From Great to Hate

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The historic legislation about healthcare passed this week and the fall-out has started en masse. I am appalled at the news of broken windows and hate mail and other negative forms of communication that legislators have received. Everybody wants to be liked, but sometimes it’s more important to do the right thing. As I think about appointing clergy it has occurred to me that friendships can be strained because the Cabinet has tried to look at the big picture and then it bites some of our colleagues and friends in a personal way. Being on the Cabinet can make for friends you never thought you would have, and make trouble for those with whom you have had a relationship for years. Sure, we would love accolades for doing for what we have thought to be in the best interest of all, but no one can please everybody in a connectional system. It takes faith that the Cabinet has prayed and looked over the landscape of the entire annual conference and has done the very best it can.
Of course, the scenarios from healthcare to appointment-making cause me to think about Jesus’ last week, from accolades to cruxifixon. Gloria Swanson was one of Hollywood’s top actresses from the 1920s to the 1950s. She was very ambitious. Early in her career, Swanson was quoted as saying, “I have gone through enough of being a nobody. I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment the star! Everybody from the studio gate man to the highest executive will know it.” And Swanson made sure of that. Before returning from a trip to France, Gloria Swanson sent a telegram to her film studio informing them that she expected a grand welcome when she arrived in California. In the telegram she demanded that the studio have enough well-wishers on hand to give her a standing ovation when she got out of her car in Hollywood. An ovation was duly arranged.

Palm Sunday is when we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the events surrounding His Passion. Jesus didn’t have to arrange his own ovation when he entered Jerusalem. Word about Jesus had spread throughout the countryside. Jesus had healed many. He had taught with authority using parables that both anyone could understand and yet they confounded the wise. He spoke of love and lived grace to rich and poor alike. He had become quite a celebrity when Palm Sunday arrived.

Unfortunately, He had become too much of a celebrity to suit the Jerusalem fat cats. So even as the crowd waved its palm branches in adulation, the shadows of the cross loomed in the background. Have you ever felt wrongly persecuted when you’ve done everything right that you know to do? And there’s only one thing more disappointing than having crowds of strangers turn on you when you’re innocent. After all, crowds are fickle. The worst thing is when your friends and family let you down.

That’s when it’s really tough to keep loving people. I don’t know about you, but when I feel betrayed, my first inclination is to cut my losses and move on. Who wants to “throw their pearls before swine?” The answer is, “Nobody,” right? But when we look at Jesus’ last week we see a loving Lord who washes his denying betraying disciples’ feet, and a Savior who looks down at his killers and says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they’re doing.” Wow! In the midst of betrayal, Jesus summons enough grace to forgive.

This world would be such a different place if we could be that forgiving and patient. Jesus gave up his rights and put the rights of others before his own. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus let go of his will and said that God’s will was more important. This Holy Week, the same challenge is ours. Can we put aside the disappointment that fickle people offer and lay claim to God’s approval? Is it enough for us to be loved by God even when it makes us unpopular with people? Can we do the right thing regardless of public opinion? I pray so.

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