforts are in God’s hands.

Jesus, the country preacher from the backwaters of Galilee, had been avoiding Judea because he knows that the “Jews” were out to get him (Jn 7:1-2, 25-30). In spite of the danger, Jesus went up to the feast. The inhabitants of Jerusalem doubedt that Jesus is the one who is to come. They knew he was from Nazareth in Galilee. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, the Carpenter?” Would the messiah be a carpenter from a rural backwater community?

Jesus cried out. He is frustrated. They do not understand him or his mission. The reading from Wisdom summarizes matters:

To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.

Jesus’ ways are not their ways. He has spent three years proclaiming the Kin-dom—the new world order where God’s values will take hold. In the face of mounting doubt and opposition, Jesus reasserts his claim that Abba God sent him. He did not come on his own accord. He was sent by God.

Often, we do not recognize God in our midst. Mother Teresa reminded us that we find God in the distressing disguise of the poor. Can this God of the poor be present to me? “Can I be present to this God of the poor?” I know where they come from and I feel uncomfortable around them. Their poverty and simple hope challenges me. They seem to have a relationship to God that escapes me and my grasp. They are the anawim Yahweh—the poor of God, the remnant that remains faithful in spite of poverty, illness and oppression. They live in hope. Their prayer is for deliverance from oppression and exploitation while my prayer is deliverance from the creature-comfort consumerism that shackles them. Are we recognizing God in our midst? The disguise is often very distressing.

Richard Rohr, in a similar vein, says that “God comes to us disguised as our lives.” Life for confessing Christians is not easy in our society today unless we embrace the comfort of the prosperity gospel. When we eschew “cheap grace” and embrace the Gospel of Nonviolence, we meet and greet God in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. We proclaim the Gospel of Nonviolence in a nation that thrives on violence. We proclaim justice for the vulnerable among us while TEA Party prima donnas cut benefits necessary for their very survival. (The headline on a Florida newspaper today warns of cuts to education and health care.) We believe in the sacredness of creation while these same politicians strive to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency so that profiteers can rape the land—capitalism run amok. Profit and greed propel the prosperity gospel.

I plan to challenge these injustices beginning today as I wear my new T-shirt. It should go over big in this enclave of conservatism! The front reads, “What would Jesus cut from the budget?” [BTW, I bet some Christian before the end of the day will say, “Abortion.” Not so, federal funds cannot be used for abortions.] The back reads, “I have come that you might have life and everything you need. Jesus of Nazareth.” I look forward with delight to witnessing to Gospel values knowing full well that, like Jesus, I will be rejected by some. Maybe, just maybe, I will get a few people to think about Gospel priorities in our budgets.

Jim Wallis and other religious and political leaders are fasting in order to get people to realize that budgets are moral documents:

[r]eligious leaders and anti-poverty advocates announced that they will begin fasting to protest budget cuts that they argue “balance the budget on the backs of poor people.” Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, joined former Democratic congressman Tony Hall in calling on others to join them in the fast and on Congress to restore funding for hunger programs and other anti-poverty initiatives. Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2011/03/28/religious-leaders-launch-fast-to-protest-budget-cuts/#ixzz1IvvdfFnv

You can find more information at http://hungerfast.org/

What will you do today to proclaim justice?


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