Monday, October 27, 2014

Flour. Yeast. Salt. Water.

MATTHEW 22:34-46
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “&squo;You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39and a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42“What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 
44  ‘The Lord said to my Lord, 
     “Sit at my right hand, 
          until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 
45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

So this week, I’ve apparently let my kid use the wrong kind of hand soap, I’ve been duped by and let the homeless walk all over me, and I’ve let my youngest do irreparable damage to his cerebral cortex by letting him “cry it out.” I shopped at the cheap chain grocery store instead of the local organic co-op, and I forgot the reusable grocery bags. And I’ve turned the heat on in the house and forgotten to close the bathroom window, and when we ran out of whole milk, I fed my kid heavy whipping cream. This week I was so tired and overwhelmed by that horrible “witching” hour between 4-6 pm, that hour when your kids are tired and hungry and freaking out and you are tired and hungry and freaking out, that I put my baby in the bathtub and forgot to take off his socks. 

It was one of those weeks when those inner voices are incredibly loud. Like the bass-thudding-in-the-giant-SUV-next-to-you-at-the-stoplight loud. You aren’t good enough. And it’s pledge week on public radio, so you ignore the news, and the pleas for donations and listen instead to the Jimmy Buffet cd you found under your driver’s seat with the coffee cups and the stale Cheerios. Your five year old doesn’t know about the function of the silent e and can’t do basic algebra problems. He insisted on wearing sandals on a forty degree morning and you didn’t stop him. He has been sucked in to the commercialization of society by demanding Ninja Turtle everything. You gave your baby drinkable yogurt. The baby poured drinkable yogurt all over his car seat and all over himself, so when you brought him inside you just stripped him down to his diaper and let the dog lick out the drinkable yogurt from his pants, and then you let the baby wander around in just a diaper and socks all afternoon, all while he cried for more drinkable yogurt. Until it’s time for a bath and you take off his diaper and plunk him in the tub only to realize that you haven’t taken off his socks.

So. I decided to bake some bread.

I am a terrible bread baker. It takes a certain touch and some patience and an amount of precision that I just don’t have. It’s a science. But there’s this recipe for no-knead bread that seemed easy enough. So I tried it. 

3 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 or so cups of warm water

a lot of patience.

that’s it. 

voila. Bread.

Four simple ingredients that, when they are what they are, when you let them do what they are meant to do, they work together and, Bread.

It didn’t turn out perfect. It wasn’t even particularly pretty. The crust was a little too hard. And there are a few hot spots in the pan that made dark circles on the bottom. But there it was, bread.

And, also, a desire. For more bread. 

So I made another batch. I didn’t even clean out the bowl from the first batch. I just kept going. I added more flour and more yeast and salt and mixed in the water and I let it sit, once again. 

And life went on. The yeast multiplied and grew and bubbled, and the gluten formed, and the Facebook kept on hollering at me, and the boys kept leaving their apple slices where the dog could get them, and the husband kept leaving his boxers on the bathroom floor, and I kept tripping over my own shoes that I leave lying around the front door. 

And the yeast kept rising.

Once in awhile I’d look over at the stove and peek through the plastic wrap, and I’d see the dough rising, the gluten sticking, the simplicity of four ingredients simply doing what they were made to do, being what they were made to be — together, becoming bread.

What is the most important commandment?

Love God. 

And like it, Love each other.

That’s it.
Two ingredients that come together to make the body of Christ.

The lawyer asks Jesus, what’s the most important thing, the one thing that we need more than anything else? What’s the one thing?

And Jesus gives him two.

Sure. Flour is probably the most important ingredient when it comes to making bread, but if you don’t have yeast, and you don’t have water, then we’ll have nothing but powder in our mouths. 

What’s the point of having flour if you don’t have yeast? If you don’t have water?

What’s the point of loving God with all that you have if you don’t love what God loves?

What are the things we need most in this world? 
To love God, and to love what God loves. 
We need to chew on more than dust. We need real bread. We need the whole recipe. 

How do we love what God loves?

