In yesterday's sermon, I explored Jesus' use of parables as a teaching tool, raising consciousness and provoking new orientations of spirit and practice. The Prodigal Son. The Good Samaritan. The Rich Man and Lazarus. The Sheep and the Goats. Yesterday, we read the Parable of the Sower.
Jesus is no fool. He recognizes the empire all around him, its awful grip on cities and communities, its militarized bullying of children and families, the poor and the broken. But that Roman Empire is challenged, contested in Jesus' ministry and in his teaching. Just as it's challenged, contested by Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Mary of Nazareth. Almost every one of Jesus' parables provokes a kind of crisis--in which disciples have to choose. Will we allow Caesar's kingdom to run amok across the lives, the futures of our communities? Or will we orient our lives around the gracious and unmanageable kingdom of heaven? The true Power in the universe, Jesus says, is Love.
What Pat Robertson's been doing for decades, and what Donald Trump's doing now, is blur the difference. Donald's kingdom is God's kingdom, after all. Pat's Club is God's club, after all. Who needs the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven? Jesus' teaching is an inconvenience for guys like Trump and Robertson. Jesus' gospel stands in the way of a world-wide empire of the benevolent American businessman. So Donald Trump robes himself in Pat Robertson's flag and Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s gospel. Blurring the difference. Because who really reads the Sermon on the Mount anymore, really?
And they all expect the rest of us to shut up. To just close our bibles, tune out Jesus. And shut up.
Well, no way. No way. There's a verse in the Gospel of Mark that goes like this: "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." It's kind of tough, this verse. But I think it's about the proud among us who pretend to lead the people, who promise divine blessing, but ignore the deep truths of Jesus and Moses, Ruth and Mary, Jeremiah and John. Pat Robertson and Donald Trump are duping God's people, causing decent folk to stumble, and perverting the gospel of love and liberation in the process. "It would be better..."