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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture


Saturday, April 15, 2006

During the Good Friday service at City Presbyterian this evening, I discovered something in the Passion story I never caught before. The liturgy that Rev. Sam read referred to Barabbas as an "insurrectionist and a murderer." This is the person, of course, that the Jewish leaders chose over Jesus when Pilate tried to take advantage of a custom to clear his name from condemning an innocent man to death.

When we got home, I double checked in my Bible that this really was who Barabbas was and that it wasn't some whacked out Presbyterian thing. Turns out it's true -- Matthew has Pilate asking if the Jews wanted either "Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who calls himself Messiah." Mark, Luke, and John all refer to Barabbas as someone who took part in a recent insurrection and who in the process had committed murder. So he wasn't just some schmo murderer who Pilate happened to pull out of his hat. He was a major political prisoner.

If my thinking is right, then this actually gets better. The Jews had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to come rescue them from Roman rule. They'd been waiting so long that the leaders, the Pharisees and Company, got in good with the governor and enjoyed some special treatment that no other religious or ethnic group got to experience, like a measure of self-rule. Sure, they still wanted to be free. Then, Jesus came along, claiming to be the One they had been waiting for, except that he didn't have an army and didn't kick any Roman ass. Instead he gave the JEWS hell, which of course, ticked them right off. Maybe, in the end, they actually believed he was who he said he was and didn't want to accept it. They knew their prophecy well enough, but they didn't want some peacenik messiah; they wanted a fire, brimstone, and magic warhawk messiah.

Whatever they actually thought, they wanted Jesus dead because at least he wasn't who he claimed to be, and at worst he was a trouble maker who posed a threat to their powerful status. Pilate most likely understood this political mess which is why he offered one of their activists back to them to calm them down and prevent another insurrection that was brewing on the spot. The crowd was getting awful rowdy again and he was sweating. Come to think of it, he knew very well the implications of his decision because his WIFE knew and was so worried she had a nightmare about it. So, his choice was kill an innocent man to save his hide or let Jesus go free and face another, probably worse, coup attempt. I think the stakes were even higher for Pilate because he seems to have believed that Jesus was who he said he was, which meant fearful trouble for him however he decided. So he copped out and in the process placated the Jews -- actually a very clever decision. And of course the Jews wanted Barabbas rather than Jesus because at least Barabbas would be back in action fighting for them again, which was a lot more than what Jesus would offer them.

Pretty fascinating stuff when you paint the whole picture.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

So, what am I supposed to do?

Russ challenged my complaint that my horizons often feel too big by saying that with Jesus' promise to always be with us "to the end of the age" and that "through him we can do all things", there should be no such thing as a horizon that is too big. In fact, he says, we all too often castrate ourselves by not dreaming the impossible and then proceeding through faith to accomplish it.

I realized that I never actually believed that I could do all things through Christ. So I put it to the test in January with the "State of the Union" address party, which was successful and served as a catalyst for some major changes God worked in our church.

Then I got involved in the restructuring/revisioning of our church and have worked hard on changing the feel of the church through images and a movie about what people on East Colfax think about Christians (you can download the movie from http://www.masterstoday.com/). After working ferociously, I got myself and my family sick for two weeks.

Now, the design and image stuff is cooling off as more dissatisfaction with my approach is surfacing by other members of the congregation and as they are becoming more involved in that work. Which is fine by me in some ways (I was spending way too much time on the projects and was starting to burn out) and not so fine by me in other ways (I'm concerned about losing momentum and returning to the way things used to be in the church).

Meanwhile, Angela and I continue to lead our community group and are shaping it to be a welcoming place for our neighbors to come hang out while also having a "service" orientation, probably in the form of adopting a refugee family from the Denver Rescue Mission.

But as things continue to cool down on the church front, I have this deep ache telling me that I'm not doing something that I need to. Should I let my leadership in the church cool or should I restoke the fire? Angela told me this past Sunday that she doesn't feel like we're in this church leadership thing together, that it's just me and the guys shaping the church. So if I fan the flame, how can I make sure Angela and I are equally invested?

Is the ache from the fact that I didn't take advantage of whatever momentum was there from the "State of the Union" thing? I was encouraged by so many leaders in the city to keep going with it, and to be completely honest the scenarios I dreamed up of what could happen were so big, I became paralyzed. My disbelief won out again.

Then I read emails from our friends Joel and Elise Vestal, who run Servlife Ministries, about how they are once again in the middle of a major world catastrophe. Last year it was the tsunami aftermath in their village in thailand. This year, this week, they and their two kids (3 and 1 years old) returned to Nepal where they do most of their work to find the country actively collapsing. Why did they return when they knew the danger? Because they have two orphanages, buy young girls out of the sex slave market, support indiginous pastors, and work for women's rights. If they left, there would be no one else to do this work, no one else to preach the peace of Christ in the midst of Maoist oppression and terror.

So...what am I doing? I'm caught in the "white man's burden," the middle-class American Christian angst of knowing how privilaged I am and how trapped by it I can feel. I do firmly believe that my family takes priority, and that is currently where my focus is. I want Angela to be a midwife before 5 years is up. I want Malachi and the girls to have a solid foundation of love and support on which to build their lives. I want them to be drawn to God and know about what Jesus did. I have no problem, really, staying in my current super-easy job 5 minutes from my house in order to provide the means for these things.

But the ache is still there. My friend Keven thinks I should exegete scripture so that I know it extremely well and then use that knowledge in conjunction with my heart for the poor and oppressed to mobilize the church to more fully establish God's Kingdom on earth. Maybe he's right. How can Angela and I do that together, like Joel and Elise in Nepal?

Questions, questions, questions.