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Jesus as "an equal-opportunity pisser-off-er"

This Sunday's gospel contains the scene of Jesus telling his followers that he is going to suffer, be betrayed by religious leaders, be killed, and then rise again. 

It's not pleasant news for us to hear, and it wasn't pleasant news for Peter to hear.

In fact when Peter - representing not only the other disciples but the Church - hears Jesus talk about suffering and betrayal and death as an integral part of his ministry, he's mad. Peter rebukes -- reprimands, scolds, objects -- Jesus for talking that way.

In response, Jesus rebukes Peter right back! Jesus gives Peter (and by implication, all his disciples and the Church today) the strongest criticism he gives anywhere in the Bible: "Get behind me, Satan! Your mind is set not on divine things, but on human things."

Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., in his wonderful and powerful book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, writes

"The strategy and stance of Jesus was consistent in that it was always out of step with the world. Jesus defied all the categories upon which the world insisted: good-evil, success-failure, pure-impure. Surely, he was an equal opportunity "pisser-off-er" in this regard.

"The right wing would stare at Him and question where He chose to stand. They hated that He aligned Himself with the unclean, those outside - those folks you ought neither to touch nor be near. He hobnobbed with the leper, shared table fellowship with the sinner, and rendered Himself ritually impure in the process. They found it offensive that, to boot, Jesus had no regard for their wedge issues, their constitutional amendments or their culture wars.

"The Left was equally annoyed. They wanted to see the ten-point plan, the revolution in high gear, the toppling of sinful social structures. They were impatient with His brand of solidarity. They wanted to see Him taking the right stand on issues, not just standing in the right place.

"But Jesus stood with the outcast. The Left screamed: 'Don't just stand there, do something.' And the Right maintained, 'Don't stand with those folks at all.' Both sides, seeing Jesus [out of step with the world] came to their own reasons for wanting Him dead. Both sides were equally impressed as He unrolled the scroll and spoke of 'good news to the poor' ... 'sight to the blind' ... 'liberty to captives.' Yet only a handful of verses later, they want to throw Jesus over a cliff. ...

"I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) - that didn't end in the Cross - but he couldn't find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced."  

As I'll explore further in my sermon at The Falls Church Episcopal this Sunday, what about us? 

Are we going to be like Peter, with our eyes set not on divine things, but human expectations and the trap of Right or Left thinking? 

Or can we set our eyes on Divine things - even when that means there will be times we are out of step with the world...betrayed...suffering...and even experience our own kinds of death-preceding-resurrections?

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