We began with a crowd smitten by Jesus. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” The passage ends with the same group being “filled with rage” to the point that they escort him to the edge of their cliff-side town and, had things gone their way, he would have been dashed on the rocks below.
On Sunday, my mind was drawn towards the masses gathering in Iowa and New Hampshire. Crowds speaking well of their favorite candidates and wanting to hurl their opponents off a cliff. An election year makes everything seem so imminent, doesn’t it? The world is closing in on us and we have to get our man or woman into the White House or else the conservatives will ruin the progress we’ve made, or our country will continue down the path towards ruin…or insert whatever flavor of fear mongering fits your fancy.
Or perhaps the frantic politics are simply a distraction for a much more personal anxiety that can become especially haunting in the cold of February. Present set backs make future prospects bleak.
On Sunday, the lesson from Luke featuring the erratic crowd was paired with Paul’s famous sonnet on love from 1 Corinthians 13. The people in Corinth were at each other’s throats and were using their gifts out of fear. Paul tells them to breathe deeply and play the long game.
Love is patient, Paul tells them. It endures all things. It never dies. It is in for the long haul. It keeps no record of wrongs. It does not overreact or become frantic.
Love is not the fickle crowd.
The group in the synagogue has a habit of adoring Jesus and then turning on him. They’ll crown him with gold one minute and thorns the next. But unlike modern candidates, Jesus is never upset when his poll numbers plummet. In fact, he often seems to work hard at losing the favor of the crowd. Just as they are ready to hit the pavement and campaign for him, he brings up Namaan the Syrian and the widow of Zarapheth, which Pastor Bob pointed out is the equivalent of telling the Israelites that he plans on stumping for his enemies too. The kingdom Jesus came to establish went far being the nationalistic ideal the Jews had envisioned.
It was a patient, enduring, never dying, good news for your enemies, in it for the long haul, keeps no record of wrongs kind of kingdom. It was the kind of kingdom that is not given over to populist swings. It is a kingdom of steadfast, sure, clear-eyed love.