If I was God…

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The events of Holy Week show us how determined God is to be with us and
to love us… no matter who or where we are… or what we've done.  God will
do whatever it takes to be with us.  There is no corner of human life
so dark that God won't enter there with his love and power to comfort,
strengthen, heal and save his people.


Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday

March 24, 2013                            

Luke 22:14-23:1-49

Peder Stenslie

When I was 10 years old (way back in 1973), I went to the little local
theater in Stanley to watch the movie Tom Sawyer.  It was a musical
based on the famous Mark Twain novel.  I found it to be both fun and
exciting and terrifying in parts.  I liked it so much my parents bought
me the movie soundtrack. 

The song I remember most from that album was sung by Tom Sawyer.  He was
troubled by the terrible things that were happening around him.  Some
words of the song went like this…

If I was God…

I wouldn't set the sun at night

Till everyone was treated right

By everyone else they see

 

Nobody'd hurt nobody else

I wouldn't let it be

Nobody'd have a need to pray

Except for thankin' me

 

If I was God

I'd make us wise

So everyone could realize

That everywhere beneath the sun

Everyone needs everyone

And God, That ain't half what I would do

If I was you

I thought it was a very pretty song; but the words did make me uneasy. 
They made me wonder why God ran the world like he did.  Couldn't it
obviously be done so much better?!  (Even by 12 year-old Tom Sawyer.)

We are celebrating, this week, the return of the Beechie boys… Derek,
Preston and Mike… and the whole 818th Engineer Company… from their tour
of duty in Afghanistan.  What a joyous occasion!  But we also grieve the
fact that two of their number did not return with them… Darren Linde
and Tyler Orgaard.  They are 2 among many thousands whose lives have
been lost in the terrible war in Afghanistan over the last 10 years.  

One can't help but ask:  “Why do these things happen?  Why is there so
much death and grief and pain?”  It's a powerful human temptation to
think we could run the world better if we were God… if we had God's
power.

It's a powerful temptation and I believe there's a lot of that thinking on display in today's Gospel readings.

It's a really a messed up Sunday of the church year.  It's called Sunday
of the Passion/Palm Sunday.  We begin the service celebrating Jesus
with waving palms and smiling faces… singing his praises.  We don’t get
too far, though, and the story and mood change.  Suddenly we hear the
account of Jesus' betrayal, rejection, abandonment, denial, trial, abuse
and execution.  It's a pretty rough and ugly ride.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was hailed as a king.  The crowds who
praised him imagined that God was coming in Jesus to liberate them from
Roman oppression and occupation.  Because if they were God, that's what
they would do!  

But Holy Week shows us that that's not what Jesus' arrival in this world
was about.  He was here to release us from a far more terrilbe type of
oppression.

One week later, the religious leadership of Jerusalem, set a trap in
order to destroy Jesus whom they believed threatened their “truths”
about God.  They did this because if they were God, that's how they
would deal with anyone who defied them!  They would destroy them.

But Holy Week shows us that that's not how God deals with his people…
even those who deny or defy him.  He does not act to destroy them.

When Pilate was confronted with the dilemma of a rabid mob demanding the
death of a seemingly innocent man, Pilate decided to take the easy way
out because… as the Roman governor of Palestine… he was like a god and
he had the power to choose the easy way out.  So rather than protect
Jesus, he condemned him to die.

But Holy Week shows us that that is not like God at all.  God doesn't
take the easy way out when it comes to the fate and well-being of his
people.

The madness of this Sunday is a good example of what would become of the
world if we were God.  And it's not pretty.  It also shows us that God,
thankfully, is not like us.  Hidden in and through all of these
confusing and terrible events, God himself is actually there, as always…
acting in a way contrary to our expectations.  God is there… doing what
God does… in the darkest places of our world… bringing life out of
death.

In the madness of this week, it's hard to understand what's going on…
and why.  Everything is upside down.  While humans play at being God,
God… the one who truly is immortal… in which there is only life…
embraces painful human death.  

When humans play at being God, the innocent die.  Jesus is nailed to the
cross.  When God becomes a human being and dies an innocent man, the
dead are raised to new life.

Humans, who are full of guilt, put God on trial and sentence him to
death.  God… the one who is holy and without guilt… wraps himself in
human sin.  God… who can destroy all who oppose him… forgives those who
crucify him.

In today's confusing and disturbing Gospel readings, we learn the
amazing truth that the cross is the way of God.  That's hard to
understand.  If we were God, that's not how we would do it.  That's for
sure.  That's why it's good that we're not God.

The events of Holy Week show us how determined God is to be with us and
to love us… no matter who or where we are… or what we've done.  God will
do whatever it takes to be with us.  There is no corner of human life
so dark that God won't enter there with his love and power to comfort,
strengthen, heal and save his people.  

God is with us fully and completely in our pain and mess.  Unlike us,
God doesn't destroy his people in order to get rid of human pain and
messiness.  He doesn't flee from it.  He doesn't impose trouble on
others in order to save himself.  He enters our pain and messiness
because that is where we are… and because he loves us and would never
abandon us.  

Through the terrible events of Holy Week, we see God for who he is.  He
is a God of strength and love; that is why he chose the cross.  And
because he chose the cross, there's hope for all of us who wonder why
the world is the way it is… who wonder why our lives are the way they
are.  There's hope for you… and for me; because we know – when we look
at the cross — that God is present with us in the darkness that
sometimes engulfs our lives.  He is present with us to deliver hope in
the midst of despair, and eternal life in the midst of death.

Amen.