Stranger in a strange land (part 2)

It was quite startling. I walked out of the hospital into the darkness. In front of me, a huge cross lit the night.  Of course, it was on the mountainside across the street from the hospital, and is maintained by the local Knights of Columbus, but in the darkness the mountain disappeared, and only the image of the cross filled the sky.  It is traditionally only lit for one week at Christmas, and again for one week at Easter.

So, seeing it seemingly hanging there in the sky at the end of January was quite incongruous….almost scandalous.  I was struck by how Jesus himself was a scandal to his time:  bucking the authority of the Sanhedrin, the religious majority, and the customs of the society in which he lived.

Today, I listened to NPR’s program “Human Kind.”  The topic was Martin Luther King, and his program of nonviolent protest. One speaker mentioned how the teachings of Jesus were the “bible” of the movement. She spoke of the religious leaders of the day….those who would preach “brotherly love” and “walk in Jesus’ footsteps” on Sunday, but would prevent people of color from entering the “white” churches or businesses, and would enforce Jim Crow laws the rest of the week.

The “scandal” of the out-of-season cross lighting the sky and the day’s earlier remembrance of  the civil rights movement, and its struggles to overcome the “Christian” South’s segregation reminded me of how easily we succumb to the world….our religion is convenient…..only in its season, and only if it doesn’t  ask us to change….too much.

Matthew: 5: 43- 48.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I can’t be perfect, but God, help me to be…..scandalous!