As I write on Monday morning, the news is full of written and spoken “sighs of relief” after the Alt-Right Ku Klux Klan and similar male dominated “hate” groups (male dominant is curious) who promised to march in Charlottesville, VA and Washington, DC over the weekend. Haters fizzled in number, apparently because thousands of males and females promised to show up to confront them, along with the thousands more that did not show up but “had the backs” of those who did show up! Violence or the possibility of violence is indeed a social power. I don’t have to like it, or even to prefer it, but numbers matter, whether in the peaceful presence of a private voting booth or in a public crowd that can ignite violence with a single human “match”. In the voting booth vindictive violence is delayed, whereas with a crowd, vindictive violence tends to be less delayed, resulting from just an unintended crowded surge or from an intentional frustrated shove.
Corruption of Divine fulfilling human existence NEEDS to be confronted. That seemed to be that which motivated Jesus when he confronted the Temple theologian in power when he attacked the sale of sacrificial animals used to please God, saying: God’s Temple is a place of PRAYER—a place for pondering or listening to God’s intended “way and truth to live by daily”—not a place to convince God through sacrifices to cause God to provide one’s personal WANTS and desires. That made the Temple advocate’s “way and truth to live by” “a den of thieves”!
That which Jesus was mad about wasn’t the mere deed of selling animals for sacrifice, but their ideas about God being only for their ethnic race, TRANSACTIONALLY manipulated by acceptable sacrifices! A relationship focused on placating God to serve humans, rather than a relationship between every human, the consequence of which is service of each other’s mutual NEEDS, with the consequence of meeting needs being the personal experience of oneself as a WHOLE holy person!
Jesus’ experience of confronting a corrupt form of existence is that which is similar to those who marched against the vindictive violent way of existence called “white power”. The opposition of thousands had the same motivating power of the non-vindictive violence that Jesus used at the temple. How is the violence different? It is the vindictiveness added to violence as the motivation of “getting even” with those who one deems has or could injure one. Vindictiveness tips the scale toward un-Godliness. This requires vigilant scrutiny and prayerful self questioning. Yes, the necessity of violence cannot be totally eliminated since evil exists. This is why Police Forces were originally called Peacekeepers, not vigilantes or enforcers. Well?
Acting as an adult often demands we act like a child, or so I hear Jesus telling his apostles. At one point his apostles were debating who among them was greatest. That’s actually rather childish. Yet he told them that to understand greatness, they needed to become like a child. Not childish, but a child who naturally rebels, demands and above all wants to become an adult—to do what they think is right and needed or just wanted.
Jesus was trying to get them to rebel and switch from the Temple authority and embrace his authority, which required they become like children who wanted to grow up to adulthood as Jesus taught God wanted, rather than as the Temple taught God wanted. Though physically adults, they needed the rebellious passion of childhood coupled with the other passion of childhood to grow to be adults. Remember these two passions Jesus had experienced during an episode of a family Passover visit in Jerusalem with priests. Children are passionate by questioning because they want to grow up to be adults.
So, consider embracing your inner child to become a full adult even when afraid to become an adult, when occasionally as a child you feared parents not picking you up, making you be adult. Even as now, as a congregant, you fear others leaving you by death, illness, social demographic change or by moving away, all resulting in a smaller congregation when you gather.
Yes, children are afraid, but also dream of growing up to adulthood to do as Jesus constantly tried to get his apostles to do: “to let go and let God have his wonderful way” making them grow up to use Jesus’ self-control of his Holy Attitudes of Faithfulness to Patience, Kindness, Generosity and Gentleness, to become agape loving persons in NEED, for its own internal reward. Jesus did this wherever his life took him encountering NEEDS. He was the Temple and he wanted each apostle to see themselves as the Temple, with its accompanying deep self-fulfillment. A successful congregation is not to be judged by its attendance size, but by the dedication of its congregants to serve everywhere they meet needs or see others meeting needs in order to feel awed or Holy.
To be continuously motivated to serve, one must be like a child who wants to grow up to be an adult. This means exercising adult discipline to be self-conscious of the exhilarating self-satisfaction that adults more than children feel when they compassionately meet human needs. You see, Jesus taught that greatness required becoming a child again, who wants to be adult by serving and developing a habit of self-awareness of the fulfillment of NEEDS being met. Yes, Jesus taught greatness comes by being a child who NEEDS to be an adult! “Crazy” said Temple teachers! What say we? So?
