Tuesday of Passion Week, Spellbound

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. (Mark 11)

The ‘Jesus Papers’, a book probably spawned by the success of, and of the same ilk as, ‘The De Vince Code’, and now the discovery of the ‘Gospel of Judas’ where Judas is a cunning conspirator, not against but with Jesus, are always, coincidently, harbingers of Easter.

I admit that I used to get all exercised about what I perceived, I think correctly, as attacks upon Christianity. But I look at things differently these days. As well, I try not to dismiss anything of historical value. ‘Take nothing for granted’, is still a good approach. There are things we can learn from the recasting of a story, perhaps especially an ancient recasting of a biblical character. Like Dan Brown and Michael Baigent of the Jesus Papers, the Gnostic author of the Judas gospel was motivated by a need to tell a story in a particular way. He had his reasons to do so and for me, the motivation is what fascinates. That’s because while these authors are sceptical if not hostile to the gospel, they are nevertheless bound up in the gospel. Their skepticism or hostility assures their tie-in. They may even have a kind of unconscious faith in the gospel. In some form they remain spellbound by Christ.

I have no idea how this could be proved, it but I think humanity is spellbound by Christ. Speaking in broad terms, is it possible that in this disrobed age the hard work at rendering Christ irrelevant exposes a fixation? Are we as a global culture in our most Christ-dependent state?

It’s fun to poke at the edges of these questions. Still, there is no denying that Jesus has a polarizing effect on those he encounters. Once encountered, no one is able to ignore Jesus.

Some take their positive “spellboundness” on the road and care for the poor, spread hope and set people free. Others are compelled to be skeptical and mythologize the gospel story while trying to retain a moral message. Still others recoil and find ways to fictionalize the Easter story beyond recognition, not recognizing that the more hostile they are to Christ, the more bound to him they are. If this is the case, perhaps even, or especially, a chief priest may find, as C.S. Lewis did, that at the end of a violent antagonism toward God, is an ocean of love.

Monday of Passion Week

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19)

Why do the things that make for peace hide from us? It’s not because we don’t want peace; although what we mean by peace needs scrutiny. It’s not as though peace has not been fought for. (Which no matter how you cut it is the height of irony.)

History is littered with peace treaties that were supposed to contain within them all the things that make for peace. No, the things that make for peace are hidden from us because we are formed in rivalry. Our social structures are formed through exclusion. Even our churches haven’t escaped our penchant for scapegoating. We see through a filter of survival by expulsion and victimization. And it is a heavy filter that colours all we see.

This is easy enough to show. Recall your grade-school years. Recall the class dweeb, the misfit, the one teased to within an inch of his or her sanity. Think about how your own fear of being cast as the misfit compelled you to side with the group. Or do know this from the inside? Think about the group that teased you and how they were held together by having you as a “scapegoat”. How many of our own guests at the Mission are here because of such victimization?

The ostracism and expulsion of the grade school victim is simply a less sophisticated, a more subtle microcosm, of what goes on in all cultures, socially and politically. Nationalism is one obvious example. How are we saved from ourselves? It is Jesus who takes up freely the role of the victim so as to expose once and for all our war-like ways, our bondage to violence.

Palm Sunday

The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12)

Containing a King who rides in on a donkey is tricky stuff. Well, apparently impossible. Sacking a King who prefers Palm leaves to streets of gold is down right laughable. Overthrowing a King who wants nothing to do with overthrowing anything is futile. Defeating a King who doesn’t deal in warfare, who doesn’t care about saving his life, only cares about saving the lives of the ones who are out to defeat and kill him, is, well, a ridiculous endeavor.

Jesus’ life and teaching was one of opposites and paradox. It is a life that is capable of opening the eyes of the most hardened and desperate and without intent, concealing the truth from the most pious.

Blessings to all on this Palm Sunday.