Sunday, April 27, 2014

We Want to See Jesus by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

Today we have another message about seeing Jesus. To set the context for today’s message I just want to recap last’s week’s Easter message, in case you were not here or you have forgotten. The women went to the tomb, found it empty and then angel told them then would see Jesus. We remembered the story that Jesus told about when we give food to the hungry and a drink to the thirsty and visit the sick we are actually doing these things for Jesus. 

This means we can see Jesus in every person. Even if they don’t see Jesus in themselves. We see Jesus in them, in hurting people. Because Jesus suffered on the cross. He know it is to suffer, he knows our sorrows. And if we see Jesus in every person, we will treat them differently, and our relationships with them will be different. If there is someone we hate, but we see them as Jesus, well… it is going to bring compassion into the relationship. That was last week. And of course, I hope you looked for Jesus in your interactions with people this past week. 

Today, we have another story about seeing, but already doubt comes into the mix. Doubt can be a powerful force in our lives. Doubt can lead to mistrust, which leads to disbelief and to despair. I have seen it happen over and over again. I bet you have too.

I remember a young woman I counseled many years ago.  She had been a deeply committed Christian, involved in a campus religious life organization. Then she was abused by one of the young men also in that organization. The abuse cut her deeply. It was a couple of years later when she found her way to my office for pastoral care, but as she talked about it the pain seemed as fresh as it had happened the day before. Because of this experience with a fellow Christian, she not only doubted whether she could ever trust another man in an intimate relationship, and she doubted God. 

How could God let another Christian do this do her? She wanted to trust God, because she had trusted God before. But she could not. She could not bring herself to trust God. She needed proof that God still loved her. She needed to see something that could prove to her that it would be okay.

I so wanted to be able to hand her a box with trust in it that would give her trust in God again.  I wanted to say the right thing; give her the right scripture passage to read.  I want to say see, she could believe that God loved everyone in the world, except her. She could not trust God’s love for her.  She felt so broken and damaged.

We all want to know, don’t we?  We want to be sure that we’re not playing the fool.  We want to believe that the promises of God are true, but we don’t want to look stupid if they are not. Thomas didn’t want to be wrong. 

So we put up these defenses, and these demands:  If God will do this, I’ll trust in God.  If I get this sign.  If I can see this or touch this.  But once God passes one test, we just put up another.  We want another test, another sign.

Two people can look at the same evidence, and respond in two different ways.  Two people look at the same picture of the Grand Canyon; one sees what happens when water is moved across the earth, by wind and gravity, over long periods of time. Another looks the same picture and is convinced that there is a God. Two totally different responses to the same picture. 

Those who knew Jesus, and heard tell of an empty tomb also had different responses.  Some said: the body was stolen.  Others said: Jesus had risen from the dead.  One points to the failure of Jesus’ mission on earth, the other points to the miracle of resurrection; two responses to the same story.

In our scripture reading for today we heard the familiar story of Thomas, from whom we get the name “Doubting Thomas.”  Thomas heard from his fellow disciples that the risen Jesus had come to see them. But Thomas could not trust.  He could not believe that Jesus had been there simply because the other disciples told him.  He needed his own empirical data.  

What does it means to take that leap of faith, and trust in God?  We can put up so many barriers to this trust.  We human beings like certainty.  We like things we can see. We like things we can take pictures of and post on Instagram and Facebook, so other people can see them too.  Because if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?

But human beings have trouble trusting. Something bad happens to us and we blame God. We don’t blame it on human beings with free will, we immediately rush to ask: why didn’t God intervene? 

And when we look at scripture we see that even among the first followers of Jesus, there were skeptics. Thomas spent three years with Jesus and with the other disciples. Yet when his brothers told him that they saw Jesus, he does not believe them. He demanded to see for himself. He could not trust. Something got in his way. Why did Thomas have to be so stubborn? Why couldn’t he trust in what he could not see? 

There is one thing I love about this story. Jesus is patient and generous.  Thomas tells his friends that he won’t believe them; he wants proof.  He wants to put his hands in the nail holes, kind of gruesome, or he won’t believe.  If I were Jesus I’d come and give Thomas a piece of my mind. But what does Jesus do?  Like a kind teacher, he simply comes and gives Thomas what he needs.  Because once again, Jesus had a singular purpose – to help others see God.  He was all about pointing people to God.  He came and said “see Thomas, here it is”.   That’s Jesus.  

