TRUE GOSPEL VALUES
Brother Dennis, CDL
Given the emotional weather patterns of our nation in the wake of last week’s election results – both on the national and local levels – this week’s Gospel as told in Luke seems timely and relevant.
The scene is Golgotha, or what was known as “The Hill of the Skull,” and Jesus is hanging between two who are referred to in translation as criminals, but could be more accurately identified as insurrectionists. Crucifixion was the preferred means of killing insurrectionists and Jesus was counted as such in the eyes of Rome. But Jesus was different than the two who would be forever located in history as ones flanking Jesus that fateful day. Like others, Jesus did indeed speak out against the oppressive powers of the Roman government, but as the Centurion Soldier would realize and state out loud for all to hear just a few hours later, “Certainly this man was innocent.” The Roman government had gotten wrong.
So on top of the trash heap that day Jesus hangs crucified and dying. Passers-by and detractors are taking their shots at him when he is most defenseless. One of the two are mocking him too. But the other sees Jesus for who he is and the injustice of it all for what it is. He makes a stand for Jesus and is given a promise of paradise.
Think about how this gospel story relates to us this week. The Divine Presence of God hangs between those who cheer and mock the values of God and those who align themselves with True Living Gospel. This telling of the crucifixion offers two very clear choices. We can get swept away in the divisive, hurtful swarm, or hold fast to our true Christian Values, values that are not determined by societies or government or even some religious interests. Our True Gospel values are given to us by the one whom we follow – Jesus Christ. And he teaches us these values in the words he spoke and he models those values for us by how he lives.
The True Gospel Values that Jesus teaches and modeled for us are clear, but evidently not so easy to live by some who call themselves his followers. But to be a true Christian is to live these True Gospel Values given us directly by Jesus. There are no half-measures, no watered down versions, there is only the True Gospel. He taught us to love God with everything have and to love our neighbor as ourselves, no exceptions. Who is our neighbor? Just look around. Our neighbors are everyone regardless of the color of their skin, gender, gender identity, who they love or how they love, documented or undocumented, rich, poor, ability or other-ability. The list is as diverse as the people in the world and the True Gospel identifies us as all brothers and sisters.
Jesus also about peace, but he wasn’t always a pacifist. Remember what he modeled for us in temple when he felt God’s values were being disrespected. He also championed the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised. He makes it clear how we are to live-out the True Gospel Values when he says we are to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger (immigrants), clothes the naked, care for the sick (accessible healthcare for all), and visit the prisoner (criminal justice reform).
As Episcopal Christians we are also bound, or at least we should be, to our covenant with God to seek and serve Christ in every person, to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every single human being. Every person…all people…every human being…that means everybody!
The True Gospel values really couldn’t be any clearer. It’s all right here in front of us. And like the two that were hanging with Jesus that day on the hill, we have a choice about how we are going live our lives. No one is forced to live as a Christian. God loves us all equally. But if we want to truly live as followers of Jesus and call ourselves Christians, Jesus has given us a mandate with clear instructions on how to do that. Anything else is something different.