Laborers for Justice

June 18, 2017 1 comment

Audio Recording of “Laborers for Justice” recorded in worship (12:07)
2nd Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 11, Year A
Texts: Ex 19.2-8; Rom 5.1-8; Matt 9.35-10.23

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep with out a shepherd.” As I read this, I think of Jesus looking upon the crowds of people walking the streets of Minneapolis Friday night and blocking traffic on I-94 yesterday, crowds filled with anger and sorrow after the police officer who killed Philando Castile was acquitted. I think of the crowds of people who are still in mourning on the second anniversary of the Mother Emanuel shooting, crowds who fear that no place—not even a house of worship—is safe. I think of the crowds of people in this country and across the globe who have been told time and again in no uncertain terms that their lives do not matter.

Photo by Anthony Souffle, AP

In Matthew’s gospel after the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spends two chapters going around healing, curing disease and casting out demons. Today we hear that as he goes about this work he comes to a realization: there is too much pain, too much brokenness, too much sorrow for him to fix on his own. There is too much work for him to do alone. As he looks on those crowds, he is moved with compassion. In Greek, the word compassion comes from the word for ‘guts’ or ‘bowels,’ as that was believed to be where emotions originated. Consequently, Jesus isn’t just moved with pity, he doesn’t just feel sorry for these people; he is moved from his deepest, inmost self by the gut-wrenching plight of these people, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. His guts are churning with love and compassion, and he is overwhelmed at the task ahead.

I would venture to guess that he is not alone in feeling this way as he looks out at these crowds of fed-up, forsaken people. Many of us are troubled at the effects of racism in our society, but we feel powerless to do anything about it. Let’s face it: for most of us, racism is something that other people deal with. Most of us have not ever been made to feel inferior or ignored because of our ethnicity. However, that does not mean that we are guiltless. Even if we ourselves are not racist, we benefit from the machinations of racism in our society, enjoying power and privilege due to our Whiteness that others do not.

Our complicity in a sinful system harms us. It not only denies the dignity of the oppressed, it also diminishes the humanity of the oppressor by marring the image of God within all of us, separating us from our sisters and brothers with a wall of suspicion, fear and even hate. No one gets to be neutral; there are only those who are oppressed, and those who benefit. Systemic sin like this keeps us all from living as God intends, and so it does violence to all of us.

We need to be saved from this sinful reality of racism, even those of us who don’t consider ourselves racist. The problem is not just racist people. It’s not that Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Philando Castile, is a racist. It’s not that the 12 jurors who tried his case are racists. The problem is a racist system that teaches us (among other things) to presuppose that Black men are dangerous—so dangerous that even when they are doing everything they are “supposed” to do, even when they are complying with the authorities, officers like Yanez are afraid for their lives. So dangerous, in fact, that 9 people gathered for bible study in a church are a problem that must be eliminated by any and all means. The system that radicalized Dylann Roof is the same system that terrified and then acquitted Jeronimo Yanez. If you have ever been pulled over by a police officer without being worried for your safety, you have benefitted from the sin of racism.

It isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything to make it that way, but it is the world in which we live, the original sin we inherit from those who came before us.  Until we can name that and recognize our need for God to step in and release us from our slavery to this violent cycle of death and destruction, nothing can change. We are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves; and so with Jesus we pray for more laborers to do the work of God’s kingdom in exorcising this demon in our midst.

The good news we hear today is that even in the pit of despair, God hears our prayers and answers them. Just as God heard the cries of the Israelites and delivered them from Egypt, God hears our cries and delivers us. We cry out for laborers for justice, and God responds: look around you! When Jesus tells his disciples to pray, the prayers are scarcely out of their mouths before he drafts them into the work for which they have just prayed. The disciples become the answers to their own prayers! Matthew tells us this story because he wants us to see ourselves in the disciples. Their work is our work. As Jesus looks out in compassion on these crowds of disaffected, dejected people, he invites us to be the agents of God’s salvation for all people.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Byzantine Gospel of 11th century, BnF, Cod. gr. 74

In baptism, we are called to the work of Jesus, just like the 12 apostles. And just like them, in our baptism we are also given everything we need to fulfill that calling. The Holy Spirit of God gives us the authority and the power of Christ to cast out the demons of systemic sin, to cure every illness and disease of our culture, to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to all who despair.

