Here are my thoughts for this, the 5th Sunday in Lent.
The opening lines of the Old Testament reading tell us that the “days are coming.” Now, if you are a “true believer” in the End Times, you think that these are those days. But I have to wonder. Is it possible that these will be the days when our failings and the consequences of our actions will be called to task?
I noticed in one of the news magazines last year a note about the need to improve mathematics and science education in this country. The problem is that this is not a new problem but a problem that has been a part of our society for almost fifty years. In November, 2007, we will remember the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. And perhaps we will remember the cry that came about that science and mathematics education was failing.
Much money was put into upgrading those processes back then but after the successes of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the money started to trickle out and less concern was made about the nature of education, be it mathematics, science or otherwise.
Then in the middle 1980’s, there was again a large cry about the failings of our educational processes, especially in science and mathematics. And studies were made and papers were published that outlined what made good programs and what needed to be done to insure that science and mathematics were not forgotten in the process of learning.
So, to hear that our science and mathematics education programs need to be revitalized and examined tells me that we have forgotten what we have already learned but not implemented. It tells me that any program that we have needs to be considered from the long-term and not the short, something this country has a hard time doing.
We have also forgotten, if we ever learned, that terrorism can never be fought with violence. We have forgotten that unless the sources of terrorism, poverty, sickness, and oppression, are removed, we will never remove terrorism. And we must have failed to realize that removing the sources of terrorism are the same goals that Jesus had when he established his ministry and set forth the basic tenets of the Gospel.
Did not Jesus say that it was His goal to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and free the oppressed? Did not Jesus go out of his way to make sure that the forgotten individuals of society were remembered? Why is it that this country, which calls itself a Christian nation, and the politicians that lead this country, who have allied themselves with the conservative and fundamentalist aspects of Christianity, can’t seem to remember this?
Congress is in the process of passing legislation that would make it illegal for anyone of us to assist someone who is in this country illegally. And it is my understanding that this includes those times when we assist without knowing the immigration status of those individuals. We are to ask if they are properly documented before giving a cup of water or a crust of bread to a hungry and thirsty individual. As others have noted, the very nature of the act would put the Good Samaritan in jail were he to perform the same acts today as he did 2000 years ago. Much of what Jesus said and did is also considered illegal.
Congress has also passed a budget that cuts food programs, housing programs, and aid to the least of this country. But it continues to yield to the rich and the powerful and it continues to fund a war that should never have been fought for reasons that have more to do with personal gain than the preservation of freedom and nothing to do with removing oppression. We have set forth a new version of oppression, both here in this country and abroad, in the name of freedom and democracy. Where is Christ in these acts, passed by men who claim allegiance to Christ? Why are not those who claim to be God’s messenger in this world, those who preach a gospel of prosperity and wealth, of fundamental beliefs in the Bible, not among the loudest when it comes to pointing out the inequities of life in today’s society?
Can it be that these are the days that Jeremiah is speaking about? Can it be that these are the days in which God will call us to account for our actions and our beliefs? The covenants that God made with Noah, Abraham, and Moses were covenants made with nations, not individuals. But the New Covenant of which Jeremiah speaks is a covenant that God makes with each one of us, individually.
So, it is our actions, not the actions of our country or our leaders that are called into account. We are the ones who have heard the call of Jesus but ignored it. We have allowed our own self-interests to dictate the nature of society. We think that we are the ones who have not allowed the law to be written on our hearts, as Jeremiah proclaims. We claim to follow Christ but if we are to follow Christ we must serve Him. And we cannot serve Him if we ignore the least of our society; we cannot serve Him if we seek war and violence, if we seek to oppress others.
In those days before the entry into Jerusalem, people sought Jesus and He did not turn them away. How can we turn people away when they seek a new and better life? In those days before the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus prayed and gave comfort to those who sought Him. How can we not do the same in this day?
One week from today, the crowds will line the road into Jerusalem and cheer the entrance of the new king. But they will forget, just as so many people have done today, where the kingdom of this new king will be. The same people will stand outside the balcony of the governor’s palace and demand that Christ be crucified so that the self-interests of the powers of society can be maintained. Those who called for the crucifixion of Christ out of their own self-interests or because of a blind obedience to an earthly political power will quickly find that their kingdom will not last.
Those who sought the crucifixion of Christ will find the tomb empty and they will be afraid. For they know that the days have come and their actions will be called to task.
Each one of us has two weeks to get ready for that moment. Each one of us has two weeks to prepare for that moment in which our actions, our thoughts, and all that we have done will be called to task. But, we also have two weeks to get ready and to open our hearts and acknowledge that because the tomb is empty our lives begin anew. There is that moment when God says to each one of us, “I sent my Son to die on the cross so that you may live. I sent my Son to take away your sins and I will forgive you for all time.”
These are the days. Are you ready?
“Are You Ready?” by Bob Dylan — http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ready.html