Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why Judas and Pilate matter

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

So we have once again come full circle in the great story of Christ, and if you are anything like me you are left asking the question, "Why does it matter?"  We tell the same story year after year, but have we really absorbed it?  Have we really internalized it?  Is it actually something by which we can steer our lives?  I think it is, but not necessarily in the way we are used to thinking of it.

Let's back up a bit.  I have a confession to make: sometimes I find Jesus hard to relate to.

The reason is that he is reported to have performed miracles, healed people, kept his cool in the most trying of situations, forgave those who betrayed his, and rose from the dead.

I have never done any of those things.  So Jesus is therefore hard for me to relate to at times.

Do you want to know who I can relate to?  Judas, Pilate, Peter, the other disciples, the Pharisees...basically all the people who put Jesus on the Cross in the first place, or at the very least did nothing to prevent him from getting there.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not endorsing an inflated sense of Catholic guilt.  I do not think I am a bad guy, nor do I think the vast majority of people are essentially evil.  Far from it, I do believe that most people are fundamentally good.

But the fact of the matter is that I can relate more to the failures of the disciples and the other "characters" around the Crucifixion than I can to Jesus' unflappability.

That's why I thought it was important to give these people voices throughout my Holy Week sermons.  We are used to them being background boogeymen, and all the emphasis gets placed on Jesus' resurrection.

I wanted them to not be in the background this year, because they were/are important actors in the story.  Their actions (or lack thereof) were instrumental in bringing about a catastrophe of human right, mercy and justice.

The reason is that you and I are also actors in this story, 2000-some years later.

Are we aware of this?  Do we take this seriously?  That you and I are part of this great drama is, I think, one of the most fundamental thing any human being must grasp.  We do not exist in vacuums.

I think most of us go to church and treat it like a spectator sport: "The organist hit a few sour notes", "The church was drafty", "The sermon was boring", "The coffee was weak", rather than treating it as something in which we are actively involved, and our actions or lack of actions can and will have a profound effect not only on our faith experience, but also on the future of our church communities and Christianity as a whole.

Easter always feels like a new year for many Christians, and after this Easter I invite you to take seriously your role in the great story.  Take seriously the fact that you play an important character in your family, your church and your community.

And act out that role to the best of your ability.

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