This is a homily I gave at a retreat in August 2018 to a group of educators.
Inside the minds of two friends:
Peter: “The Messiah. Yes. Sweet. I’m IN! We are going to whoop up on these oppressive Romans, install Jesus as the true Messiah – the warrior King. We’re going to mow them all down, doing whatever it takes, and we will WIN. Then, I will get to be Jesus’ VP, the right-hand man… finally, we will be out from under the boot of the Romans. We will show them how it’s done. Yes – you are the Messiah. The Son of God.”
Jesus: “Finally. *Some* body is listening to me, is understanding my message. Someone is willing to walk the hard road with me – to keep our eyes focused on people, ALL people – their needs and their realities…
Someone else is willing to renounce the power structures these misguided folks have constructed for themselves… these power structures based on legalism, domination, and wealth.
These folks who believe the Holy One is to be worshipped ONLY by mindlessly obeying a list of laws and knowing the right people – not by recognizing the deeper meaning of the law. That the end game is power, dominance – comfort, ease for the powerful and dominant.
So, he understands that I cannot remain silent. I cannot play their game, using their rules. I must go to Jerusalem. And I must tell these leaders what I know to be true. That God is for us – not against us. That God is for ALL of us.
And he understands that even if this costs us our lives, it will be worth it. Because there are more important things that simply surviving.”
But no – Peter doesn’t understand.
And – let’s face it – most of the time, neither do we. We still swim in a world where the atmosphere is saturated with extolling the pursuit of power and dominance – comfort and ease for the powerful and dominant. It’s on television, it’s on Instagram, it’s on billboards, and – sadly – it can be found in our educational system.
This is the seductive end-game for which all of us fall, every day.
Perhaps this is why it’s important – from time to time – to come away, as we do today. To ponder a God who offers a different way. The kind of God we hear about from Jeremiah – who keeps forgiving a people, keeps gathering us back up like a tender mama, tracing her image on our faces, etching our true identity upon our hearts.
This is the God who calls Jesus to Jerusalem. Because, for God, the thing of real value is not staying alive. There is something more valuable than simply surviving – appeasing those in power so they can continue to believe their own delusions – dodging the authorities and their brutal punishments – rather, God calls Jesus directly into those crosshairs to make it clear to the authorities that their power has limits.
That there is something inside Jesus – inside Peter – inside of all of us – that no one can obliterate or dominate – no one can take away. The thing of true value is the law that is etched upon our hearts – our true identity. This God invites us to look within, deep within, to uncover this truth:
That we belong to God and to the order of Creation in a unique way, no matter how often – like Peter – we doubt, how often we forget, how badly our actions do not match our beliefs…
That we are each – also like Peter – the rock – upon which Jesus can nourish a community that will embody God’s profound love for the world.