In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is continuing his farewell to his disciples allowing them to hear his prayer (his talk) to God. Jesus says that while he has been with them, he has protected them, but he is on his way to join God, leaving this earthly realm. And he says: and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. Jesus, through this prayer is saying we all have the opportunity for joy in this world, joy in our life.
This is a different kind of joy and celebration than what has spread around our country the last 36 hours. The exuberant
and seemingly spontaneous pouring of people into the streets to celebrate the news of Osama bin Laden's being killed by American forces is not the kind of joy to which Jesus is referring for completeness.
There is a part of me that is glad that this individual who has been the root of so much evil in our lives is dead. There is a part of me that is proud of our political leaders for sticking with the chase to a successful end.
There is another part of me that is very disturbed by the crowds, rejoicing in the streets. Not only is it unseemly, but this behavior is in direct contradiction of how Jesus says we are to operate in the world. After Jesus prays that his joy be made complete in his followers, he says: I have given them your (God's) word and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world.....
This is where Christian leaders, priests, theologians get into trouble with people in general. We all should look at the kind of event that has produced such momentary joy and question whether this is the kind of behavior to which Jesus was directing us. Yes, this man was perverted and caused devastation in his wake. Perhaps there was no choice but to kill him in the situation that presented itself during the raid to capture him. But I can't help but wonder if the joyous celebrations in the streets are not similar to the crowds, who earlier had been rejoicing at Jesus' arrival, soon thereafter screamed for his death. Any time mass hysteria, group-think takes over, there is cause for concern about whether we are straying from how we are called to operate in the world. Not a popular sentiment, but one that needs reflection.
Yes this man, this deranged sociopath needed to be captured and made to be no longer a factor in the world. But we should not rejoice. The kind of joy emanating from these actions does not lead us to living out Jesus' instructions to us. The kind of joy that is made complete cannot be found in these types of celebrations.
A Prayer for our Enemies (BCP, page 816)
O God of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for Peace (BCP, page 815)
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one God; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Close-up: Orange Rose, Billy Ball & Alstrameria.