One thing I learned about making bread is that you can definitely work the dough too hard.  If you mess with it too much, it becomes rubbery, tough, and the dough collapses.

If you rush it, the yeast doesn’t have time to grow, it doesn’t get to do what it was made to do, and you’ll get something more akin to bricks than bread.

Like letting all those voices in, letting in all the criticism and the laundry list of stuff to do, you’re gonna get nothing but bricks.

But bread baking is not really that hard. It just takes patience and a trained eye. It takes the ability to let it go and let it sit and to trust that the flour and the yeast and the water and the salt are going to do what they were made to do. You just have to let the ingredients be. The baking of bread is almost too simple. 

How do we love what God loves?

We let the body of Christ be what it was made to be. Healing the sick. Offering a word of hope. Eating together. 
Broken for us. Loaves of food for us.
We let it sit when it needs to sit.
When we let it rise.
We knead it and press it out and we let it rise again.

Jesus didn’t rush. He was a pretty poor multitasker. He didn’t juggle demands or question his worth. He was. He was here. He was present. He was. He is. 

Being and Presence.

We are still going to rush around sizing each other up, comparing parenting techniques, cussing each other out in traffic and putting our kids in the bath still wearing their socks. We are going to tell our kids that we’re listening to them while we are also trying to take the scissors away from the baby and turn off the TV and stir the mac and cheese that the kids have had for the third time that week. We are still going to collapse in our beds at night feeling as though we have failed. 

We are still going to think that the only way for a church to stay open or for our kids to grow up or for our marriages to survive is to do and do and do and do. 

Meanwhile, there’s a loaf of bread, baking in the oven.

Meanwhile, yeast is multiplying in a bath of warm water and salt and flour.

Meanwhile, God is loving and loving and loving and we are invited to enter in.

We are invited to let go of the driving and the messaging and the emailing and the planning, and sit and ferment. 
Sit and be. 

We can stop trying and doing and manipulating the Body of Christ.
We can be the Body of Christ. 

What would it look like if, instead of doing and doing and doing, if we could simply be?

What would The Church look like if instead of "doing church,"  we could Be The Church?

I think maybe we’d have bread.
I think maybe we’d be fed.
And other hungry folks would come in and want to be fed too.
And we'd go out to the hungry folks and feed them right where they are.

And maybe the bread wouldn’t be perfect. Maybe it’d have too thick a crust and the bottom would be burnt and it’d be lopsided and lumpy. Maybe we’d have little boys running around with soggy socks and dirt under their fingernails. Maybe we’d still question our own value, and we’d still be tripping over our shoes, and the dog will still be doing our laundry by licking the yogurt out of our baby’s pants. 

But it’d be good to eat. And it would nourish us. And it would be broken for us. And we’d share it. 
And we’d love God, and we’d love our neighbor. 

And it’d be good.

Thanks be to God. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


MATTHEW 22:15-22
15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?“ 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

So there’s this theory that suggests that animals are physiologically set up to react in basically one of two ways when they feel threatened. It’s call the “fight or flight” response. Scientists argue that there is a release of hormones that happens when we feel we are being backed into a corner. We’ll either fight back - we’ll snarl and bark and gnash our teeth and attack. Or we’ll run away.

But in my case, I do neither. When someone is attacking me or judging me or criticizing something that I’m doing or have done, I tend to just stay right where I am. And then I cry. I can’t help it. Tears. I will do everything I can to hold them in. I’ll pinch my arm. Hard. I’ll avoid eye contact. I’ll scrunch up my toes as tight as I can inside my shoes. I’ll get mad. But inevitably, the faucet turns on, and the tears start spewing out. And the madder I get, the more tears come. And then I get mad because I’ve let myself cry. I’ve let myself show my vulnerability in front of someone who is attacking me. 

When we feel stuck, we fight. Or we run away. Or, in my case, I cry.