Today we hear about the Israelites leaving a place called Rephidim. Before they left Rephidim, the Israelites saw and learned to trust in the goodness of God. God got them across the Red Sea to escape Pharaoh’s army, God provided manna and water in the wilderness, God even saved them from an attack by the Amalekites. Like Israel, we too have seen God’s goodness at work: each and every one of us is here because we have in some way experienced the grace of God in our own lives. We are here because while we were still sinners—undeserving and unrepentant—Christ died for us; and having been joined to him in death, he now lives for us, sharing abundant, vibrant life with us.

We know that we have been given all that we need to continue the work of Christ as his Church because he has already given us so much more than we could ever earn, deserve, imagine or comprehend. We know that we have been given all we need because those who came before us—ordinary men and women—had all been gifted with the same Holy Spirit in the baptism we share with them to help them achieve what they did.

Even though the world is still broken, it is better than it was thanks to the people that Christ has called through the ages to work for God’s just and peaceable kingdom. The people of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit have already worked to end slavery, to secure the right to vote, to demand civil rights. The work is not finished, but thanks to God and the people whom God has called into service, we are headed in the right direction and, with God’s help, the goal is within sight.

The cries of the oppressed should unsettle us, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Each and every one of us ought to be mad as hell that a Black man can be murdered on camera and the person who pulled the trigger can still get acquitted. But more importantly, each and every one of us ought to be praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest, laborers to work for justice and for lasting peace; and when we pray we ought to be fully aware that we may very well be the ones that Jesus calls to go out and stop traffic or call congresspersons or run for office or do whatever it takes to cast these demons out, because that is precisely why we were baptized.

Baptized into Christ’s death and sharing in his resurrection, we trust that God will continue to bring new life for all. We are utterly free to sit on the sidelines and wait for God to do this without us. We are free to make excuses about how our gifts lie in different areas. We are free to rest in the comfort of God’s promise for a better tomorrow while others cry for help today, but if we do I have to wonder: are we really free? Or are we simply enslaved to a sinful system, kept complacent and complicit by a few table scraps while our humanity is slowly drained away?

Martin Luther once said, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” Christ looks out on the crowds, harassed and helpless, bewildered and dejected, and has compassion on them. He looks out on these crowds now as they rage and protest, as they shout to be heard and silently weep, and he says to us, “Pray for more laborers.” Like the disciples, we will find that we, the baptized, are the answers to our prayers by the help of God; and like the disciples, we will find that if we step out in faith to serve those to whom Jesus calls us, we will experience God’s salvation in our own lives, because there is so much more waiting for us than a few table scraps.

When we gather around this table, we share a foretaste of the feast to come: a feast at which everyone—not just those with power or privilege—has a seat. We gather at this table to whet our appetite for that great feast which has no end, and to be strengthened to bring that reality to light. At this table, we are filled with the hope of God’s abundant life for all creation, a hope which does not disappoint.

Philando Castile, killed during a traffic stop in St. Anthony, MN

Clockwise from top left: Susie Jackson; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; DePayne Doctor; Ethel Lance; Daniel Simmons Sr.; Clementa Pinckney; Cynthia Hurd; Tywanza Sanders. Killed during bible study in Charleston, SC

A Beautiful Mess

June 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Pentecost, Year A
Texts: Acts 2.1-21; 1 Cor 12.3-13; Jn 20.19-23

Today we welcome Isabelle Beaudette into this community through baptism. A baptism is a very appropriate way to celebrate Pentecost because it is, among other things, our induction into the Church of Christ, and the scripture readings today show us what kind of community it is we are baptized into. We know from Acts that the Church is often messy and chaotic. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that the Church can be quarrelsome and petty. John’s gospel recalls that the Church is sometimes fearful and inward focused. But above all else, scripture demonstrates for us that whatever else the Church is, it is focused on Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit.