I often have conversations with one of you – and you are longing for that certainty that Thomas longed for.  I know what it feels like; I’ve been there myself.  You want to know that this God stuff is true, right?  We want to know that there is some order to this world.  You want to know that God is guiding you, and that you can know God’s desire for your life.  Sometimes you sit with me, and I wish I could just hand it to you – hand this package marked “trust” , in this nice, neat little box and it could be yours.

Today, let’s put our trust in God. We can choose to be skeptics, and put up barriers.  We can look at the Grand Canyon and simply see water doing its job over time. That is true.  I believe in the scientific explanation.  Science and faith should not be enemies. 

Or we can cast our lot with those early disciples – who left their fishing nets behind and went fishing for people.  They went about the work of pointing others to God, and inviting others to put their trust in God.  Because they saw the power of God in Jesus Christ.  They saw the healing power of Jesus, the saw Jesus to love the unlovable, and they saw in Jesus the ability to speak truth to power and to demand justice.  

I see Jesus in you, when you are bold to walk across this room and engage in conversation with someone who is sitting alone in this space for the first time, looking anxious.  When you leave your friends and make them feel welcome. I see Jesus in you when one of you takes another to the hospital for a procedure. I see Jesus in you when one of you is struggling with an addiction and another of you in recovery, reaches out and give encouragement, the kind only another in recovery can give.  I see Jesus in you, when you are grieving a death or a broken relationship and you show up here, willing to be vulnerable and let this community surround you with love. I see Jesus in you when you dare to make peace with someone who you would rather not be in the same room with. In all these ways you are refusing to give into doubt and despair. I see you choosing to trust in Jesus. 

Let us not be like Thomas, who demanded more proof.  We have all the proof we need.  Just look around the room here.  There are signs of God’s love for us everywhere.  Let’s not waste another day looking for proof, or wondering.  Let’s choose simply and boldly, to put our trust in God.  For when we put our trust in God, I assure you, we will see Jesus our lives will never be the same. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Will See Jesus by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Patti Lusher)

Have you ever been in trouble for being who you are? For no reason except that you were doing your job and living your life, but someone else, because of the clash of their culture with yours, decided to make your life miserable? It happens, right?
There are bullies in this world. Intolerant people. Mean people. There are people who decide that they don’t like us. Because we are the wrong color, the wrong gender, or because we are poor, or we are in a same gender loving relationship, or maybe because we emigrated from the wrong country. Whatever the reason. I have a friend who was the victim of such a bully. I’ll call my friend Bobbie.
Bobbie was minding her own business doing her job until “Mean Guy” came along and decided he did not like her kind. He began to make her life miserable at work. Bobbie tried to get along. She tried to work around Mean Guy. She adapted. She made herself sick. She tried to put up with Mean Guy but he was relentless.
Finally, she could do nothing else but go to a supervisor and complain. The union reps got involved. Bobbie did not want to get Mean Guy fired. He was too popular and Bobbie did not want to be the one to get him fired because everyone else would hate her. She just wanted to get moved to another location to work.
Long story short, she needed someone else from the union to be a witness to some of the things Mean Guy had done. Everyone was afraid to do so. Bobbie was off work for a while and her co-workers would send her texts saying the work environment was toxic because of Mean Guy. But they were all afraid. Just like Peter, Jesus’ friend, they got scared. They denied their friendship with Bobbie. When she stood up for herself and spoke the truth about what Mean Guy was doing to make the work place a toxic environment for everyone, her friends, sadly, turned their backs on her. When the time came for the hearing with the bosses, she found a union rep to go with her but it was someone who worked in another area. We’ll call him Joe.  Joe was someone she did not know but he believed her. However Joe was told he could not talk in the hearing. He didn’t know anything first hand. He could only sit with her and be supportive. She was devastated. The one person who believed her story, could not speak up for her.
But still Joe believed in her. And that made all the difference. One day when he knew Bobbie was getting really discouraged, Joe actually snuck into a broom closet when he was on a break, to call her and encourage her. He did not want her to lose hope. My friend felt so supported from Joe, hiding in a closet, talking on his cell phone and caring for her.
Joe was Jesus for my friend Bobbie. He gave her strength. He let her know she was not alone. He told her she was right to stand up to the bully. In the end, Bobbie was able to go work in another location and get away from Mean Guy. It has been a hard season for Bobbie, but Joe, sitting in that closet on a cell phone reminded her that she was not alone.
We just never know who will be Jesus for us. Jesus is everywhere. Jesus lives in us. We can see Jesus every day. That is what the angel told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on that first Easter morning.
Let’s take a closer look at that Easter morning story, then, so we can get an idea how this all started.
28 1-4 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.
5-6 The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”
8-10 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