That feeling of “stuckness” is so overwhelming. It’s when we feel like we’ve been forced into a corner, like there is no acceptable way out of the situation, that all roads lead to a dead end, and that whatever we choose is going to be a disaster. We feel stuck when we feel like we have no choices. When any choice we make will ruin us, one way or another.

I think we feel like this so often. As a mom, I feel this way when I’m at work, because I want to be at home with my kids. And then I feel this way at home, because I want to be and do “more” than wipe dirty bottoms and scrub peanut butter out of the couch cushions. Stuck. I feel this way about our work situation, where if Dan gets a job that will actually be able to support us, it will almost definitely take us out of Pittsburgh, where my heart is, where our support system is, where I have finally learned how to get to the Target without getting lost. But if we stay in Pittsburgh, where I long to stay, where I feel like home is, we’ll never get out of our tiny house, we’ll never pay back the in-laws, we’ll never be able to be all grown up and on our own. Stuck. 

I belong to this online mom’s group. Just the other day, a desperate mom expressed that she was in crisis. She just got a job that pays minimum wage, working four hours a week to try to ease up the financial strain on her family, and now she earns something like $10 over the minimum and her family has been kicked off food stamps. And yet she can’t afford food.  And then the page filled with echoes of her story. Story after story of being punished for trying to do the right thing. Story after story of folks who are trying to get back on their feet, but who actually end up getting punished for getting a job. They feel so stuck.

Or so many of my homeless neighbors who come to the Table. One woman doesn’t have her birth certificate because she was born in Chile, but has American parents. And because of this she can’t get any help, no aid, no social security benefits, no health care. She just told me that the cops have threatened to arrest her if she lies down in any of her usual places, so now she says, she just sleeps standing up, wherever she can. She has this crazed look in her eye, like a bird in a cage.  Stuck.

So often we can’t see a way out of our situation.
We feel alone.
We feel threatened. 
We feel stuck.

And so we fight.
Or we run away.
Or we just crumble into a pile and cry.

How do we choose what to do when we’re so stuck? When no option is a good option?

Will we pay for our prescriptions or for food?
Will we vote for that corrupt politician or the other one?
Will we enter in to yet another war in the Middle East even though we just got out of one that lasted ten years?
Will we ground all flights in Africa, paralyzing their economic and social systems, causing more Africa deaths in order to protect ourselves from Ebola? Or will we put our troops at risk by placing them in Africa in order to save lives and attempt to stop the virus in its tracks?
Will we respond to acts of violence with more violence? Or will we just stand there and let them take our girls or hurt our families and destroy our communities?
Will we take care of ourselves? Or will we sacrifice our health or our sanity for someone or something else?
Will we stay in this broken relationship for the sake of our kids, or for our financial stability? Or will we end it, giving up all that we have worked for?


When we are between a rock and a hard place, do we fight it out? Do we run away? Do we cry?

When we are stuck, we feel like we have no good choices.

We are Sisyphus, pushing that rock up the mountain for the rest of forever. Only to find that when we reach the top, the rock falls back down, and we have to start all over again.

And this is the situation that Jesus is in in our reading today.
And the Pharisees and Herodians have put him in that position.
They want to back Jesus into a corner. They want to make him feel stuck.

That way, if he fights, they can arrest him. If he runs away, they can discredit him. If he cries it out, they’ll mock him. Push this rock, Jesus, and see what happens.

Tell us, Jesus, should we pay taxes to the Emperor?

If Jesus says, “yes,” we should, then the Israelites will believe that he is pandering to the Romans, giving in to their Imperialistic claims over Judaism, and basically stating that Caesar is who he says he is, namely, the “Son of Augustus the Divine,” or basically, “the Son of God.” It legitimizes Caesar’s claims that there is no one on earth more important than Caesar. It was even written on the coins themselves, “Caesar, Son of God.”

If Jesus says, “no,” we shouldn’t pay taxes to the Emperor, then he will be arrested for sedition, accused of causing an uprising against the State, and will surely be put to death.

Jesus is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Either choice leads to his death.
Either choice leads to the unraveling of everything that Jesus has worked for. 

And the Herodians and the Pharisees know this. 


