It took Jesus Christ Superstar to illustrate to me that Jesus of Bethlehem was no wallflower. Once upon a time he went into the temple like a rowdy sheriff and sent cards and chips a-flying. But there were also moments when his own disciples got chewed out, and even his mother got stung.
I'll let theologians determine my interpretive skills, but Superstar, right or wrong, showed me a Christ who wasn't always a lamb. He could be a tiger--or at least he could make those with whom he lived feel as if they'd been clawed.
The text on Sunday morning was one of those moments. It comes on the heels the Sermon on the Mount, an unforgettable reversal of the very human impulses that reign in our world: blessed are the meek and sorrowing. You know. There's nothing about the NRA.
Her sermon used verse 46 from Luke 6, when Jesus, seemingly frustrated, turns on a dime and reads out the disciples: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?" That's got some sarcasm. Then he turns storyteller to explain the nuttiness of putting down foundations in sand.
It was, as all her sermons are, wonderfully crafted. She drew on materials from a variety of sources, bringing all of us into the dilemma Christ himself must have felt when he looked at his people, stars in their eyes, but not doing the Kingdom-worthy work he laid out before them.
Her sermon's theme was integrity, the absolute necessity to make our words count, to walk the walk and not talk the talk. She avoided cliches, but no adult in that sanctuary could not have anticipated the takeaway even before she picked up the mike: it was going to be all about "word and deed." Hold hands out evenly to make the point.
Yesterday, FBI Director McCabe was pressured to resign. Presumably, the four-page Republican-written memo discredits him--maybe that's why. What everyone knows is President Trump wanted McCabe gone. His wife is a Democrat. He's out.
Yesterday, on party-line votes, the House Committee on Intelligence, for reasons of transparency, voted to release the memo they'd prepared, but not the memo the Democratic minority had prepared in response. Furthermore, they voted not to let the FBI or the Justice Department come in to clarify their concerns. They don't trust the FBI.
Some love Trump so greatly they allow him grace when a host of similarly powerful male abusers bite the dust. He's the only one of them who walks through allegations that have ended in disaster for other celebrities; and, he's kept in place most fastidiously--get this!--by evangelical Christians.
Some hate him, consider him almost demonic. Some would say he has zero integrity. "President Donald Trump has told nearly six times more lies in the first 10 months of his presidency than former President Barack Obama did in his entire 8-year term," says Fortune magazine (read it here).
Tonight, Trump will present his "State of the Union." If he reads it, he'll do just fine. If he leaves script, we'll all hear the real Donald Trump. Like him or hate him, everyone knows that. He's two people, and the nation he leads is split like a ripe melon. At the bottom of that division lies a question of integrity that's impossible not to ask.
On Sunday morning, even though everyone in that sanctuary had an opinion about Trump, even though every member thinks about the man, even though in the nation today any talk of "integrity" originates in some discussion of the outlandish and often inexcusable behavior of Donald J. Trump, the pastor could not risk speaking his name. Trump himself disarmed the sermon.
So that's where we are. We're living in an assault on truth. Our pastor could not talk about integrity, could not risk discord or animosity. If she'd said anything, someone would likely walk out. Can we at least acknowledge this truth: he's been a disaster for the integrity of the Christian faith in this nation.
He won't bring down faith; belief itself is not at risk; as all of us know, there's too much in our humanity that wants and needs a savior.
But his absence on Sunday was an immense presence. In one year, he's already changed us so much we can't talk about him.