Last Sunday after Pentecost
November 22, 2015
2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-13; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
Pilate, the governor, had a dilemma. Was this Jesus who the civic and religious leaders wanted killed someone to be taken seriously? Was he a threat? Could he be manipulated into some benefit for someone stuck in middle management in a huge empire?
This last year most of the Gospel readings for Sundays have been from the Gospel according to Mark. The Confirmation Class which began this fall has been reading Mark as well, although they did it in a month. Last Sunday I asked them what particularly caught their attention, or what they had questions about.
One young person wanted to know about the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fish – did that really happen? We talked about the possibility that the God who created the whole world could also keep that food going for as long as it was needed. We also had a discussion about the possibility that once one person decided to share their lunch, everyone else became more generous and there was ‘suddenly’ more than enough for all. We decided that either way, it was a miracle!
A young man wanted to talk about the herd of pigs that ran over the cliff. (Of course he did; we guys like things like that.) And having started there he quickly went back to the man in whom the ‘evil spirits’ (that drove the pigs over the cliff) had originally lived. This 13-year-old wondered if maybe this was a story about someone with a mental illness and how did Jesus know… And then, we had a discussion about mental health and being honest with each other.
Another participant said, “We say lots of these things in church all the time! (like love God and love your neighbour as yourself)”. And someone else said, “We say the things that Jesus said when he had supper with his friends every Sunday.” They were making connections between the stories of Jesus and the things we say together every Sunday – and it was good.
Near the end of our discussion someone said, “I like the story about the poor widow who gave just a little bit, but it was all she had – and that was more important to Jesus than when the rich people give lots, but it wasn’t very much to them.”
So, if I was part of the crowd at Jesus trial before Pilate, I would have said – of course you should take him seriously! My confirmation class sees these important things about this man, why can’t you!
And if Pilate was presented with the followers of Jesus today, and needed to figure out if we were to be taken seriously in this world, I wonder what the answer would be. Would my confirmation class be able to draw connections between what they read in the Gospel of Mark and what happens here at St James or in other faith communities?
- Do we model generosity and make possible miracles that make sustainable life happen for people who are vulnerable in our communities?
- Do we touch people where they hurt, whether or not we know the name of the hurt?
- Do we so connect with the ideals of loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves that they become an integral part of our language and action whenever we are together?
- Do we cherish this pilgrimage for ourselves and others, and the possible impact it will have on our world now and for generations to come in such a way that we support it with serious intention, not a casual toss of a few coins?
Over the years we have endeavoured to be a parish that bears the marks the ministry of Jesus, and engages with our communities in ways that seem appropriate to the context. Some things remain constant; some things change as the times change. Always we strive to be a beacon of hope and life.
When the Pilates of this world ask if the work of Jesus through is still worth paying attention to, may they know – like my confirmation class – that the answer is yes!