Sunday Week 29 Year B

God would not win the upcoming election—and not just for the fuzzy math. If my one-person focus group is anything to go by God comes over altogether too tough, too hard, in the first words out of his mouth today: “Adonai was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” Yikes! Pleased to crush? God needs better advisers! Showing an aggressive mastery of world events is one thing but cruelty is another. We want the kinder, gentler deity we saw in the earlier debates.
I thought maybe the press were taking God out of context but no amount of burrowing in other translations helped. “Was pleased.” Desired. Willed. Wanted. “God desired to crush him.” Ouch! Who is this God? If I didn’t know her better I vote for another party.
Then, in the shower, the thought came to me, “Why am I trying to protect God from his own PR machine? Isn’t God big enough to look after herself?”
And there’s the heart of it. Can God take care of God?
Two little articles deep in the paper yesterday have been worrying at me. Right page: Nebraska is about to vote on another, so-called, “defence of marriage” act. Not only does it rule out recognition of possible future, out-of-state, same-sex marriages but also “the uniting of two persons of the same sex in civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other similar same-sex relationships.” Whatever you think of same-sex relationships will such an act really protect marriage? Will it bring down the divorce rate? Reduce domestic violence? Care for un-cared-for kids? Who exactly does marriage need protecting from? Those who are married and making a mess of it or those who haven’t yet had their chance? But that’s a quibble—my real question is this: Does marriage need protecting? Isn’t marriage big enough to look after itself?
Left page. The murder of Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan is, 20 years on, thank God, in the news again. Two of the Salvadoran Generals at the top of the chain of command that murdered those four women are on trial right now in an American court. The generals, who long ago received amnesty in their own country, had retired to their reward in Florida where the relatives of the dead missionaries have brought civil suit against them. A Maryknoll sister is quoted: “You live with the question and hope the answers will come out. I guess the hope is that the truth will be revealed and there will be an end to impunity.” An end to impunity.
Some people do seem big enough to take care of themselves. The men who pull the trigger. The guys who give the orders. The US advisers who stand by. The American voter who pays for it all in defence of an invulnerable way of life. These are the structures of impunity. Will they come to an end?
The four women had no impunity. They were unable to take care of themselves. And that makes them very like God. Standing in full view. Vulnerable and awkward and unprotected.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one, Jesus, who has similarly been tempted in every way yet without sin.” The Letter to the Hebrews makes that the mark of the one we follow. Jesus who is tempted in every way we are but doesn’t give in. And, I’m afraid, that’s a problem for me. It is so hard for me to imagine not giving in to temptation! I speak for myself only—but once a desire gets to be strong enough to be called temptation I find it irresistible. They say the only way to deal with temptation is to give in. That—or to not be tempted in the first place. I am a very holy person in all the areas of life I don’t experience temptation. If I try to imagine myself getting holier I find I am imaging myself invulnerable to temptation. I dimly glimpse someone unmoved by disordered desires. Not tempted by tempting toys. Immune to fascination. Spontaneously stoic. I imagine myself getting duller and duller.
Thank God, God has a better imagination than I do! Jesus heads in the opposite direction. Not tempted less but tempted more. Tempted more—because he does not build the structures of impunity you and I build to keep desire at bay. He plunges downward into life and desire and temptation. Vulnerable and awkward and unprotected.
Poor James and John, in their desperate upward climb to glory, pass Jesus going the other way. They want to climb out of the mud to a safe place where they can dry their feet. But Jesus plunges unprotected into the fast-flowing river. “Can you be baptized, drenched, soaked, with the baptism I am baptized?” “We can!” they shout because they think they can take care of themselves. But they can’t. They are better than they think they are—baptism does that to you. It makes you more vulnerable, awkward and unprotected.
And isn’t there something attractive about that? Not safe but attractive. To be like the God who can’t take care of himself. To be like her.

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