If Jesus turns right, then disaster. Left, more disaster.
There is no moving forward, no going back. 
And a choice has to be made.

So many folks interpret this passage to be a commentary about the relationship between church and state, to talk about whether or not we should pay taxes, or respect the government or not be critical of our president. 
It’s been used on both sides of the aisle, the left and the right.
It’s been used as an excuse to NOT get involved in issues of social justice, to NOT take a stand against corrupt governments and to not participate in acts of civil disobedience.

But can I be so arrogant, so bold to say that I think that this misses the point entirely?

This passage is about how Jesus makes a way out of no way.
Jesus is stuck, and he gets unstuck.
He slips through the rock and the hard place.
He neither fights, nor “flights.” And he doesn’t crumple into a ball and cry.

He finds a third way. He soars above it all.

This passage does more for us than reveal how God feels about our human social institutions. It goes beyond commentary about how God feels about taxes or laws or respect for our government, although I’m sure God has opinions about all of that.

This passage is about how in the mind and heart and very being of God, how the very essence of God is that of the third way, that of getting unstuck where we think there are no more choices, where we’ve run out of options, where we think that the only way forward is off a cliff, or to slog through the empty desert, or to go back down that mountain and to start pushing that rock back up again. 

Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And give to God what is God’s.”

Do you see what he does here? Jesus looks past the trick. He looks past the rich Pharisees and the Herodians who have made a living compromising who they are to appease some power system. He looks past the test to the people around him, the real people who need him, whose very lives depend upon the answer to this question.

And he doesn’t say, “sure, pay the taxes” to those around him who are struggling to survive, struggling to make ends meet, struggling just to keep food on the table and who are completely oppressed and overwhelmed by this abusive system. 
And he doesn’t say, “no, don’t pay the taxes,” to those around him who, if they refused, are so weak and so vulnerable that they would surely be obliterated by the all-powerful Rome right on the spot.

And he doesn’t weasel his way out like some squeamish politician, giving us a pile of doublespeak to work through while he goes on to another photo shoot.

No. He says, “Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s.” 

Whatever it is that is oppressing you, weighing you down, stressing you out, what ever is making you feel stuck, give to it what belongs to it. Give that monkey or that demon or that oppressive system what it wants, because you don’t want that anyway. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and then you’ll be free. 

What is Caesar’s? 

Things that cause oppression and violence and poverty. 
Things that make you feel like you’re not worthy, like you don’t have enough, like you’ll never be good enough.
Give it all back.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. 
Give away your doubt and your fear and your anger and your insistence on perfection.
Give away your judgments and your insecurities and your insistence on fighting.
Give away your jealousy and your brokenness and your insistence on running away.
And when someone has backed you up against a wall, when you feel cornered and scared and stuck, keep your tears for someone who really deserves it.

Name whatever it is that has you stuck, and give it what belongs to it. Give it away. Let it go. 

Follow the third path. The direction that you couldn’t see until you saw the problem through the lens of the one who saw God’s path and God’s ways and God’s mind so closely that the division between him and God dissolved. Follow the third way of the one who slips through the cracks between the rock and the hard place to a place of hope and resurrection.

And yeah, sometimes the third way looks a lot like suffering. Sometimes it looks a lot like death. Sometimes is looks like you’ve been stuck to a cross and left out to die. 

But even then. Even then when we feel our most stuck, our most overwhelmed and despairing and hopeless, Jesus says, find the third way, find the way to give to God what belongs to God. 

This reminds me of a poem by Mary Oliver, called “Wild Geese.” 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Give to God your very self, and God will transform you. God will “unstick” you. You do not have to be “good.” You don’t have to crawl on your hands and knees through the desert, repenting. There is a third way. The way of Grace and love and hope and resurrection. 

God will free you like the wild geese, offer you the world, call out to you and announce your place in the family of things. 

Because even if you fight with God. Or run away from God. Or offer God your tears, God will transform it. God will destroy the rocks and the hard places and give you all kinds of room to stretch out and to think and to fly and to question and to hope. 

