"I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Amos 5:21, 24
I lift my eyes to the hills, Holy God, from where will our help come? We pray for those confused and demoralized by our system of justice. We pray for those who can't keep from hoping and praying for justice, yet who also can't forget our history.
We pray also for those with the luxury of forgetting history, those whose privilege protects them from the pain of this moment, those whose lives need not be interrupted by controversial trials or an urgent need to work for a more equitable world.
Embolden us all, Holy God, to interrogate our systems and structures, to risk creative change, to listen to people long silenced and to work for peace. Hear us as we pray that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
by Teri McDowell Ott
33Then Pilate entered the praetorium again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?"
35Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
37Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
38Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"
About nine months into pandemic awareness and mandated measures to help stop the spread, late November 2020 we began a new year of grace with Advent anticipation and hope. Since then we've welcomed the newborn Jesus, followed him to baptism by the river whose waters still interconnect all waterways and all peoples, experienced his ministries and his teachings, journeyed to Jerusalem, been in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, grieved at his trial, death, and burial, met the risen Christ at the dawn of resurrection day, trusted his promise to be with us forever, and started to follow him into our futures.
Today the church concludes another year of grace as we celebrate the sovereignty of Jesus Christ who reigns from a cross of shame.
John's gospel uniquely brings us a dialogue between Jesus and Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, who had sole authority to sentence a person to death. Earlier in this gospel Jesus rejected the title "king" and all four gospels frequently call him Son of Man or the Human One that in Mark is Jesus' favorite title for himself. However, in today's short account, Jesus evades Pilate's, "are you the King of the Jews," yet announces his kingdom or reign is not from this world – not from here, which sets Jesus' subversive ways of justice, love, mercy, and inclusion at right angles to conventional human rules of injustice, hatred, violence, and exclusion. Particularly that of Rome two millennia ago? Especially that of many authorities in this twenty-first century?
Jesus lived fully engaged here in this world—wherever he found himself, yet he revealed a different kind of power – whether elected or hereditary – than most of the world sees most of the time. Jesus announces to Pilate that he came into the world to testify to the truth, and those who belong to the truth will listen to him. Jesus' truth is not necessarily verifiable data or observable events. Jesus embodies God's truth that will redeem ("buy back") and restore all creation as we follow his way. Jesus' own life, death, and resurrection was just the beginning; now it's our turn!
Raise your hand if you even remember when COVID-19 wasn't part of our vocabulary? Next week on the first Sunday of Advent a brand new year of grace opens wide and mostly will feature the gospel according to Luke. Please join me in hope as we again prepare for Jesus of Nazareth's birth in Bathlehem as God among us!