In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.
The familiarity of the 23rd Psalm can blind us to the striking political dimensions of its message: YHWH is the shepherd of the king, protecting him from enemies and granting his kingdom prosperity. Close reflection upon this psalm may also suggest some significant applications within the contemporary world.
Christ sits on a throne, but it is not a worldly one. Christ’s throne is the true throne of God, which renders all other thrones secondary. Christ’s throne is the only throne that should be worshipped, and Christ the Lamb the only ruler that is worthy of our devotion.
John’s account of Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples differs from that of the Synoptics in illuminating ways. Through an understanding of the relationship between Jesus’ own commission and that of his disciples, we can gain a richer appreciation of the primary character of our political task.
The story of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundational memory of Christianity. It is a story that not only tells of God’s power over death and the fragility of the empire’s power over life, but also demands that all perspectives be heard, in a grand cacophony of voices, all in common song, singing of the impossible mystery: Jesus is risen, indeed.
The political resonances of Palm Sunday sound clearly when we read as if we didn’t already know the end of the story.
In Jesus’ acceptance of Mary’s act of devotion, in his ministry to and for the poor, in his unwillingness to betray Judas (even as Judas was soon to betray him), Jesus models for us an approach to poverty, to politics, indeed, to one another that is based not in fear but in hope.
The innate ambiguity of the political themes raised by this week’s first lectionary text should lead us to hold together both our desire for cohesion as the “people of God” and that same desire’s potential for exclusion—exclusion that we must diligently recognize and actively hold in check.
We are called to proclaim God’s word in such a way that we offer a nourishing alternative to the scarcity that all too often is dished up by our capitalistic, technologically-obsessed, and media-saturated society. As the People of God we are called to proclaim a new world order, one characterized by abundance and joy, by justice and lovingkindness, without any restrictions, without any boundaries.
The king of Israel was charged with reciting a psalm that contained reflection and humility alongside confidence. Moreover, he was charged with waiting on God. If God’s own instrument in the Bible was charged with this, how much more are we?