God will show you the third way. God will make you unstuck. God will teach you to fly like the wild geese who announce our place in the family of things. You’re not stuck. You belong. There is a third way. 

Jesus shows us how.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Two Boys and a Truck

MATTHEW 21:33-46
33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

This is the story of two boys and a truck. 
Once upon a time, about two days ago, there were two boys who had a house full of toys. So many toys that there are bins in the living room, bins in the den, bins in their all-too-small bedroom. Piles of toys on the stairs and trails of toys into the kitchen. And the trucks. So many trucks. Trucks that carry other trucks. Trucks that move by themselves. Trucks made of wood. Trucks made of plastic with flashing lights and real working doors. Trucks you can build yourself. Big trucks. Little trucks. Trucks for the sandbox and for the bean box and for the rice box. Trucks that squish play dough into beams and gravel and rotten fish. 

Boy number one, let’s call him “Levi,” is contentedly playing with a truck. Zooming it back and forth on the carpet, banging it on the coffee table, making his version of truck noises as he plays. 
Boy number two, let’s call him “Jonah,” who knows he has mountains of trucks, truck-fulls of trucks, sees “Levi” with that truck, and suddenly, he has to play with that truck. No other truck will do. The truck that has a lift bucket, the truck that’s also a crane, the truck that dumps it’s load all by itself, is NOTHING compared to this truck. He. must. have. this. truck.

So he takes it from him. 
And Levi screams. And takes it back.
And they fight. “It’s mine!” they say. “I want it!” they cry. “You can’t have it!” they yell.
And, dare I say, the boy we hypothetically call “Jonah” hits Levi and takes the truck back. 
And the two fight some more. 
They yell at each other. They cry. And, if the boy we’ll call “Levi” were a bit older, I bet you fifty bucks that he’d hit Jonah back. And they fight. And cry and carry on. 

And forget about the truck.

But momma has had it. She’s tried reasoning with them. She’s tried offering other trucks. She’s told them that we don’t hit. Ever. That they can share the truck. 

But no dice. 

They’re still fighting. Even though the truck has disappeared somewhere underneath the couch with the wheels still spinning. 

They’re fighting. Over the truck. But they’ve forgotten the truck.

But momma hasn’t. Momma thinks she knows that this whole problem has started with the truck, so she takes the truck away. Puts it up high where neither of them can get to it. 
There. Problem solved. Right?

Nope. now Momma’s the bad guy.

Commence the crying. The flailing. The kicking and the back arching. 
Two boys who were once fighting each other, are now a united front, a coalition against the common enemy, the Momma, who wanted to end the trauma, who took away the truck.

Annnnnd. Scene.

Part Two.
This is the Story of the Vineyard Workers.

Once upon a time, a landowner planted a vineyard. A big one. It’s got a wine press and a watchtower. And he leases it to some tenants and goes to another country.
When the grapes are big and red and sweet, it’s time to harvest them, and the landowner wants his share; he wants his rent money, as is fair, as was part of the agreement between the tenants and the landowner. 
So the landowner sends some guys to come and collect the harvest. 
And they fight. “It’s mine!” they say. “I want it!” they cry. “You can’t have it!” they yell. 
And when that doesn’t work, they start hitting. They start stoning. They kill a guy.
And the landowner sends more guys. And the tenants kill more guys.
Dare I say, by the time these two groups have come through to collect their landlord’s rent, the crops have withered on the vine. The grapes have gone rotten in the cellars. The grapes have been too long in the sun, have molded and shrunk and gotten all gooey underfoot. The grapes are no longer good for wine. 
The issue no longer is about grapes and harvests and agreements. The violence has escalated and they have forgotten what the issue was about in the first place. 
So finally, the landowner sends his own son. Surely, they’ll respect him, surely they’ll see his authority. Surely they’ll get their act together.

There. Problem solved. 

Nope. They kill the son, too.

