By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (Luke 13:1-9), we find our guy telling stories about the uncertainties of life and how quickly tragedy can be visited upon any of us. He reminds them of two events that his listeners were probably very familiar with, though the details of both are lost to history.
His first story is one of the brutality of Pilate, the ruler appointed by Rome to oversee Jerusalem. Apparently, Pilate massacred a group of Galileans who had made a pilgrimage to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem, and then mixed their blood with the blood of their animal sacrifices. The second story is about a tragic accident where a wall fell in Siloam and killed 18 hapless Jews who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can imagine our own similar reminders of the uncertainty and fragility of life. Twenty bullet ridden bodies of elementary school children, massacred at the hands of a nut with a gun. Or, those who have died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when in earthquakes or tsunamis or other natural disasters struck.
Jesus uses these stories to remind his listeners, and us, that life is fragile and uncertain. In the middle of this reminder, he uses a word we don’t like very much, especially as more progressive believers.
“I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”
Unless you “repent” – oh, how we hate that word, because it’s so closely associated with another word we don’t say much: sin. Sin and repentance talk just cuts too closely for we progressive spiritual types. It reminds us of those hellfire and brimstone preachers we left behind who tell us we must “REPENT” or burn in hell!
But, this is not what Jesus is saying here. If there is any sin to be repented of, it is the sin of the mind games we play in this world to convince us that we can be certain about anything. Jesus says, no, life is never certain, so you’d better get your mind right (which is what “repent” means – to change your mind), and get your heart right, and live each moment to its fullest – or you, too, will be shocked when tragedy strikes.
Jesus is telling his listeners, and us, to be here now – to pay attention to this moment, to bear fruit right now. Like the fig tree he goes on to talk about, we cannot wait another season to start living as uncertain misfits.
We cannot wait to give to the poor until we have just a little more for ourselves – we must give what we can now, from what we have now. We cannot wait to give time to those around us in need until we have just a little more time for ourselves, we must give that time now, from what time we have now. We cannot wait to give love to those around us until we find a little more love in our lives. We must give love now, from the love we have now. We cannot wait to give justice to others until we find a little more justice for ourselves. We must give justice now, from the justice we have now. We cannot wait to spread peace and joy in this world until we have a little more peace and joy in our own lives, we must give peace and joy now, from whatever amount of peace and joy we have right now.
Jesus says, if you’re going to play a mind game, here’s one for you – Say yes to uncertainty, put your soul power to the karmic wheel and play the mind game of love that rejects the one story and embraces the mystery of each moment.
Or as the Muslim mystic poet Rumi says: “Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment.”
Check out Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk on “The Danger of a Single Story”