When we celebrate baptism, we celebrate the gift of the Spirit. Acts records that early believers received the Holy Spirit at their baptism through the laying on of hands, and our baptismal liturgy still includes a prayer for the entrance of the Spirit: “Sustain this child with the gift of the Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD; the spirit of joy in your presence.” Of course, sometimes the Spirit also chooses to be present in those not baptized, bringing them to faith or helping them to do God’s work. The prophet Isaiah rejoices in the messiah, Cyrus the king of Persia, whom God called by name though he did not know the LORD to free God’s people. (Isa 45.1-5)

Like a mighty wind, the Holy Spirit blows where she will. Like a mighty flood, she is an unstoppable force. Like a raging fire, she can be a power of destruction as well as creation. In Jerusalem, the Spirit descends on the quiet, dignified, orderly gathering of Jesus’ followers with a great noise and what was likely a rather surprising—if not terrifying—light show. 120 men and women then begin babbling in a cacophony of different languages before flooding into the streets, prophesying to the amazed and fearful bystanders about the power of God. Like the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis, God intervenes to confuse their languages—but this time, instead of dividing people the Spirit unites them in the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Christ from its very beginning has included many diverse people: Judeans and foreigners, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, rich and poor. This diversity of people is mirrored by the diversity of gifts that the Spirit bestows on them. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul talks about spiritual gifts of healing, speaking in and translating tongues, prophesy, and miracle working. However, this diversity also means that the Church has from its very beginning also struggled with the human instinct to divide and compete with one another. When we see the differences in the people God has called and the differences in the gifts God has bestowed, we begin building walls, drawing lines, ranking and evaluating one another.

The Corinthians were a diverse lot. Corinth was a metropolitan city, a center of commerce and trade, home to the very rich and the abysmally poor. People from every segment of life found themselves swept up together by the Spirit in God’s church, and just as the old divisions between upper class and lower class died hard, so did the new divisions between those who showed a propensity for flashy displays of faith like healing or speaking in tongues and those whose gifts were more subdued or ordinary.

As people so often do, they took the gifts God had granted them for their mutual benefit and began to use them against one another, creating dissension and division instead of unity and harmony. Paul had to remind them in his letter that whatever gifts they had were from God, not themselves, and that they were given to build up the entire community.

This is the community of the Church. We are diverse, and often divided. We are gifted, but we sometimes use those gifts against one another instead of for the common good. We are often chaotic and confused, messy and mixed up. In the best of times, the Spirit is at the center of this storm of people and emotions and actions and reactions directing it towards God’s ends, but at the worst of times we get caught up in our own agendas and rhythms and fears and claim that power for ourselves, often with disastrous outcomes.

None of that changes the fact that we have each been called by God to be a part of this nutty community and that in spite of—and sometimes even because of—the ways we fail the Holy Spirit remains with us: helping us, guiding us, comforting us, keeping us from getting too complacent or too lost in our own busyness. It is not because of who we are that we have been chosen, but because of who God is, because God has given each of us certain gifts to build up our community, and so God chooses to call us to this community—the Church—to build it up for the common good not only of the Church, but of the whole world.

That decision on God’s part to call us and use us completely apart from our own deserving or merit is what we call grace, or “charis” In Greek. The gifts of the Spirit he calls “charismata;” the word might best be translated “grace-gifts.” Like God’s grace itself, these grace-gifts are not given to us because of our merit or worthiness, but only because God is generous and loves humankind. God gives us these grace-gifts because we are God’s grace-gift to the world, called, claimed and sent through our baptism.

Scene of baptism. Stained glass, Paris, last quarter of the 12th century. From the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris.

When we are washed in God’s promise of eternal life for all creation, we are drafted into the service of that promise. Just as God does not give gifts of tongues or healing or prophecy to build up individuals, our baptism is not for us. We reap the benefits, surely, but ultimately our baptism, like the other grace-gifts we have been given, is for the common good. In baptism God calls us and chooses us to be a part of the beautifully broken community of the Church so that the gifts God has given each us can be combined to create loving community and ultimately do nothing less than to help God save the world.

