Like many of you, I was more attentive to devotional time during Lent, especially enjoying the “Presbyterians Today” devotionals. But I also ran across poems and other writings that were meaningful and thought-provoking. One writer highlighted the days between the palm processional and the last supper of Maundy Thursday, the “missing days” of our Holy Week services. What was Jesus doing during those days, and how might that increase our understanding and awe on Easter morning?
Luke records several events that preceded the decision of the religious leaders to entrap and have him put to death: Jesus wept over Jerusalem, Jesus overturned the money-changers’ tables in the temple, and Jesus repeatedly challenged the religious leaders for rejecting the God of peace and justice. Ours is no dispassionate, emotionally distant savior, but one who feels deeply.
The love of God in Christ evident in the empty tomb is made clearer because of these events during the first Holy Week. Christ died and was raised to redeem God’s creation as it was intended to be – a world of peace and justice for all. That same love is also made clearer by contrast in a stunning event this 2016 Holy Week: The passage of House Bill 2 by our state legislature. It is a law that reflects hatred and injustice for the LGTBQ community. And like those religious leaders in Jerusalem, we Christians today are called to choose the way of justice and peace, or face the consequences of rejecting that way.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He didn’t weep because the people weren’t holy enough or didn’t interpret the scriptures rigidly enough. Jesus wept because the people of God had abandoned the ways of peace for a cruel faith that had made its accommodation to a cruel government. He expressed utter contempt (Luke 20:46-47) for the religious scribes who “devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”
I have had four communications with members of our church this week who described their grief and anger over the decision by the legislature to remove the protection of the law from our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. The new law says clearly to them that they or those whom they love do not matter; that they are lesser human beings, such that their elected officials would have the law turn a blind eye to discrimination against them.
Do we doubt that Jesus weeps with them?
As much as we might like to think this is a “political” matter and thus not a concern for the church, we do so at our own peril. Whether we ask it of Republicans or Democrats is not the issue, but we must ask, we must demand, from our government that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters be treated equally under the law. As Jesus made abundantly clear both in his words and in his furious cleansing of the temple, religiosity is no substitute for pursuing the ways of justice and peace.
Here at Guilford Park we have members who are gay, both openly and privately. We have parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles of gay people. Gay people are our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues. Increasingly many of us are also becoming more aware of transgender folks, particularly young people, and the difficulties they face.
Our Session has made the decision to welcome members of the LGTBQ community, to marry those who ask to be married, and to affirm our obligation to work for justice and equality for them. We cannot hide our heads and pretend this is “politics not religion” lest we become those whose faith witness is “for the sake of appearance.”
So let us commit ourselves in the name of Christ to join the fight for equality. Write a letter or call your representative and let them know that you believe in the God of justice and peace who weeps over this decision. Advocate and vote for candidates who support equality. Pray for those among us who have been wounded by this decision, and for those who have the power to undo the damage. And pray for the Justice and Peacemaking Committee, as we seek ways to join our congregation in the fight.
Christ is risen! And Christ still weeps over injustice and violence.
Christ is risen! And Christ still calls people of faith to care about the marginalized.
Christ is risen! And Christ who is risen in glory is the Christ who died for us – for all of us.
— Melanie Rodenbough