The angel said “You will see him. That’s the message.” They saw him, and he told them to tell his brothers that they would see him too. People were going to keep seeing Jesus. That is the miracle message of Easter. We will keep seeing Jesus. Even today, we will keep seeing Jesus.

For a season of my life, I met with a prayer partner every other week. This was a follow up to a spiritual retreat we both attended called The Walk to Emmaus. When we met each week we asked one another a series of questions. One of them was this: where did you see Jesus this week? It’s a provocative question. Every week we would share with one another where we had seen Jesus. The question calls to mind for me the story that comes late in Matthew’s Gospel, not much before the Holy Week narratives.

Do you remember this one? Jesus is telling some stories and then he says that there will come a time when the Son will judge the people at the end of their lives and will separate the sheep from the goats (meaning those who have done well and those who have not). And he says, those judged favorably will be those who:
·      saw Jesus hungry and fed him,
·      saw Jesus thirsty and gave him a drink
·      saw Jesus homeless and gave him a room,
·      saw Jesus shivering and gave him clothes,
·      saw Jesus sick and stopped to visit,
·      saw Jesus in prison and went to visit

I might add, who saw Jesus being bullied, and stood with him.

The people are confused because, of course, they never saw Jesus in any of those ways. And he says, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Now this is fascinating because Jesus actually turns the tables. He tells us not to see Jesus in the person doing good, but in the person who needs help. In my story, I said the union rep who helped Bobbie was acting like Jesus. But if we apply this scripture, Bobbie would be Jesus. The person who was overlooked or ignored is Jesus. The hurting person is Jesus. Jesus told his followers that when you help the person in need you are caring for Jesus.

This is what it means to live as Resurrection people. It means that we see the living risen Christ in everyone.

You see, if I tell you that you need to be like Jesus, that is too much pressure. If I tell you that you need to love like Jesus and forgive like Jesus, I know what you are going to say. “I’m not Jesus. I am imperfect. He was JESUS! The Son of God. He was full of God and God’s love. I am not able to love somebody like Mean Guy.”

Okay, fine. I can’t be that Jesus either. I lose patience. I lose my temper.

Maybe Jesus is not asking us to be Jesus.

He is asking something more intriguing.

When we look at another person, can we see Jesus, who was beaten, betrayed, denied, spat upon, and nailed up on a cross? And then rose from the dead? When we see Mean Guy, and the person who makes us crazy, can we look into their eyes, and see Jesus in them?

I am thinking of the person who I am really mad at right now. And I want you to picture your person. Because when I picture that person and imagine that Jesus is in him, then my hatred softens just a little, and I want to cut him some slack. He is doing the best he can with the hand he has been dealt.

And what I really want for both of us, is new life. I want the stone to be rolled away, and I want death to be turned into life. I don’t want to waste my energy being mad at that person. I don’t think Bobbie wants to waste one more second of one more day being in conflict with Mean Guy. She just wants to do the job that she loves and get on with her life. She wants to live into the post resurrection Easter miracle.

This is how we do that. We see Jesus in every person. Even if they don’t see Jesus in themselves. We see Jesus in them. We don’t have to tell them we see Jesus. We don’t have to push it on them. But if we see Jesus in every person, we will treat them differently, and our relationships with them will be different. I promise you that.

When we see Jesus in another person we will breathe new life into our relationships with them. We will be moved to care for them in ways we never thought we would be able. Our care won’t be from our own power but from Jesus in us. This is what Easter is about – seeing Jesus. The women saw Jesus, the disciples saw Jesus. They were never the same. The world was never the same. We can see Jesus too. We can see Jesus in every face of every person we encounter every day. When we see Jesus we will be changed and we will change the world.

