Saturday, March 26, 2016

Humility, Love, and Sacrifice

While perusing the latest issue of Discover magazine, I came across the single truest statement about science I've read in a long time. To start his article "A Cosmos, Darkly," Corey S. Powell wrote:

"Often in science it takes a long time to understand exactly how confused you are."

The more I thought about this sentence, the more sense it made...and not just for science.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem to hosannas and palms, the Jews had high expectations for the Messiah. He would be a military and political leader who would crush Rome and free His people. Expectation, however, is the mother of disappointment, and their disappointment made them yell "Crucify him!" just days later. The most horrible, humiliating death was meted out to the Messiah.

It's confusing when the truth isn't what we expect. What I see in scripture is a lot of people trying their best to understand God and repeatedly learning, sometimes over the course of centuries, that what they thought they knew, what they expected to be true, just wasn't so.

The Hebrews were thorough-going polytheists, but the Jews of Jesus' time ran into trouble with Rome because they had become thorough-going monotheists. Today, we see the polytheistic Hebrews as confused (they didn't think they were confused, though) and the montheistic Jews as seriously onto something.  The Israelites thought when Jerusalem fell to Babylon that their God had abandoned them, but He restored Jerusalem to them less than a century later. He is faithful, even when we are not.

Once Jesus died on the cross, everything changed, just as it changed when Galileo asserted that the earth rotated around the sun. Our understanding underwent a cosmic shift, but it strikes me as arrogant to assume that now, at this moment in history, we have everything figured out, any more than science has the nature of the universe figured out.

For now, it seems to me that God is leading us...somewhere. To His kingdom. Whatever that looks like. Our biggest step forward so far came on that cross, where expectations went unmet, where God surprised us spectacularly. On the night before He died, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment for moving forward, one steeped deeply in the old commandments but made deeply personal for each and every one of us who believe in Him: "As I have loved you, so you should love one another."

Jesus loved us to the cross. This Easter, let us commit to humbly focusing on His new commandment and to avoiding the confusion of our times that seeks to distract us from that clear message with arrogant, politicized theology and divisive rhetoric.

The cross teaches us love, humility, and sacrifice. Where those lessons will lead us remains to be seen, but I, for one, trust my King. He said to love, and as often as I fail, I try, each and every day, to be an Easter person.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Happy Easter!