So, Jesus asks the chief priests and scribes, the pharisees and the folks with power and control and those who are happy with the status quo, what’s this landowner, obviously a metaphor for God, what’s this landowner gonna do?

Kill ‘em. Kill ‘em all. They say.

They Say.

Take the “truck” away, punish those at fault, hit back, kill ‘em all. Give them what’s coming to them. Fight fire with fire. Kill the killers. That’s what he’ll do, they say.

And we assume that’s the end of the story. We assume that Jesus is complicit in the answer that the chief priests and scribes and those who have lived by the sword give him. We assume that this is a parable about the end of days and about how God is the Almighty Smiter who’s gonna come in and torch everyone who betrayed God, who’s gonna suck them into hell, who’s gonna zap us all for betraying Jesus, nailing him on the cross, leaving him there, exposed to die, offering him sour wine and taunting him with our words and taking his clothes. We think this parable is about the same things we always think about — that the only way to get justice is to do what they did to us. The only way to find peace is through war. Through surgical strikes and necessary, but regrettable casualties. Collateral damage. 
That landowner is gonna bring his tanks and his guns and his stealth bombers and put them all to a miserable death. Right?

That’s what we assume is the end of the story.

But we are so engrained in this culture of violence. This culture of might makes right. Of what, if we want to get all heady and philosophical, Rene Girard calls “mimetic desire” — the wanting of what everyone else has so much that we’ll use violence to get it, and when we get so wrapped up in the violence that we forget about the truck or the grapes get withered on the vine, we need to blame someone for it, so we create a scapegoat and we sacrifice him. And then the violence ends. Until next time.

So we think that Jesus agrees with the scribes and the pharisees, and we turn this parable into a story about what happens when you piss God off.
But listen. Listen carefully to what Jesus says to them:

“have you not read the scriptures?”
Do you not realize how many times in your history you’ve made God mad, how many times you’ve murdered God’s prophets and killed God’s beloveds?
Do you get that you’re still here? Your whole history is full of violence and chaos and scapegoating and more violence. And here you are. Here I AM, a gift to you, and you’re going to kill me too. You’re going to convict me to a violent death. 
Haven’t you read the scriptures?
Don’t you see what’s there? 

You’re so stuck in your cycle of violence that you don’t even get that the landowner has NOT come to condemn. The landowner isn’t going to come in with tanks and rocket grenade launchers and squish us all like a bug. You’re so stuck. Even though we have thousands of years of stories to try to convince you otherwise. 

God tells us, “This new story I’m writing is really the story I’ve been trying to tell you all along. 
The cornerstone isn’t made of riches and gold and slavery and power and life insurance and gated communities. The cornerstone is the rejected broken body of my son. Who won’t come back to life to condemn, to fight back, to torture and punish. He’ll come back to have roasted fish and fresh bread with his friends on the beach. He’ll come back to say, “peace to you.”

But you’re stuck, Jesus says. So you’re going to plot my death. 
You’re going to kill me too, because you think violence is the only answer. 
And THAT’s going to be your downfall. Your insistence on violence, on having what someone else has until you fight over it until you forget about what you’ve been fighting about in the first place, THAT’s what’s going to crush you. 

But that’s not the end of the story. 
Because just as you will break me, will crush me, will hang me from a cross and laugh and think the solution has been made, your violence will crush you.
And just as I will be raised from the dead, just as I will conquer violence and death and the hatred that will put me up on that tree, I will raise you. I will raise you from your hatred. From your violence. From your scapegoating and your mimetic desire. 

I come to bring freedom. To show you that your ways are not my ways. That those who live by the sword will die by the sword. But those who turn their swords into plowshares will be made new, will have all grapes and bread and trucks and living water that they need - not because I come to make everyone rich. This is no prosperity gospel. This is the good news of the end of violence. This is the good news of peace. The good news of grace. The good news of the end of always wanting what someone else has, because God’s grace is sufficient for all of us.

You are forgiven. Now be at peace. Be at peace with God, and with one another. You don’t have to strive for what others have, because my grace is for all, and my grace is sufficient. 

Thanks be to God.