So let’s follow the invitation of that angel who rolled away the stone. Jesus is not in the tomb. He is in the world. We can see him. Look around. See Jesus.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A LAST MEAL by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

Thank you for being here tonight. I won’t scold anyone on Easter Sunday who skipped right from Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter morning. But I want to thank you for coming tonight. Not because I care about attendance numbers. I have long since quit worrying about such things. 

But I want to thank you because I want to encourage you to dig deep in your own walk with Jesus. If you come to worship on Holy Thursday it is because you are willing to face the WHOLE story of Jesus. You know that in order to get to a whole new life you have to go to the cross first. Before we can experience redemption, we have to go through some backstabbing, some big disappointment and abandonment. You are people who are not afraid to hear the whole story. Well, maybe you are a little afraid, but you showed up tonight. And for that, you have earned my respect.

I hope you will be able to join us tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. in downtown Maumee for the Way of the Cross. In that service we will read the scriptures that tell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. If you can’t be there, I hope you will find another Good Friday service to attend, or that you will read the story in your own Bible, about the trial, the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  A friend of mine wrote yesterday that he can’t call it Good Friday, but Necessary Friday. 

Tonight, we remember that Jesus shared a meal with his closest friends. Can you think of favorite group of people and favorite place you like to gather for a meal? Maybe Thanksgiving Dinner comes to mind. Maybe it’s with your birth family or maybe with a group of chosen friends you call family. You have some favorite foods and people you have known for a long time. You tell old stories, perhaps someone is there who has known you since you were young. They tell embarrassing stories about you. 

There might be some conflicts. When families get together, lets’ tell the truth, there can be conflict. But the food tends to be the great equalizer. It tends to smooth things over. People are social creatures and for the most part we like to get together and share a good meal with people we care about, it can be good. 

When Jesus knew that his time on earth was drawing to an end, he wanted to have some of that family time with his chosen family, his disciples – some relaxing time like you get on a Thanksgiving weekend.  He wanted to connect. 

This was a Jewish Passover meal. It was one of the high holy days in the Jewish year. Passover would have been a big family time.  At Passover, the Jewish people remember that God freed them from slavery in Egypt. They have a big feast. Jesus shared a feast with his friends. It was much like a big Thanksgiving dinner or a family reunion. 

The point is, Jesus was a human being. He loved his friends and he loved being with his friends. He ate food and he loved human company. (Source:

Jesus being a human being also suffered in the same ways we suffer. That night one friend betrayed him. Judas left the meal to make a deal with the chief priests. He would identify Jesus and they would pay Judas well.

And then, Jesus predicted, rightly, that Peter would soon deny even knowing him. You see, as much as Jesus was enjoying this wonderful family meal, he knew what was coming. And he knew they could not bear the pressure. He knew they would crack, and their fear would get the best of them.

In an act of pastoral love, he gave them a gift. He gave them a ritual of love to hold onto. It would only be later than they would put it all together. They would look back and realize what he had done and realize the power of the moment. He took some bread, blessed it and broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you.” They could not have known what he meant. But he told them to eat the bread. They were already full from a big meal, but they ate it, because the master had blessed the bread and they wanted to share in this blessed bread that he gave to them.

Then he took a cup of wine and he said, “This is my blood poured out for the forgiveness of your sins.” Who knows what they thought of that? He blessed the cup. Blood is the same color as wine. Maybe they knew his death was imminent. On some level they had to know he would not make it to old age. Just like those who surrounded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew he would die not at a ripe old age, but way too young.  In any case, they understood forgiveness, and so they drank from the cup of forgiveness.

Then they sang and hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. Jesus asked them to wait for him while he prayed.  This was not really out of the ordinary.  You remember what happened, don’t you? They kept falling asleep. Of course, they did. They had eaten so much food, and drunk so much wine. Who could blame them! Jesus was so disappointed in them. He asked them to wait while he prayed and they could not even stay awake. If they had known what was about to happen, of course they would have stayed awake.

Then Judas came with the soldiers and they took Jesus away for his trial, if you can call it that. And before you know it, he was hanging on a cross.  It was a whirlwind.

They went from a lovely family meal, remembering their past as a groupd and celebrating freedom from slavery and just like that! Jesus is going to his death.

So, what do we take from this story? I take it that Jesus loved, loved his disciples. He loved them the way we love their chosen family and friends that we share a precious family meal with.  The ones you cross the room to find at the family reunion.  They were precious to him.

