Lent 5 – March 18

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/were-in-the-midst-of-an-apocalypse-and-thats-a-good-thing/?utm_term=.3507f1c48656

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3408

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pontius-Pilate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great

http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Sparrows

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caiaphas

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides MV 169

Call to Worship
One: The closer we get to Easter, the harder it can be to hear the story of Jesus.
All: But we tell the stories to remember the past, with the hope that when we are faced with similar choices, we will choose differently.
One: Worship happens when we gather to learn from our collective past and dream into our expanded future. Let us pray:

Opening Prayer
Timeless Spirit, Be with us today as we reflect and as we dream. Encourage us to work towards the good of the whole people of God. Amen.

Hymn Precious Lord, Take My Hand VU 670

Theme Conversation

Readings John 18:28-40

Musical Response First-Born of Mary MV 110

Sermon

Roman officer takes Jesus to the high priest

A bit of overlap from last week: Jesus is arrested after Judas tipped off the authorities.  Jesus is taken to Annas, who was a higher up in the priestly order.  Annas questions Jesus, and Jesus responds that he has done nothing in secret.  The police officer guarding Jesus, strikes him across the face and asks him if that was anyway to speak to a high priest.  Jesus asks the officer what he did to deserve being hit.  Annas orders him to be bound and taken to a higher priest.

Peter denies three times

While this was happening, Peter was admitted entrance into the courtyard while Jesus was being interviewed.  Peter and another disciple had followed after Jesus’ arrest and the other disciple knew Annas and arranged for Peter to be let into the courtyard.  The gatekeeper who admitted him asked Peter if he was a disciple of Jesus.  Peter said no. Peter, for his part gathered around the fire meant to keep the guards and gatekeepers warm.  While around the fire, again Peter was asked if he was a follower of Jesus.  Peter said no, but another servant recognized him, and asked “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?” Peter denied being a follower of Jesus for a third time.

Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas

We aren’t really sure what happened with the high priest, Caiaphas, but by the time morning comes, Jesus has found himself in front of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate was the governor of the region.  The crowds who followed after Jesus left Caiaphas, waited outside, as it was too close to Passover for them to enter without becoming unclean.

Pilate questions the people

Goes out to the crowd that has gathered to question the people.  He asked the people why Jesus had been brought to him.  The people responded that Jesus was a criminal and that was why they had brought him to Pilate.  Pilate suggested that the people take Jesus and judge him by their own laws.  The people responded back that they were not allowed to kill anyone.  That was why they needed to bring him to Pilate.

Pilate questions Jesus

Pilate then goes back in to question Jesus.  It’s a convoluted conversation that ends with Jesus saying “I was born to tell the world about the truth.  Anyone who knows the truth knows my voice.”  And Pilate responds with “What is the truth?”

Pilate finds Jesus not guilty of anything

Pilate goes back out to the people and tells them he cannot find Jesus guilty of anything.  He suggests that Jesus be the prisoner that is traditionally set free by the governor for Passover.  The crowd says no, and asks for Barabbas instead.

Pontius Pilate

Governor of Judea

Talk about a rock and a hard place.  Pilate was the governor of Judaea.  Pilate was notorious for being a strict leader.  His appointment to Judaea likely wasn’t coincidental to the climax of Jesus’ ministry.  Pilate’s authoritarian nature meant that rebel forces were not an issue.

Lived outside of Jerusalem

Pilate’s presence in Jerusalem that night likely wasn’t a coincidence either.   Jerusalem was and still is considered THE Holy place for many Hebrew people. Passover is a major festival in the Hebrew faith, so the city was fuller than usual.  Pilate, as the governor, lived outside of Jerusalem in Caesarea.  So Pilate would have been staying at the governor’s residence in Jerusalem on a somewhat local holiday – just to keep an eye on the situation.

Killed himself after being accused of not giving people proper trials before killing them

So the crowds likely would have been a bit intense, and we find our authoritive leader acting well, a bit mousy.  Oh that I could have been a fly on that wall!  So much of our history was passed along orally, and once things were written down, it wasn’t in English, where there was room for things to be lost in translation.  I wonder if Pilate really was mousy that night or if his trial and subsequent punishment of self-inflicted death a few years later for not giving people a fair trial before ordering their execution had anything to do with the portrayal we see of him in scripture.

Colonialism

Constantine and the Roman Empire

It’s important to remember that the political climate in the first few centuries played a huge role in the current Christian faith.  I was somewhat shocked in my Early Christian History class to find out that Christianity did not explode immediately after Jesus’ death.  It wasn’t until the ruler of the Roman Empire in the 300s, Constantine and his declaration of religious tolerance that the faith began to grow.  Constantine saw the opportunity for political advancement in his alignment with Christianity.  It’s a classic power move: united the minority or those who feel like they are the minority to make a larger majority and turn the power.  It was during this time that the line “suffered under Pontius Pilate” was officially added to the Nicene Creed.

