Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 108; 150, Zechariah 9:9-16, 1 Peter 3:13-22, Matthew 21:1-13
For Christians, victory is a challenging concept, because so often it looks like defeat. Our savior overcame death, but first he had to humble himself before the powers-that-be and willingly accept the cross. Throughout history beloved saints and martyrs have followed in his footsteps and died for their faith, but collectively we seem to be much more eager to kill for it.
In his first letter, Peter advised disciples to do good even if they suffered for it. Does that sound like what we do today? Or do we, as the dominant faith in our culture, succumb to the temptation to force others into submission to our will and beliefs? The United States is a nation founded on religious freedom, but we certainly didn’t allow the Native Americans to practice their religion in our midst. Every Christmas season, examples of religious inclusion are mocked as politically correct or attacked as un-Christian (and by association, un-American), as though businesses, cashiers, and baristas are somehow obligated to acknowledge Christian traditions to the exclusion of at least a half dozen other religions celebrating holidays in December. When we bury ourselves in wrapping paper and bows, happily co-opt pagan symbols like trees and mistletoe, yet take offense at “Happy Holidays” in a place of commerce (and in today’s reading from Matthew we read about Jesus cleansing the temple of commerce), we aren’t so interested in sharing the Gospel as force-feeding it.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to tell the Empire its power was irrelevant. The marriage of faith identity to national identity produces some unholy offspring. It turns the faith into a hammer, when we are supposed to be willing to take the nails. We only feel the need to hold power when we ourselves are in the grip of fear. Peter wrote: “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.” Delivering the Gospel on the point of a sword sanctifies nothing, and ultimately undermines Christ’s message. Living as persistent, humble witnesses, regardless of whether the world accepts us, is true victory.
Comfort: As long as we rely on God, we are never defeated.
Challenge: Examine parts of your life where your decisions are based on fear.
Prayer: Almighty God, in you alone will I seek victory and validation. Amen.
Discussion: Can Christians declare loyalty to a particular nation? Why or why not?
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