We live in a very competitive society in order to feel powerful and successful. That is not only true in sports. We are competitive with those who live elsewhere but seek asylum here from various forms of abuse. Some of us feel competitive over our land and are tempted to use contemptible names like heard yelled at competitive team sports contests. We are competitive towards persons of our opposite gender often motivating sexual violence to gain power over people society has come to consider the “pleaser” or “servant” gender. We are competitive between rich (considered winners) and poor (want-to-be rich) for that is surely the only standard of success. We are competitive about energy: persons of the fossil fuel industry that runs most things, against persons who show proof that fossil fuels are contaminating the air we breathe and will kill us all. Yes, we live in a very competitive society in order to prove who is powerful and are winners and who are not! Really, come now!
I was recently told of a generous single woman who was in the presence of a new mother trying to ‘ready a bottle’ for her wailing baby, causing distraction during a social event. Several women kindly stepped forward, appearing almost to compete to see who could calm the baby. None were “winners”! Finally the bottle was ready and the mother quieted her baby. Actually it was not a competition! All internally hopefully felt good by trying! Though only one woman quieted her baby’s need!
When will our competitive society get fed up with competition for its many crying babies, and use the correct form of power of God’s bottle that will “comfort all that mourn” and wail? Do we not realize God made us already POWERED not by competition, but by Agape (need meeting love)? The arrogance of a competitive society ultimately guarantees winners and losers, leaving people with fear and anxiety over success or failure, and mostly hurt, and then mad at assumed adversaries, and then at themselves! But agape’s fruit is joy and peace!
Much Christian theology unwittingly promotes our competitive society. It encourages a competitive relationship with God! How arrogant of us! It says Jesus was God’s sacrificial lamb as our punished substitute to satisfy God’s injured justice and anger at us, earning our forgiveness. But that is not the only Christian theology. Another is that God is Agape-type love; absent a competitive nature. It assumes that God is infinite love and motivates humans to experience God by serving one another compassionately, even to be empowered and gratified by such service, rather than empowered by the anger of competition. This says Jesus died to reveal infinite love and not Divine anger of competition. Thus after crucifixion, God is silent rather than vindictive! Vindictiveness leaves life short! Agape completes life!
As I write my mind returns to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, referred to as “the written testimony about God” in last Sunday’s liturgy. Among other lessons from this testimony, we learned how quickly we, like the Apostles, can find ourselves forgetting to note to ourselves the instant gift of inner enhanced exhilaration from the compassion of hosts. Hosts create the inner satisfaction of having our needs met. How quickly we can thank them, but fail to report to hosts that the compassion they show is the presence of the Lord of all hosts who acts with such compassion toward their guests. And in so failing to report this awareness, we miss the awesome, holy, and exhilarating feeling of the very presence of Almighty God that rewards us with the indescribable good feeling of wholly fulfillment as God’s complete human being! To a large extent, Mark 6 shows the Apostles were forgetting this awesome experience because they were focusing on Jesus’ “magic” of feeding 5,000 people and walking on water.
This makes me ask, was it Jesus’ deeds or the motivation behind the deeds that provided their rewards and ours? Is it the tangible deed or the intangible compassion that is what lasts; the material thing or the spiritual power behind the material thing? Is it the lingering memory from a gift or the gift itself that lasts?
Motivation makes me think of the recent Bethlehem Lutheran Church
(https://www.blclife.org/) being vandalized in Fairfax. The vandalism is but the result of vindictive motivation. Isn’t that the problem, and a spiritual problem at that?! Our ACCA organization is calling on us to be motivated to donate blankets to temporarily cover slashed pew cushions to demonstrate compassion and to relieve some parishioners afraid to return to the site of vindictiveness.
Let us be motivated by our Holy Spirit, under the Self-Controlled attitudes of our patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness and faithfulness to respond to those whose Self-Control was surely under impatience, unkindness, greediness, gruffness and faithlessness. This will not change the current consequence of their gruffness, but I guarantee it will protect and even enhance our own motivation of Divine Self-Formation.
Let us be generous and compassionate to the needs of the perpetrators and church victims. God is patient and never gives up on any of us. So, let us remember life has a way of altering persons who are vindictive making them question themselves. Maybe not in our lifetime, but eventually! So let us then start by confronting our belligerence with compassion toward the vandals, for the Divine blessing of our own Self-Fulfillment, as well as for the sake of that which life and God is trying to do for vandals. Let us be motivated to blanket the vandalized with compassion.