There was a fine sense of timing last weekend as a very large inauguration speech was followed hot on its heels by a very small one. Well, the text we looked at in church anyway.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
It is interesting to compare the two. One spoke to a massed crowd of
1.5 million 250,000 750,000 a bigger / smaller* [*delete according to TV channel] crowd than Obama’s lots of people. The immediate discussion was how many. My crowd’s bigger than your crowd. Size matters. Especially for boys.
Jesus spoke to a crowd of virtually nobody. And those that were there were just working fishermen. No power. No influence. No money.
One speech used revolution language to talk up power and influence. To make an impact. Enforce law. A lion marking his territory.
Jesus speech began with one word. Repent. Meaning, turn around. Change your ways. Admit you’re wrong. Admit your frailties. Vulnerabilities. Show your weakness. Come, follow me.
One message was one of national self-interest, of protecting our own, of putting ‘our people’ first above all other considerations.
Jesus’ message is one of outward-looking action; his kingdom is one that reflects the Jewish theology of being a blessing to the nations around, a light that shines in the darkness. We repent and then we are to be a blessing to others.
I say this not as a comment on US politics. This is not about that. Rather, we use it to highlight the kingdom of God’s alternative way.
The way of weakness, not strength.
The way of humility, not boasting.
The way of vulnerability, not power.
We all find this hard. We are all drawn to strength. We need strength and power sometimes.
But maybe we could use these turbulent and troubling times of shouting and protesting and flagrant displays of power to think about how we live our lives. We may not be people of much influence. Maybe we are. That does not matter. Jesus invitation is to all of us, from Presidents to the poorest: repent, turn around, change, admit your weaknesses. Stand up to power and stand up for the weakest. Don’t stand for yourself. Place other people’s needs before your own. Maybe even your enemies…
Yes it’s a foolish way to live. I am in awe of anyone who manages it. Jesus’ plan of gathering 12 nobodies to inaugurate his kingdom with him was surely not wise. It was worth it though.
And as inauguration speeches go, I know which one I am most in awe of.