Colonialism of North American

Unfortunately the idea of everyone NEEDING to be Christian stuck, and other leaders went on to use Christianity to their advantage, including the first settlers in North America.  Unfortunately somewhere along the way, people seemed to forget that the Bible is a history for the underdog.  It’s the story of oppressed people and how they over-came their oppression.  It’s a story intended to bring hope to the people.  It was written by the people, for the people.

Game of Thrones – The Sparrow

Cersey wasn’t in control

If you are still struggling to understand how people can use faith to influence politics, I’ll give you a toned down example from Game of Thrones.

Cersey, who I think of as the Evil Queen – sorry if you are team Lannister, wasn’t in control.  Her son was.  Even though she had a huge influence in his life, as King he held the control and the young king was infatuated with his wife.

The faith was corrupted

The faith leaders at the time were more honorary than functional, in fact they were somewhat corrupt and held almost no authority with the people.

There was a rebel uprising in the faith

Cersey, the Evil Queen heard of a group in the peasant class that were quickly gaining popularity.  Cersey knew that according to the beliefs of the Sparrows, her son’s queen would likely be arrested.

Tommen united the faith and the crown

So Cersey convinced her son that it was time for the faith and the crown to unite and it would be the faith who would hold people morally accountable.

The faith took over and the rebel uprising shifted power

The faith quickly took over and before long Cersey’s daughter in law in arrested.  Cersey too, is arrested, and both women “convert” in order to be released.

Cersey killed all the faith leaders and took power

Upon Cersey’s release, she stays in her room, as ordered by the High Sparrow, but she still manages to orchastate an attack that kills many of the Sparrows, including the High Sparrow and her son’s queen.  Her son is so upset upon hearing of his wife’s death, that he jumps from his mother’s tower.  This leaves Cersey with full control, but she loses her son in the process.

A love of power and control is the real problem

It was her love of control that cost Cersey the thing that she loved most.

I’m a compromiser by nature

I’m a compromiser by nature and really bothers me when people cannot come to a simple compromise in situations of conflict.  I just don’t understand how people can see winning or controlling as more important than the relationship between the people themselves.

What is the Antidote to all of the corruption?

What is an antidote?

Earlier this week, I read an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Nadia Webber-Bowlez.  In the article, she talks about the antidote for the times when religion is used to fuel hate.

Using religion to argue religion

It’s a brilliant idea really.  Instead of combating religiously affiliated hate, we fix it with an antidote.  This is how Nadia describes the current situation:

The venom of domination runs deeply in us as a country and a people. And it does so because the fangs that delivered it were given not the devil’s name, but God’s. When the subordination of women is established as God’s will, when slavery is established as God’s will, when discrimination against queer folks is established as God’s will, when the CEO of the National Rifle Association claims the right to buy a semiautomatic assault rifle is “not bestowed by man, but granted by God,” it delivers a poison that can infect the deepest parts of us. Because messages that are transmitted to us in God’s name embed far beneath the surface, all the way down to our original place, our createdness, our source code.

Pretty powerful stuff.  But there’s more.  Nadia goes on to say that we must dig deeper, we must recognize those moments in history when Christianity was used to hurt.  This is how she ends the article:

We must do this. The Bible, Christian theology and liturgy are too potent to be left to those who would use them, even unwittingly, to justify and protect their own dominance. And sometimes the origin of the harm can be the most powerful source of healing.

That’s how anti-venom works.

What are we worried about losing?

Here’s my question: What is so important that we are willing to risk losing a relationship than to admit we were wrong about?

What does reconciliation have to do with all of this?

This is what reconciliation is.  Recognizing that maybe, just possibly, even with the best of intentions we were wrong.  Step two is acknowledging that relationships are more important than being right.  We might not be able to do either of these things today and maybe not even tomorrow, but if we really listen to the message of Jesus, then we can’t ignore the truth forever.

Dance between church and state

The dance between Church and State has always existed, and quite frankly I’m glad.

It’s our job to challenge and it’s their job to challenge us

It’s our job to challenge the government, and it’s the government’s job to challenge us.  If we get too comfortable, we risk over-stepping and assuming control.

Here’s my invitation to you all.  If you see the opportunity in the upcoming weeks to inject a bit of anti-venom, be braver than Pilate.  Give reconciliation a try. It is the truth.

Music Minstry It is Well With My Soul

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Every day is a gift. This is an opportunity to share from our gifts because we truly are blessed with an abundance.

Offertory Ev’ry Day Is a Day of Thanksgiving MV 185 (just until the repeat)

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Make Me a Channel of Your Peace VU 684

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Hymn Lord Reign Me In

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May the God of Hope Go with Us VU 424

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