When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matthew 27:14)
I have spent a major portion of my
lifetime in fellowship with people of faith. This has included stretches of
both gratitude and some frustration with these my fellow faithful. Also, a good portion of my days in company of those who do not share my faith claims. You might say I have been among both the sacred and the profane! In hindsight, the greater gratitude is for relationship with those not of my faith claims – possibly because lower expectations often
yield less disappointment. Now having said this I do however offer a humble thank you to those who opt to continue reading. 😊
I raise this opening thought only as a way of muddling into something considerably evident these days as a huge number of us baby boomers hit the retirement track. Also as indicated in previous blog ("Saints and Saintliness", Nov 2), we now have time for thinking or conversing or arguing or wishing or pretending. Post WWII baby boomers apparently have had it good, giving us the vantage of the privileged, not necessarily because we are all rich but because we have not been traumatized like many of our parents or grandparents or as presently experienced by some of our generation or younger ones in other countries of the world – Ukraine, Myanmar anybody? We are the ones grown up in democracy and therefore have made career and lifestyle and faith decisions as though it was our God-given right! Now we hold forth long and hard on many things especially from the vantage of the career path freely chosen by us which gave us the great wisdom (!?). Hence the large arsenal of opinions and proposals for solutions whether medical, social, spiritual, political, or mental or… and everybody seems to think their latest analysis needs to be listened to!
Even from this vantage we
take ourselves quite seriously. For example immediately following the latest
Alberta by-election in Brooks-Medicine Hat, and at one of these seniors
gab-fests I ventured that it accomplished about as little as the midterm
elections in the U.S. Apparently it wasn’t funny – enough rednecks in this
group to forge right on into similarities/differences of Danielle Smith or Jason Kenney, no mention of Rachel Notley! And then conversation continued into “masks or not”, no comment about healthcare professionals fired as first order of business by our new premier. Life is hard for a socialist Christian in Alberta! 😀
My wife and I are privileged to have friends. Relationships so important to us, we frequently get into heated exchanges with each other regarding who or what must be considered as we think about an eventual further retirement locale. Yes, family, friends, faith community, neighbors, and in my case even an enemy or two, all are important as we make major life decisions. Obviously as social beings, we still hobnob most conveniently among persons of similar interest, education and age. We have a tendency to swarm no matter how we like to think we are neighborly or inclusive or whatever we call it. Occasions of gathering or relationship usually call upon fellowship, including conversation, and that is where we get to topic at hand. Conversations include a lot of problem-solving and entertainment - truckers call it bs - and often not much more!
Pilate was a
Roman procurator during the time of Jesus, one of several who followed shortly after
King Herod’s death. The Romans were the authority over Palestine; taxes
required to fund the empire growing at the time of Jesus’ teachings
and healings. There was much talking, much enthusing and railing and wondering from
his own people the Jews about how can one who claims to be God incarnate
be with them and yet tolerate, even respect the Romans (two interesting scriptures on this,
Matt 16:16 and Matt 22:21). The occasion of the big showdown, of Jesus’
crucifixion, happened during Pilate’s watch. The energy, the mob mentality, the
bloodthirstiness, came from Jesus’ fellow citizens, not from the Romans.
Without seeking to justify Pilate, it is important to understand his handwashing, his clear demonstration of capitulation to the demand of the Jews. “What
shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all
answered, “Crucify him!” (Matt 27:21). Yes, he illustrated to them that the blood would be on them, including the betrayer Judas, the
chicken -#-* disciples, his own family, and of course the High Priest and the
law system. This produced the horror often explained as what had to be done in order
for the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29b). My
view is that this version of theology is mostly talk, efforts by religious
‘experts’ to try to explain why a savior had to die! I see it as mob action
which caused the death of Jesus, moreso than his destiny. Systematic theologians (many of them also baby boomers) write books to explain why Jesus needed to die in order to be savior of the world. There is more to faith, yes christian faith, than a systematic explanation. Faith is an experience.
As indicated above, we have a tendency to hobnob, socialize (visit), write books, for likeminded people about things apparently important, sometimes attempting solutions not available to armchair philosophers. Is it an occasion where winners or losers need to be declared? It’s a bit like the talking heads (experts) positing all kinds of analyses of NHL hockey games with little or no thought of the players themselves as persons. Genuine relationships at risk, sometimes it's only the game.
Relational conversations include give and take, silence, introspection. A recent breakfast meet yielded this noteworthy statement. “Leadership positions are absolutely impossible these days” said my friend. “Yes but,” said another, “is that an excuse for those who have those positions to provide no leadership?” Good question. And the ‘conversation’ continued and got a little more animated. This was quite a good occasion actually, but it yielded the differing points of view. Before you know it, two brothers in the faith have a little difficulty looking each other in the eye. The injunction to wisdom is already present in the O.T. "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10a), and of course it was fully exercised by Jesus when he gave the gift of silence, of love, of submission to the will of those who must have it their way. He gave his life, yes bearing the cost.
Fascinating, in the last several years I have been privileged to participate in our city's Interfaith Council. A suggested plan for this next year's United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week is to include an official 'silence' within the ceremony to communicate our shared desire for God's peace to reign over and within us, especially as we acknowledge the present brokenness of our world. In this interfaith environment I have enjoyed some excellent conversations with friends of other faiths - full opportunity to speak about Jesus bearing the cost, and yes, dying because we, yes us, have trouble understanding the love of God. From the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
God forgive us? The opinions are free, at least so far in this country. Maybe even us smart baby boomers still have a few things to learn. The gas and the grocery prices are going up!