April 2, 2012
Getting started: Have you noticed how my Monday missive is “different?” It comes, in part, from my desire to offer something different to you on Monday than the rest of the incessant intrusions – portrayed as “news” – that are jamming their way into your e-box. The commitment: Point of View is an Election-Free Zone (EFZ).
Most news outlets are operating with an All Election/All the Time assumption. Latest Polls compete with Stupid Gaffes for lead story status. March Madness/Final Four gave temporary relief; the Mega Millions lottery scam was like a Super Bowl commercial, but now we’re back to the gridiron, watching the teams as they battle on the field. They call it “politics,” but in a courtroom, they would argue it as defamation of character…
This morning’s USA Today carries an editorial by Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, under the headline, “Romney and the Evangelicals.” Rather than a group defined by purpose and passion, Evangelicals have become a voting block whose loyalty – from Primaries to General – is being polled and projected, sought and bought.
We’ve just come-off one of our culture’s big weekends: yesterday was both April Fools Day (that’s for Atheists) and Palm Sunday (an event for Christians). The term has no occurrence in the Bible; rather, it’s the heading given to the first day of Jesus’ Passion Week, marked by what we call the “Triumphal Entry” (another not-in-the-inspired-text designation).
Whose triumph? “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13)
When we read Bible segments, we often suffer from over-awareness; I know I do. If we’ve been around awhile, we read Genesis, already aware of Revelation. If you’ve read the book, the movie offers few surprises. One attendant attribute of that phenomenon: we assume that the players on the stage have read the whole script, as well. BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious): they didn’t know the story. They were living it, in real-time… and were as clueless as we would have been if we could swap places.
Those people waving those palm fronds were at a political rally. Jesus had been “running” for Messiah for three years, and their definition of the position had everything to do with a victory over the occupying Romans, and the reestablishment of their national independent status. “Hosanna!… King of Israel!” The word means, “Save us now!” The title they awarded to Jesus: “King of Israel!”
That was Sunday; by Thursday, the Romans had him in custody… and their hopes of his imminent conquest of their enemy occupiers were dismissed as irrelevant. His public regard sank faster than a rock in a pond: given the choice, Barrabas the criminal insurrectionist was their pick.
Sunday was no “triumph;” it was the crowd, projecting their plans for Jesus to lead the revolt over Rome. They were looking for a political savior, and they were ready to put their clout behind him in that role. By Friday, Sunday’s hero was hanging on a cross outside the city.
Ask any Jew with a palm frond: they would have stated their desire, clearly. They were looking for someone to save them from Caesar. Ask the Jew on the back of the donkey: He knew what the crowd – and, everyone else in the human family – really needed: Someone to save them from sin.
We haven’t changed much, in 2000 years. Jesus is still on the scene… and we’re tempted to politicize him. His maximum value is in supercharging our partisan promotions. Really?
Evangelicals? We’re not a voting block; we’re a missional community, tasked with completing the assignment to take the message of the Messiah – the spiritual Savior – to the rest of the world.
Be a good citizen, in both kingdoms. Go to the polls, and go to the whole world.