The festival of Pentecost and the scripture readings for today are demonstrations of how the Holy Spirit is at work in us for the salvation of God’s world. The Spirit gifted those early believers to both build up their own community in loving relationship and ultimately to send them out to spread the good news of what God is doing. In other words, the Spirit is at work in us to make us charismatic and evangelical.

These two words give many Lutherans the cold sweats; but what do they really mean? When we talk about charismatic Christians, we may have images of raucous worship with hands raised in the air, but really “charismatic” simply means gifted. We have all been given gifts by the Spirit—all Christians are charismatic.

Some of those gifts are flashy: some of us are gifted at public speaking or are called to feed the homeless and clothe the naked. Many of our gifts are more subtle, but no less important. Some of us are great at tracking money, organizing volunteers, connecting with kids, or making sure the building is cleaned up. Some are gifted at preparing food, welcoming strangers with a smile, running necessary equipment, or even just knowing when to stop talking and listen. Some have more expertise, some have more passion, some have more money, some have more time.

It is also good to remember that we may have gifts about which we do not know. It’s doubtful that any of those 120 disciples who left the house that day in Jerusalem knew that they were capable of speaking in Cappadocian or Arabic. Sometimes we may find that the Holy Spirit rips us out of our comfort zone to have us do something new and frightening; it’s on one of the career hazards of baptism. And yet, if we follow the Spirit’s lead and step out in faith, we almost always find that though the work is hard, it is always rewarding beyond our imagination.

Regardless of what our individual gifts may be, we have each been given something important to contribute to this community of faith and to the global work of the whole Church, and that work to which we contribute is sharing the love of God with the world in both word and deed. That is the definition of evangelism. It’s not nothing to do with our politics or our style of worship or prayer and everything to do with sharing the benefits of God’s love with our neighbors through service, through relationship, and through telling others about the good things God is doing.

As we celebrate baptism—both Isabelle’s and our own—and Pentecost, we are celebrating what God has done and continues to do for us by building up this loony, loving community around us and somehow empowering us to be a force for God’s good work in the world. It isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always safe, it isn’t always organized; but it is always good. Following Christ won’t make us safe or healthy, happy or prosperous, but then that was never the promise. The promise is that we would have life and have it abundantly, and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit gives: abundant life for all.

A Sermon for the Ascension

May 25, 2017 1 comment

Ascension Day
Texts: Acts 1.1-11; Eph 1.15-23; Lk 24.44-53

Matthew’s gospel ends with the Great Commission—“go and make disciples of all nations…”—and the words “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I have always liked that ending. According to Matthew, for all we know Jesus is still out there somewhere, preaching and healing, eating with outcasts and sinners, still proclaiming forgiveness of sin in the name of God. We are heartened that no matter what we are going through, what hardships we experience or joys we celebrate, he is with us, experiencing the same things. It’s comforting to think that we could, at any time, bump into Jesus still among us. Read more…

Holy Hostels

May 14, 2017 1 comment

Audio Recording of “Holy Hostels” recorded in worship (13:22)
Easter 5, Year A
Texts: Acts 7.55-60; 1 Pet 2.2-10; Jn 14.1-14

It’s been said that a good preacher preaches with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. When the bible speaks to us, it isn’t in a vacuum; the teachings and stories we glean from scripture is intended to be read in the context of the world around us. This is something that I have taken very seriously, and you know that it has shown in my preaching. Today, I have a confession to make: I’ve set down my newspaper. Especially with everything going on with my dad, I find I just don’t have the emotional energy to process the news; it just troubles me too much. Read more…

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

April 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Appearances Can Be Deceiving” recorded in worship (13:21)
Easter 3, Year A
Texts: Acts 2.36-41; 1 Pet 1.17-23; Lk 24.13-35

Have you ever seen somebody who isn’t there? I do this all the time. I’ve lived in so many different places in the last 17 years that I will frequently see somebody that I think I recognize, but then I have to stop and think about whether the person I think I recognize is somebody that I know from here, or somebody that I know from Minnesota, or Pennsylvania, or Idaho, or Montana… Sometimes I’ll be convinced I saw somebody I know only to later realize that the person I’m thinking of is thousands of miles away.

