One of the things I enjoy about having a Sunday off is the opportunity to worship in different places. This past week we ventured into a Lutheran Church, and it was, overall, a really good experience. As we progressed through the liturgy, I was reminded of the many ways I do things differently than most people. For example, the Gospel reading said that the disciples were afraid of “the Jews”, something I have removed because, historically, this probably isn’t accurate. It is also a dog whistle for anti-Semitism, something the Church has promoted over the centuries and needs to atone for. The part that really got me is the point in the communion service where the congregation replies, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” I’m with Meatloaf here; two out of three ain’t bad. I’m fine with the first two but have rejected the third part for years.
It seems innocuous, doesn’t it? We say it every time we celebrate the Sacrament and have done so for centuries. Some years ago, I began to question this concept, whether Jesus would indeed return to earth and Armageddon would take place. I had to question which version of heaven I would buy into; the one with Jesus telling the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” or the version where Jesus would meet His followers on the battlefield and mass destruction and death would ensue. I chose the first; many Christians choose the second. I would suggest that believing the second scenario feeds into a violence-laden vision of Jesus that has, in turn, helped to create the mess we are living in today.
Believing in the warrior Jesus allows us to accept the destruction of the earth. It allows us to make violence noble, even holy. It permits us to focus on Us versus Them, rather than seek to find community and understanding. It tells us that only those who say the words “Jesus is Lord” are acceptable to God. I reject all of this because they are concepts created in our image and from our self-centeredness. We don’t know who God will accept into the next place; Jesus made sure that we have nothing to do with anyone else’s salvation but our own. In fact, in His own lifetime, it was the busybodies, the judgmental, and the dividers who Jesus condemned; the rest of us poor slobs He had mercy on.
Will Christ come again? I have no idea, and neither do you or anyone else. How about this; instead of wasting so much time and energy on this, why don’t we focus on pouring that energy into doing what Jesus actually told us to do? How about loving each other, feeding the poor, housing the homeless, caring for widows and orphans? Why waste time on things we have no control over. We all have daily opportunities to show that Christ has come again in our hearts. Let’s not blow it.
Prayer – Come into our hearts, God, and show us where You need us. Amen.
Today’s art is “Jesus Returns” – no artist listed.