In that moment, he was not afraid to die. He shared a last meal with them. And he wanted them, and us, to continue to share this meal. He wanted something for them to hold on to in trying times to come.  He didn’t know us, but he wants to keep feeding us.

I have a hunch, that after the fact, his disciples looked back on that night with Jesus and they remembered the meal and they said to themselves: “You know, this is a meal we should continue. Jesus wanted us to repeat this meal. He was giving us something.  He wanted us to keep feeding one another in his name, so we would know that he is with us. He does not want us to feel lost and abandoned. He wants us to feel connected to him and fed by him, even though he is no longer here.”   Jesus didn’t want us to be discouraged but on fire despite his leaving.   They had to think we should keep doing this over and over again, years and years to come.

Jesus knew the power of the family meal. And he got that message through to his disciples. So even though they messed it up that night. Have you ever messed up a family meal? They recovered the tradition.   Eventually, they recovered it and they got it right. 

And we continue it now, and have continued it for more than 2000 years. We know the power of sitting down and eating together. It’s hard to stay mad at someone over a yummy plate of pasta or bread hot from the oven that you can smell with the butter dripping off of it (apologies for anyone on a no carb diet). There is laughter when a family sits down to a meal. There are tears of joy.

And so they created this ritual of Holy Communion and Holy Thanksgiving. We repeat this Sacred Meal, and we gather in Jesus’ name, because we are connected to that night, to that meal. 

Jesus may have left the earth, but he gave us this meal as a gift to sustain us. Jesus is with us. Jesus is in the bread and in the cup.  Thanks be to God, the last meal was not the last meal.  Amen.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What have we Done? By Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

Sara Miles is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers. She was an atheist who wandered into a church in San Francisco one day. She received Holy Communion that day and it really meant something to her. She writes that she ate some bread and felt the holiness of this Sacred Meal. She felt she was feeding on the presence of God. Soon she joined that church and felt called to help them feed hungry people in their neighborhood. Because that is what Jesus would do: help people who are hungry by feeding both their bodies and their souls. She runs an amazing feeding ministry where hundreds of hungry people get food they need, but people who are wealthy and those who are economically poor also build relationships and discover what it means to be in community with one another. It is beautiful.  

Sara tells a story that one of her friends met up with her one day near Easter and said, “Hey you’re a Christian, you must be really busy because it’s almost Easter. What should I say to you? ‘Happy Holy Week’?’” 

Sara told her friend, “You could say ‘Happy Easter’ on Easter day but to be honest this whole week gives me whiplash. Think about it.”

·         On Palm Sunday – Jesus enters Jerusalem and the crowds celebrate Jesus as if he is a king. He is the long awaited Messiah. We love him. 

·         Then we share a loving meal and he washes our feet and feeds us. 

·         One of us sneaks out and betrays him. (That’s Judas.) 

·         Another promises never to deny him, and then later denies him. (That’s Peter.)

·         Then crowd has a chance to save him and instead we give him up with the words “Crucify him.” We all just said those words.

·         We run away, leave him to be crucified, alone, and yet he forgives us. 

·         Jesus is killed we place him in the tomb and we give up. 

·         But wait, he is not dead.

See? Whiplash. Is this a Holy Week? (source: 

I am wearing this bright colored dress that sort of fits the celebration of Palm Sunday and spring.  But I feel like I should put on black, a color of mourning, to represent the betrayal and denial that comes later in the story.  Holy Week is a tough week.   Whiplash is a great word for it.  Holy Week is hard.

Just take a closer look at this scene before Pilate.  The Roman Governor Pilate has an opportunity to let Jesus go. His wife tells him that she has had a troubled night’s sleep because Jesus is a noble man but he has been arrested. Pilate is looking for a way out. He does not want to be the one to sentence Jesus to death. He is impressed that Jesus remains silent while the list of trumped up charges is read. He knows the priests’ motives are not pure. But Pilate’s hands are tied. 

Now the custom says that the Jews can have one prisoner released on that day, but the crowd chooses Barabbas. The chief priests are out working the crowd. They persuade the people to ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asks for a basin of water and he washes his hands of the matter. He sends Jesus off to be crucified. The people say: “We’ll take the blame, we and our children after us.”

But here is the thing. They simply could not have known. They could not have known what they were doing. These poor people. How could they possibly have known what it would mean to send the Saviour of the world to his death? Who, Who in their right mind, could willingly take the blame for that? 

