Ten Plagues? Lately it feels like it. If I counted back to Cindy’s mother’s death 18 months ago it seems like we’ve been through plenty. If frogs start falling from the sky I know we’re in trouble. Cindy’s mother died suddenly in August 2009 but we’re still settling up her estate and personal belongings. Narcie found out less than a year ago that she has a brain tumor. Cindy has had three surgeries since January, including one more last week. What I thought would be enough money in my Medical Reimbursement Account to last a year hasn’t lasted 3 months. My brother died suddenly on his birthday last August. In the last 3 weeks 2 grandchildren and 2 children have had strep throat. Now I have pneumonia, and I’m sure that I’m leaving something out.
Sure, there’s been plenty of good stuff, too. Cindy and I had our 35th wedding anniversary last December. Josh and Karen had their first child last week: Kaela Lynn McClendon. Being a District Superintendent is still a pleasure. Working with friends to help the UMC be a stronger church globally and locally has been a blessing, too. Teaching UM History at Lutheran Seminary has been a joy. Good with bad, bad with good – C’est la vie, right? Life is this tension between good news and bad. I guess I’m a little gun-shy right now, but what I’ve been lately calling “a prolonged anxiety” is real. The scary thing is that I’ve been so blessed. There are some people who go through this kind of stuff their entire lives, so why should I be different?
So why should I think that I’m too special to get caught in life’s cross-hairs? Jesus’ Holy Week was utterly awful and he was/is Special with a capital “S.” How easy it is for us Christians to think that we should be exempt from life’s junk. How easy it is to think that people get what they deserve. Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week clears up that falsehood because thinking people get what they deserve is a lie! Premillenialists may hope for a “Beam-Me-Up, Scottie!” rapture, but the early church’s view of the rapture with one woman left at a handmill and the other taken sounds more like Roman soldiers capturing one and leaving one behind to me. It’s not about an easy escape route! Look at early church history’s facts. On average, the early church had 5,000 martyrs a day for 300 straight years. Doesn’t sound like an easy life, not even close, and certainly doesn’t jive with my utopian “God will protect me and reward me” selfcenteredness.
Truth be told, none us get what we truly deserve. We deserve every bad thing imaginable. Go to your local Emergency Rooms and you’ll find the proof. Being in an ER is not a great experience unless you really have a penchant for studying people or might be a masochist. Cindy and I were there for 9 hours before it was decided that she needed to be admitted. Without sounding too much like a doubter concerning how much of the imago dei is left in people, I have to say that there were times in Cindy’s ordeal that I pondered whether if I were somehow able to die for the sins of the whole world, would I – in the context of who and what I saw in the ER? Frankly, Cindy was the only person there who would have been worth it from my vantage point. I was tired, frustrated, bothered by the drama taking place around me, and wasn’t in any mood for the sheer raunchiness and apparent lack of any manners in the people around us in the waiting room. There wasn’t enough security for the menagerie including me. It was a human zoo and I was one of the animals.
And Passion Week kept smacking my brain. Sitting in the ER with Cindy writhing in pain put some perspective on the incarnation and upcoming Passion Week for me. Theoretically I knew that Jesus died for every one of the people gathered in the ER and would have done it even if it had been just one, and not just Cindy, but how much Jesus loves us has never hit me this profoundly before. Humanity is fickle, sinful, and yet God loves us! He became incarnate in Jesus and took our sins upon himself. Thinking about all this I have to admit that I’m still more than a little jaded by the whole ordeal, but I think it got my attention in good ways. If God loves us so much in spite of who we are and how we act, then I better start seeing our human commonality more than spending my time dividing the sheep from the goats.We’re all made in God’s image, however marred we all are.
Before I start judging the idiocy of the Palm Sunday crowd and preach about how they turned on Jesus by Good Friday, I can look in the mirror and see the same fickleness. By God’s grace and love I can look in the same mirror and see the faces of every person from that ER. Everyone is included in Jesus’ passion. Lord, help me to open my eyes and see that your Passion is for all of us, not one soul left out.