Todd Jenkins writes, “Some of this was written a few years ago. I ran across it yesterday while looking for something else. I’ve reworked parts of it and added the beginning and ending parts. I’m thinking about using it this year, on Thursday, perhaps with two different readers, or maybe three: (I have used colors to indicate this possibility.)
It was a Thursday, leading into Friday; one of those all-nighters we never saw coming. And before it was all over, it became quite a tawdry affair. The way it ends, however, is up to us. At least it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do and who we’re going to become.
“Give us something to cheer about!” the crowd cajoles. “We are in serious need of hosanna – of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving! Time is of the essence. We don’t have all night!”
“Look what I have for you.” The voice trembles at first, and then crescendos, “I have identified and attacked an other, AKA an enemy, and done it with brute, military might!”
“Is there gore, and blood? Are there winners and losers? Can we dance a victory jig?”
“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be amassed!”
“Let the banshee cry! Let the reveling of golden calf gyrations be unleashed!”
“But earlier in the week you had a different rabbi; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”
“His ways are arduous, expecting the overflowing of our abundance, or maybe even the parceling of our sufficiency, to somehow feed the hungry; calling us to love our enemies; asking difficult questions of our choices and alignments. Who knew being neighbors would be so hard?!”
“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All that empire asks is your unquestioning allegiance and loyalty, your willingness to join and support the force… plus a few other, minor details, in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”
“Put us down for duty. We’re in!”
“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”
“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”
“And by that, you mean?…”
The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! Swing the lynching rope! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch!”
Thus continues the malignant conjoining of religion and empire.
But before it came off the rails, while we were still in the upper room — or was it while we were praying in the garden — he gave us a new commandment, a mandatum novum: to live by love. Let us dare to renounce the old one that empire waves — the mandatum odium — the command to hate. Let us choose his road, this night and every night, this day and every day.
Let us dare to not only eat the bread, blessed and broken, and drink the wine, poured out and shared, but also to BECOME life-giving, love sharing bread and wine for all who hunger and thirst for dignity and respect.