About three miles away, a young man sat in his home courageously fighting his craving for drugs; his family and friends praying he’d make it to the check-in time at the drug rehab center this afternoon.
About 50 miles away, a woman who has been incarcerated for 12 years lay her head down on her bed for the last time in prison. As you read this, she is free and in May will be one of the first residents of Magdalene St. Louis.
In the Gospel reading for today, Tuesday in Holy Week, Jesus says:
One of my favorite quotes is from an unknown monk who said:
The difference between false faith and true faith is that false faith says, “do not worry; that which you fear will not happen to you” and true faith says, “do not fear, that which you fear may well happen to you; but it is nothing to be afraid of.”
When we follow Jesus, it doesn’t lead us to soft places. Jesus doesn’t live in the soft places. Jesus lives in hard, scary places. Jesus lives in the cars riddled with bullets and in the lonely apartments of people struggling with addiction. Jesus lives in the prison cells and under bridges.
Jesus lives with us when we are honest about the pain, the grief, the loss, the fear in our lives.
Following Jesus is nothing but risk. Following Jesus is an invitation to fall to the earth and die.
To love so much that we care more about others than we do ourselves – not in a self-destructive way but in a way that recognizes the greatest thing we can do with our lives is to follow Jesus in giving our lives away.
To dive into really scary stuff and know that what we fear may well happen to us but that it is truly nothing to fear because even then we can never lose the only thing that truly matters – the love of God in Jesus Christ, love that is stronger even than death.
And it is scary. It’s not a sin to be scared. Hell, Jesus was scared! And we know this because the next line of John’s Gospel is Jesus saying:
That’s Jesus saying, “Yeah, I’m scared … but what are you going to do?” and God replying, “Don’t worry … I’ve got your back. Don’t worry – that which you fear may well happen to you; but it is nothing to be afraid of.”
I regularly get asked why I keep writing and talking and preaching about things like Michael Brown and the chasms of race and class among us; about human trafficking and Magdalene; about children being killed by guns and about the powerful hold addiction in its many forms has on us. Why can’t we talk about something else? The world is so hard and stressful, why can’t church be a place to escape?
I feel that pain and frustration, I really do. But this week, as we walk together with Jesus, we know that our engagement with these things as people many of whom like me have the privilege of choice over whether or not we pay attention to them … that engagement is not optional.
To walk with Jesus is to set a course for the cross.
To walk with Jesus is to brave the bullets and the addictions the undersides of bridges and the insides of prison walls.
To walk with Jesus is to fall into the earth and die.
To walk with Jesus, to be the Body of Christ, is to let Jesus be the light in our darkness and to ourselves be the light in the darkness of the world.
And we can’t do that unless we go there ourselves.
And as we do, we find Jesus is there waiting.