Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picking Up Stones

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there. John 10:19-42

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!" We used to, as kids, respond to vicious taunts with this phrase. And yet, even as a child, I knew that the taunts stung, and the adults that taught it to me had suffered unkind words that stung them still. I was a chubby little girl with an older brother who knew how to tease so insistently that it felt like I was bleeding. And the kids in school were even meaner. Words, harsh words and malicious judgements can cause us all to be broken, inside and out, without a stick or stone being raised. Even as adults, with a thicker skin, the cruel words others say behind your back, the gossip and the lies, the jealousy voices to a crowd - even now these can sting and make the strongest cower.

Can you imagine the scene, among the holiest of holy sites in the world, to be faced with the religious leadership, arms raised with stones ready to throw? Their words were angry, venomous and hostile. They wanted Jesus gone, even better, they wanted him dead. Can you imagine, right in the midst of the ancient cathedral of faith, they were openly violent, openly on the attack? Jesus finds words and a way to exit from there alive. The incredible,consuming anger, the unwillingness to imagine God as larger and different than one accepts - all of this is enough for grown men, theologians and leaders all, to shed blood and take a life in the temple. The religious world is riddled with truth that we are often more ready to do battle with one another than with injustice and oppression. We are ready to raise our voices and our hands to God's servants rather than to open our hearts to the needs in our very midst.

Today, I ask God to grant me an open and forgiving heart. No matter the words or behavior, may I trust in a Savoir, who stood in the midst of violence and cruelty and found a way to sidestep it in order to care for the most needy. May our hands never be raised for violence but in prayer and praise, with a willingness to lend them to the community around us.

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