This sort of thing is actually a well-documented psychological phenomenon. When somebody is on our mind, we might sometimes see them in places where they are not. This is especially common after someone dies. In our grief, we become more likely to think we see them, passing on a crowded street, across a room, on the train as it goes by. As a matter of fact, there are some who attribute the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus to this phenomenon. They suggest that the grieving disciples wanted so badly to believe that Jesus was alive that they saw him where he wasn’t, and that’s how the rumor got started that he had risen from the dead.

What I find so intriguing about this story from Luke is that what happens here is the exact opposite of that. Easily the most obviously confounding part of this story is that these two disciples traveling to Emmaus spend hours with Jesus talking about scripture and the events of the last several days and do not recognize him, even when they persuade him to stay the night with them before he continues his journey. Contrary to the idea that they might be more likely to see him where he wasn’t, they couldn’t even see him where he was: staring them right in the face.

There are all sorts of theological and psychological rationale for why they didn’t recognize him, and I’m betting that between us we’ve heard them all. God kept their eyes from recognizing him; they were looking down and didn’t ever see his face; they were distraught and not thinking clearly; knowing he was dead, they didn’t expect to see him; and so on. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, but we are still left wondering: how could they not recognize someone they knew so well?

One of the points of this story is that appearances can be deceiving. Not only is there the case of mistaken identity on the road, but if we pay attention to Cleopas’ story, a pattern emerges. Some women went to the tomb, but didn’t find Jesus’ body; what they do see was a vision of angels who said he was alive. When others went, they find exactly what the women described: Jesus’ body was gone, and they do not see him. Everybody is looking for Jesus, but nobody is finding him. What they do see does not bring clarity, only confusion.

This is all emphasized by the truth that we know but of which Cleopas and his friend are ignorant: Jesus is standing right beside them, talking to them. They see him, but they still can’t find him. He is there, but they don’t recognize him.

This is an important point for us to reflect upon as we read this story, because this story is not only the account of what happened to two of Jesus’ disciples on the day that he was raised, it is also a story about the faith journey of all Jesus’ disciples in every time. Luke’s gospel envisions the life of faith as a journey along which we travel together, sometimes in hope, sometimes in despair, but always with Jesus. Even when we are confused and full of doubt, the message is that not only is Jesus with us, he is right beside us, talking with us, opening the scriptures to us. We might not recognize him because appearances can be deceiving, but he is there. We also learn that our eyes are not only kept from recognizing Jesus, but sometimes they are kept from recognizing what he does.

Cleopas and his friend, we soon learn, are distraught. The Greek word might best translated “gloomy.” When pressed them they tell us why: “we had hoped that [Jesus] was the one who was about to redeem Israel,” but then their own religious and political leaders had him crucified. On top of losing a friend and teacher, all their hopes have been crushed. A week ago, they expected the redemption and salvation of their nation; now, they know only the sting of defeat. Jesus’ response to their pain is none too kind: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” Just like these disciples can’t recognize their friend right in front of them, neither can they recognize what God is doing, instead they think that they’ve lost everything.

They have assumed that Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross is an ending; not just to their relationship with Jesus, but to what God was doing through him. What they cannot see is that Jesus’ death is the means of God’s work, not its ending. This is foolishness; it runs counter to everything we know. Is it any wonder that Cleopas and his companion cannot see this? And yet, as St. Paul reminds us, God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.

And here is the foolishness of God: that through the cross of Christ, when we suffer, God suffers alongside us. Instead of separating us from God, suffering becomes one more way that God may be present with us; and that even death becomes an opportunity to share in new life with Christ.

I, for one, can understand perfectly how Cleopas and his friend did not recognize Jesus walking with them. As I was growing up, I started becoming aware of all sorts of unpleasant dynamics and politics that existed within my home congregation. There had been messy staff dynamics and a pastor who had been run out; there had been back-biting and power plays and other unseemly behavior.

And yet, I was reminded again and again the depth of their love for me and for one another in spite of all the politics and personal dynamics. These were the people who had raised me, who had made me who I am. These were the people who had supported my family and me when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, who had bought our family a trip to Disneyland so that we could have that time together and make those memories, and these were the people who had fed us and cared for us when she died. It was in the faces of these people that I first recognized Jesus.

