Worship with Us This Sunday - 10:15 a.m.
Political pushing and shoving will take on a fever pitch from here until the 2012 elections. Some may feel we have already reached that level. The rhetoric employed often leaves us eschewing politics. Why bother? Jesus was not political. Or was he.
Talk of kingdom while living under the sway of an empire where your residence is in an occupied territory may well qualify as politics. Jesus, after all, spends a great deal of time describing what kind of lives people ought to live in the Kingdom of God. That is politics. Jesus’ political rhetoric transcends political parties.
Mashing up the Gospel and Epistle passages from this weeks Scripture readings leave us thinking through Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Were there a group traveling with Jesus – in this instance Matthew tells us there is and they are the disciples – what sort of decision will they need to make together when considering how they will live?
The Apostle Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But, when Jesus began to talk about what being Messiah might mean, Peter proceeded with an intervention. He had already an idea what Messiah might mean and that did not include the sorts of things Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter squarely demonstrates the politics of the Kingdom. If you are not for me, you are against me.
And, if you are for me, you will be prepared to deny yourself – lose your life. Remember, he also said if you lose your life in Jesus, you will find it. Losing here must not of necessity mean martyrdom, at least physically. Instead, once there is a commitment to Jesus, there is a commitment to his Way.
The Apostle Paul works out what it means to be justified by the faithfulness of Jesus exhorting Christians in Rome to love genuinely. From there he works out something of the picture of self-denial called for by Jesus. Our greatest need, at least arguably so, is to let go of my need to avenge myself. Read through the actions to be taken in genuine love, which look an awful lot like genuine Jesus, and by the time you get to”never avenge yourself,” it seems we have reached the pinnacle of self-protection when those around us have been unloving.
These decisions become the politics of the Kingdom of God. Or, to put it another way, these habits become the verification of the reality of the Kingdom as we anticipate its fulfillment in the return of Jesus. Outside of the practice of Jesus’ Way by those self-identifing in the Kingdom, there is little hope to persuade what life with God in the Spirit might look like.