There were so many mistakes that night. This is a textbook case for human sin and imperfection, a psychology class would go to town with this . Think about it. Jesus’ own friends were used to betray him. Judas sold his soul. For 30 pieces of silver, Judas identified Jesus, and then Jesus was taken away to be arrested. Judas later commits suicide because he cannot forgive himself. 

Peter says at dinner that he would never deny knowing you Jesus. But just like that, after Jesus is arrested, they all get scared. A young girl standing by a fire in the yard says to Peter, “I know you, you were one of Jesus’ disciples.” Peter says, “No, you must be mistaken.” Three times he denies knowing Jesus. This is Peter – Peter who was part of Jesus’ inner circle. This would be like Ringo Starr denying that he knows Paul McCartney; or Scottie Pippen denying that he knew Michael Jordan. It’s unthinkable, unimaginable. Why did they do it?  Why did Judas do that?  Why does Peter do that? 

What human sin can overtake us so that we would deny our best friend? For Judas it was probably greed or the desire for power. They may have promised him some important role in the temple. Peter’s denial seemed likely born out of fear. He knew Jesus had been sentenced to death. He did not want to be sent to death with him.        

You see the Peter froze. He failed to trust in God.   In the moment he froze. That is what happened to the crowd too.

Think about it. On Sunday, that same crowd was cheering for Jesus. He came into town and they waved palm branches. They threw down their coats on the road which was to say this is royalty entering our town. They proclaimed – THIS IS OUR KING. They knew in their hearts this is the one. This is God’s Son, the Messiah. We can trust this one. We have something to live for. We can point our lives in this way and even though we live under the oppression of Roman rule, we have hope, we can focus on God and God’s love and it will be okay. 

But how soon they turned. They lost their focus. They got scared. They started listening to the religious leaders who wanted to keep the power for themselves and they were threatened by Jesus and by his radical message of love. Have you ever noticed how nervous people get when they see really pure love and courage? They just can’t handle it.   What is it about pure love and courage that causes people to be so afraid and turn on it?  People get so afraid of pure and courageous love they will send it to the cross and crucify it. 

Holy Week is a week for us to ask ourselves: where are we in this story of whiplash? What have we done? When we see Jesus how do we respond? When we see pure and courageous love in our world do we celebrate it? Do we point it out and say “Yes! That person is being like God and I am going to follow that person, even if it is unpopular.” 

Or when we see love that is pure and courageous, do we deny any association? Think about when you see an outcast being bullied, and someone sticks up for that outcast. Jesus did that all the time. That is pure and courageous love. But sometimes the bullies of this world are the popular people. Often they are the people with the power. Often the bullies are the status quo. It costs us social capital to stand with the outcast. I have been there. Sometimes I want to just sit by and let someone else take a stand. Can’t someone else take this one?  I want to be invisible. Peter never thought he would deny Jesus but he did. I don’t want to be the person who lets the outcast be oppressed but sometimes I let it happen, I do. 

When we refuse to stand with the outcast, and stand up to the bully, we are denying the power of love. We are failing to stand with the courage of Jesus. Sadly, we are in the company of Judas, and Peter and the crowd who waved palms and then shouted “Crucify him.” 

We all know what it feels like to be the outcast. But can we also put ourselves in the place of being the one who will love the outcast. There will always be someone with less status than you, for one reason or another. Because we human beings will always find another reason to put someone down.  We will always find a reason.

We can always find a way to think we are better, and someone else is worse. That’s why Holy Week is a week of whiplash and we just have to keep asking ourselves, “Whose side am I on?” 

Looking back at the story it is easy to judge Judas, to judge Peter and judge the crowd who condemned Jesus. We think: we would never have done that. Hindsight makes everything so clear. But we crucify Jesus every day: when we turn our backs on love and courage. 

So as we walk through this Holy Week, let’s make it mean something to us. Let us turn this week around.  When we see opportunities to act with pure love and courage, let’s do it. Jesus died once and for all. We don’t have to crucify him all over again. That is the good news.  This does not have to be a week of whiplash where we betray and deny Jesus. We know the whole story. 

When we look back this week and ask “what have we done?” let us say, “We have followed Jesus. We have acted with love and with courage.”  Let’s do it.  Amen.