Listen To Article
by Thom Fiet
The passage for this fifth Sunday has Jesus announcing to his disciples that they will soon be leaderless. It’s every man for himself, or soon will be. The whole mission is going to be scrubbed and the little band of brothers and sisters will be swept from the field, like lint in the corner of my kitchen.
To add insult to injury, the gang cannot go where the Master is going. Apparently he has a membership to the Millbrook Golf and Tennis Club. Well, not that exclusive. Rather, Jesus will be ascending to heaven, which also has a few nice amenities.
At any rate, it is time for Sneezy, Dopey, Doc and the rest to learn to swim on their own. And they get their orders from the Boss. Strange orders. Nothing to do about power. Nothing to do about duty, honor, fidelity. Nothing to do with success in the numbing manner we have come to embrace. Nothing to do with defense. Nothing to do about winning one for the Gipper.
Love one another, that is what this soon-to-be-naked-hanging-from-a-tree-Messiah commands. He commands love, a transcendent and earthy love. A benevolent, dispassionate, passionate love. A love emanating from a Sovereign. There is something greater than the pathetic Second Amendment, something greater than self-defense. Jesus, he is the traitor to American values; Jesus, he is the scion of heaven’s point of view. He calls his disciples into the wheelhouse of a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, so love can thrive even in a culture of death. Even in our culture.
My mind wanders to the time when these words were first written. John is late to the gospel party. Some bookish types think he wrote his gospels between sixty to nearly one hundred years after the ministry of Jesus. None of the synoptic gospels include this exchange in their own versions. At the time of John’s writing, the world was hanging on by razor wire. The temple in Jerusalem was razed by this time. Rome itself was put to the torch, Nero pointing the blame at the feet of the Jews, but some say it was probably Nero himself, a self-induced 9/11. Blood is in the water.
This passage in John was probably written during a backdrop of paranoia, xenophobia, terror. Donald Trumps were a dime a dozen—even crazier. OK, not quite that crazy. Yeah, let’s ramp up the torture. Let’s put the screws to the foreigners. Let’s put up a wall and make the Pamphylians pay for it. MAKE ROME GREAT AGAIN! All aboard the Hate Train! Desperate times demand desperate measures. Blunt instruments, blunted minds, blunt policies, blunt political leaders are served up like Oysters Rockefeller at the Four Seasons.
Not for Jesus. Desperate times to his mind demand redemptive love. During a time of uncertainty and wickedness, the gospel of John has Jesus talking love, a profound sacrificial, long suffering love. It is reminiscent of Genesis, when redactors in the gulag of Babylon affirmed the creation as good, each day ending in beautiful rhythms of tov, the last day exclaiming the whole of creation as VERY GOOD. All this written down with tears pattering onto their velum.
Now in this passage, John gives us the firm impression that Jesus is not afraid of or intimidated by fear. The Bible throughout its pages seems unmoved by fear. If this is so, then it gives us room to love with imagination, patience and courage. It is an alternative to the balderdash that we hear every day from fear-mongering politicians and those who follow and fund them (many who incomprehensively call themselves Christians).
The days are evil, but the good is in the fiber of time. The days are evil, so love your heart out. Jesus will not tell us how to love; it is an act of freedom, discernment, pluck, and imagination on our part. Jesus is busy with his own business of loving. He will give hints here and there, he will set examples. But each one of us is given a blank canvas upon which to love. It is fearsome, not fearful.
Friends, the times are evil. Let us love within and through them. For love, found in God, is indestructible and will win the day.
Thom Fiet is pastor at Lyall Memorial Federated Church, located in Millbrook, New York