Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A YouTube Advent Calendar: November 30

Jesus began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’

When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’

But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone”?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

- Luke 20:9-18

In 1990, we saw one of the most startling turnarounds in popular music. After becoming a superstar with his album Faith, featuring songs like “I Want Your Sex,” “Father Figure,” and the title song, George Michael released a new album called Listen without Prejudice Vol. 1. The first single was a bleak but amazing song about God’s judgment, featuring a video of nothing but lyrics. The song shot straight to #1 on the strength of George Michael’s popularity, though many people have forgotten the song now. Here’s “Praying for Time.”

I love the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming! Look busy.” When we imagine Christ coming not the first time, but a second time, it’s hard not to freak out. We look around us and see the mess we have made of our worldwide play room. After all this, will God still consider us His children? And yet we hear from Jesus that, in George Michael’s words, “God’s stopped keeping score.” Even so, many Christians are obsessed with the idea of Jesus showing up unannounced and finally getting around to cracking heads—other people’s heads. Certainly we’ll be OK, right? Right? If we weren’t going to be OK … if we were the guilty ones … would we want Jesus to show up at all?

But … does God crack heads? There’s a lot of that mentioned in the Bible, but is it for real? Can we expect violent retribution from the God who submitted to crucifixion and then used it to defeat death? Is death really defeated? Then why does it still seem to reign supreme? What if the entire world is going through some sort of mass crucifixion?

What if the judgment we so dread only feels like violent retribution to those of us who struggle so hard to hang onto something of our own, something we can’t take with us when we go anyway? Do we need to be terrified? After all, we’ve seen where crucifixion led Jesus. If we allow ourselves to be shattered on the rejected cornerstone, who knows what new and joyful thing may come of it?

Maybe we can take some comfort in the words of the Prophet Micah: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to have kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” When it seems "there is no hope to speak of," when all is confusion, do two things. Pray. And go out of your way to do good things for others. What else is there to do?

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