April 6, 2014
I don't know about you, but I have felt tired lately. I am not afraid to say that I could sense that it was time for a vacation, albeit, a short one. I had looked forward to mine and Kiefer's trip to Kansas City and the stacking fun that would take up the majority of Saturday and Sunday. It was an opportunity for father and son to have a fun weekend together while we didn't have to worry too much about other things.
I was looking forward to being renewed and refreshed in this brief vacation. However, as I transitioned back into my responsibilities in Allegan, the renewal did not seem to be present. I figured it was probably because of two long days of travel on Friday to Kansas City and then our return trip home Sunday night when we didn't pull into the driveway until 5am Monday morning. The driving was not too bad, especially thanks to those few things that kept me awake on the way home. First, of course the energy drinks were needed and utilized to their fullest extent. Second, the Illinois State Trooper that was kind enough to pull me over at about 1:30am helped heighten my senses. Luckily, State Trooper MK let me off with just a warning for improper lane usage, whatever that means. For my first time being pulled over I think I can handle the warning.
The thing that surprised me was that I was not the only one stupid enough to be on the road in the wee hours of the morning. The deer that ran in front of me in Indiana was kind enough to make sure I was awake, as well as the rabbit or raccoon or whatever it was that ran in front of the car in Paw Paw to make sure I was awake for the last 30 minutes before we returned home safely.
I figured that being up for nearly 24 hours straight was a good reason that I felt tired. Not too mention that I had not been able to get out and run much over the past weekend because of our travels.
Once I caught up on my sleep though and got out for some runs that tiredness still persisted. Maybe it has been the weather and the fact that the calendar says it is spring and we are still awaiting the actual warmth that comes along with it, especially after a long, cold, hard winter.
It wasn't until I got into our gospel lesson this week though that I think I actually found where my true tiredness is coming from. Not only has it been a long, cold, and hard winter, but this Lenten season has seemed to really take us to the depths of human suffering. Our readings that we have encountered over the last five weeks usually would come to us in Holy Week and they would lead us to the cross and the resurrection on Easter morning.
In the narrative lectionary that we have been utilizing this year, these Holy Week texts have been spread out for us and we have been able to walk with Jesus from the time he enters Jerusalem until today when he is condemned. In God's Word we have heard the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, Peter's denial of Jesus, a trial between Pilate and Jesus, and today the final condemnation and the point where Jesus picks up the cross. But, until we are to fully understand the cross and all of it's reality we do not fully come to know Jesus and the power he can have in our lives.
I can not say for sure what Jesus was thinking as he was on his road trip, but I know mine has been tiring and I have been eagerly anticipating the joy that comes to us Easter morning. I anticipate the disciples were feeling much the same way I am now. But to get to Easter morning we must come to the cross and dwell on it's meaning. One thing I can tell you for sure is that my tiredness pales in comparison to what Jesus has encountered on his road trip.
This morning he gets mocked as a king and condemned by his own brothers in the Jewish faith. John's Gospel is unique though in the fact that Jesus is not stripped of the purple robe or the crown that has been placed upon his head. Jesus' walk to the cross resembles that of the walk of a king set out to complete a mission. Jesus is in control from the beginning to the very end.
Truly, I do not think the chief priests really knew what they were calling for when they shouted "Crucify Him!" However, Jesus knew exactly how this road trip was going to end. The statement of Jesus being King, may have been somewhat of a joke to them, but to us we know him as our Savior, or at least we say we do.
There are many times when we are not much different from the chief priests. As they respond to Pilate, "We have no king but the emperor," we can come to the heart aching realization that this is true for us at times. What is it in our own lives that we have put before Jesus? What is it that we do that we can at times appear to condemn ourselves?
At a national level our society condemns itself when it puts the idea of national security, western independence, power, and consumerism before the well-being of others and Jesus.
On a personal level we can condemn ourselves by placing money, personal satisfaction, comfort, status, self-sufficiency, being right, being in control, food, appearance, success, fame, and influence as our kings.
On an institutional level, even within the church, we can put many of these items in the place of Jesus. More so, by placing the idea of theological certainty, denominations, and average worship attendance as our kings, we can begin to forget that it is Jesus that calls us to come together as brother and sister to share the good news.
As Lutherans we should be able to come together with an understanding that we condemn ourselves if we refuse to accept the grace given to us freely by God.
As we are on our road trip to the cross, we are reminded that we are called to die in order to live, which comes to us through the baptismal waters. Martin Luther called this reality The Theology of the Cross.
The opposite, which can be witnessed in many churches, is a Theology of Glory, which is anyway to live a religious life without "dying." It is also anyway to worship Jesus Christ without radical obedience. Luther regarded it as "the Word without the cross." Soren Kierkegaard viewed it as "admiring Christ instead of following Christ." Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw it as "cheap grace rather than costly grace."
As Lutherans we have a story to share and at many times we are reluctant or silent. We believe in the grace of God which comes to us freely without our need to do anything. This grace is a free gift from God and is nothing that anyone can take away from us.
The Theology of the Cross is meeting God where God chooses to find us -- in our sorrow, our pain, our weakness. It is hearing God's gracious Word manifest in the death of Jesus on the cross. It is following Jesus in his death and resurrection. (1) It is Jesus that strips away our tiredness and ensures us of the grace given to us by God.
May we be bold to go share this radical message of grace that is found through Jesus Christ and his undying love for us given freely in grace.
(1) Theology of the Cross vs. Theology of Glory summaries taken from Baptized We Live by Daniel Erlander