March 18, 2019
Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson is the Senior Pastor of Spring Glen Church in Hamden, CT.
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
What if — now hear me out on this one — what if they didn’t deserve it?
When yet another unarmed black person is killed by police, you can count the seconds before someone proclaims that the victim should have just been more respectful to the authorities. When yet another mass shooting consumes the headlines, it’s only a matter of time before someone argues that the victims should have been carrying guns. When yet another family is separated from their children while legally seeking asylum at the border, the story is immediately misconstrued as illegal aliens irresponsibly putting their children in harm’s way.
In today’s scripture, Jesus and the gathered crowd are discussing an incident where Governor Pontius Pilate killed a group of Galileans Jews while they were in the middle of worship. You can imagine the disciple in the back pew whispering to his neighbor, “Why does Jesus always have to be so political?”
Whatever the reason, our societal inclinations have made us surprisingly and disappointingly quick to blame the victim for the trauma they have experienced. And Jesus wants to correct that wrong. To this, Jesus asks the very disturbing question, what if they didn’t deserve it? He brings up another example of a tower in the city collapsing and killing eighteen people. What if they didn’t deserve it?
He answers this question with a very unsettling truth: no. They didn’t deserve this suffering anymore than you do. And it will happen to you. Unless you repent. That is the one comfort, the one pathway to safety Jesus offers. Repent.
But unload from that word “repent” all of our modern baggage associated with it. The murdered Galileans mentioned at the beginning of the discussion were killed while repenting for their personal sins. So if Jesus is offering us repentance as the armor against such tragedies, he must be offering a completely different idea of repentance. In the context of the conversation, it would seem that Jesus is calling us to repent of our callous victim blaming.
We have no hope of finding compassionate solutions to the sins of our world if we continue to blame the victim, if we continue to ask women what they were wearing when they were assaulted instead of believing them, if we continue to jail addicts instead of treating them, if we continue to isolate the homeless instead of housing them, if we continue to teargas border crossers instead of sheltering them, if we continue to fine pay-day borrowers instead of forgiving debts, if we continue to blame and punish instead of repenting and loving.
Ten chapters later, Jesus will be hanging on the cross next to a thief. The thief will say, “surely I deserve this punishment,” to which Jesus will reply, “No. You deserve to sit by my side in the Kin-dom of Heaven.” Friends, to be Christian is to view the world through this lens: God sent Jesus to make sure you know that the only thing the world deserves is love.
God of Unending Grace and Unconditional Love, teach us that salvation is already freely given but only realized when we see each and every atom of creation as deserving of love. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at email@example.com.
Center Congregational UCC
First Congregational Church of Meriden
The Second Congregational Church of Middle Haddam
Middlebury Congregational Church UCC
Middlefield Federated Church
This Week in History:
Mar. 24, 1989, (20 years ago) The Exxon Valdez runs aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, dumping an estimated 11 million gallons of oil into the water. The effects on the fragile Alaskan environment was devastating. Thousands of birds, fish, and mammals were killed. Though millions of dollars have been spent in cleanup efforts, oil can still be found on the shores of the sound today.
Starting With Scripture: March 18, 2019 , by Jack Perkins Davidson.