I recently had the gift of sitting with a Sister in the Faith and I referred to Jesus as a crackpot. I did not, nor do I, mean that in any derogatory way. But the fact is, that this child for whom we wait – Christ, the Messiah, Saviour, Root of Jesse (the list is really long) – was seen as a wing-nut, crackpot, social disturber. The boy would grow into a man who threw everything upside down and would become such a fundamental threat that he was executed.
For many, understanding Jesus in this manner is not new. For others this is disturbing and challenging. And, hopefully, we will always find ourselves somewhere in the midst of getting it and being wary. God – as Jesus’ life modelled – is not easily understood and that, in itself, is disturbing for those of us – all of us I would contend – who want stability, consistency and safety. But … yes there is often a but when we talk about Jesus … the one for whom we wait, wasn’t all about that, now was he?
He arrives poor, the lowest of the low, to a class of people seen as the refuse of the Roman Empire, who were the disposable labour that propped up a system of economic disparity that – frankly speaking – has always been with us. Here he comes, preaching not to the central power in Rome, but going from village to village, hanging with those on the margin and he’s challenging them to wake up, to realise their inherent worth that they are Holy and that IS ENOUGH. And, for those who heard this message, freedom was attained and life was so precious that even death – even martyrdom – was no barrier to the Kingdom of Heaven that began the moment this simple and revelatory message was not only understood in the headspace, but felt vibrantly in the very core of their being.
What’s the point? What’s that mean now as we wait? I have been struck lately by the ongoing anger and hatred that I witness in both the secular media and among certain Christians directed at the GLBTTQ community. The ongoing debate that marriage is framed as only sacred between a man and a woman, thus precluding same-sex couples and confining any critique of bullying to a sound-bite, detracts from the reality that a gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered or queer youth succumbs to suicide, makes me angry!
As I have been waiting, in this place of reflection, it occurred to me to ask: what’s the connexion between the coming Jesus and this intolerance? And then there was that click: the Jesus for whom we wait is the person on the outside, born into a culture that hates him – and yes her – and would rather create a feedback loop that beats him down, dehumanises in order to make him pliable to the systems that keep us asleep and, should he even have an inkling that something is amiss, push him to the place where life feels like it would be better if it he simply let suicide become the solution. And whom do we hate enough, in the 21st century here in Winnipeg, Canada, to believe our collective lie?
So – here’s the upside down thing – not only was the Jesus for whom we wait born on the outside, but right from the get go he modelled his Holiness. Our Sacred Texts talk about the various ways, even as a youth and young man, that he lived this out. So while I wait, in this time of silence and reflection, longing for something to awaken in me and around me, I have to realise that as long as young men and women succumb to suicide, as did Jamie Hubley, we are perpetuating a system of intolerance and hatred. This system is not new: for Jesus’ ministry ultimately challenged those who name themselves as Disciples to enter into these human realities and preach the Good News. A Good News that tells all people not only that they are loved, but that if they are able to hear that message, they can also be freed. It is that freedom that is offered by the child for whom we wait: A freedom that untethers us from the self-hating cycles that create the illusion of humanist control and leads us to walk with those for whom this is not a safe world. This is a Holy trust and, ultimately, worthy of life. Of course, this all sounds somewhat out of line with Fox News, the Winnipeg Sun or the Shopping Network, but I suspect it may have just enough craziness that you and I might want to try it nonetheless. As you walk into Advent, for whom is it you are waiting …