Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 1 A - Hebrews 2:10-18

Hebrews 2:10-18
During the summer of 1975 I was the wrangler at Camp Lone Star, LaGrange, Texas. Before the summer was over I had wrecked the rear end of my ‘68’ Chevelle racing a ‘69’ Mustang down a dirt road, chipped a bone in my elbow coming off a green broke colt (suddenly and involuntarily), broke my hand in another horse related incident and was bitten by a Coral snake. (I tried to pick it up because no one told me “red and black venom lack; red and yellow kill a fellow.) Strange as it may seem I still consider it the best summer of my life; maybe because I was a kid from Chicago playing cowboy in Texas and at 19 one does not live in slavery to the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:15) On the other hand (the one not broken) psychologist Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death” (Pulitzer prize for general non-fiction in 1974) would make the case that my reckless behavior during the summer of 1975 was a denial of the very real fear finite beings feel whether they acknowledge it or not. The church has been the place where the fearful faithful gather to be confident that death is but the gateway to eternal life and as long as one has a reserved seat by virtue of a personal relationship with Jesus there is no need to be afraid. But we miss the truth of the incarnation when we cast Jesus’ life and death and resurrection as a religious Ponzi scheme where only those who buy into the system are given a get out of (eternal) jail free card. If God in Jesus becomes like us in every way then God must also identify with those who are less than faithful and live out their fear of death in ways that are destructive to themselves and ultimately others. That is not to say bad behavior is excused. But having lived our life and died our death surely God must understand we were set up from birth into a closed system to live in denial of the thing we fear most because we cannot avoid it or in the end escape it. The hope of the scripture that proclaims a merciful God is that God became as we are so that we might become as God is. (St. Augustine) To that point the church is set free from the fear of death when the faithful fearful are as willing to enter into the suffering of others as Jesus was and like Jesus are not ashamed to call all members of the human family sisters and brothers. 

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