Cleopas and his friend walk and talk with Jesus without knowing who he is; it is only in the breaking of the bread that they finally recognize him. I know how this can be true, because in spite of all the shenanigans I have witnessed within the Church, it was in the Church—the community of people gathered around and shaped by the breaking of bread—that I first met Jesus face to face; it was in the Church that I first experienced resurrection. Appearances really are deceiving.

We desperately want and work very hard to be a community in which Christ is revealed, but the truth is that in the end, it is not anything we do that matters. Just as on the road to Emmaus, Jesus shows up wherever and to whomever he pleases. He does not wait for the proper action or the correct profession of faith; he appears even—perhaps especially—to people mired in sin and disbelief. We spend so much energy worrying about how we will convince or prove or persuade people to believe the gospel, but it wasn’t any sort of evidence or testimony that convinced Simon or Cleopas or anyone else; it was Jesus himself showing up. What is truly important is that we continue to be a community that breaks bread together because that is how Jesus has chosen to be revealed.

And yet, this breaking of bread also changes us. It transforms us, whether we know it or not, from a cantankerous, contentious group of people into the Church the Body of Christ. It changes us like it changed Cleopas and his companion, compelling them to make the journey back to Jerusalem in the same hour that Jesus was revealed, traveling even in the dark of night to share the good news that the Lord is risen. We share the Lord’s supper together not because Jesus shared it with his friends before he died, but because he shared it with them afterwards. This meal is a sign of the new life we share with Christ even now.

Appearances are often deceiving. What looks like a little chunk of bread and a small sip of wine actually hides the risen Christ who greets us and feeds us with his own body and blood. What seems to be a bunch of random people who have all given up their Sunday morning is actually the community God chooses to bring new life to the whole world. What sounds like nonsense—a man walking out of a tomb?— is actually good news: Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Has Death Lost its Sting?

April 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Has Death Lost its Sting?” recorded in worship (12:15)
Easter Day, Year A
Texts: Acts 10.34-43; Col 3.1-4; Mt 28.1-10

This morning, our church is full as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ—the promise of life after death. However, this is not the case everywhere.

Last weekend in Egypt bombs exploded in two churches as Coptic Christians celebrated Palm Sunday. 49 people died and more than 100 others were injured. As a result, there are many churches in Egypt today who did not celebrate Easter this morning; instead, they gathered in worship to pray for and mourn their dead, their Easter joy tempered with worldly sorrow.

Our faith teaches us that in the face of Christ’s resurrection, “death has lost its sting,” but the reality is that death’s sting is still all too real. It’s tempting to offer up platitudes, hollow clichés about how God never closes a door without opening a window or how God tests our faith through suffering or about everything being a part of God’s plan. It’s tempting to answer the very real suffering of others with the false assurances that the joy of heaven will someday make us forget the pain we suffer in this life, but all these heresies serve only to make ourselves feel better, to protect us from the suffering of others and insulate us from the fear that what happened to them might also happen to us. These “reassurances” are the flimsy shields behind which we hide from death.

A relative of one of the victims reacts after a church explosion in Tanta, Egypt. Credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Read more…

Surely We Are Not Blind, Are We?

March 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Surely We Are Not Blind, Are We?” recorded in worship (12:43)
Lent 4, Year A
Texts: 1 Sam 16.1-13; Eph 5.8-14; Jn 9.1-41

In most stories we read, it’s easy to tell who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” In today’s gospel story, for example, it’s pretty clear that the “good guys” are the man born blind and, of course, Jesus and his disciples, while the “bad guys” are the Pharisees.

“Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribute money” Gustave Doré, 1866

It’s easy to vilify the Pharisees. Their legalism can be harsh and dispassionate and is often at odds with Jesus and his message. Because of this, calling someone a Pharisee is an insult. Those who argue for a strictly literal reading of the bible are sometimes called Pharisees; theology that appears more concerned with obedience to commandments than the human cost of obedience is labeled Pharisaic. To label someone a Pharisee is to write them off, to attack them and their views in a way not unlike the Pharisees in the story write off and attack the man born blind for simply testifying about his own experience. Read more…