Friday, March 29, 2013

Desire, Confusion, and Power

As is my annual tradition, I watch the film "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Good Friday. Each time I find something new to meditate over, and this year I noticed a handful of themes running through the film and through the Passion of Christ.

Firstly, desire. Judas desired Jesus to behave a certain way, the merchants in the Temple lived on the desires of others, and even the lepers were motivated by desire to be well. The religious authorities desired order and "peace" in their occupied country, and the political authorities desired obedience and order. Desire! It become so easy to desire, and the powers that be already tell us what to desire (safety, wealth, fame, power, education, prestige, and so on). We become characterized through our desires. Even good desires (caring for the poor and marginalized, harmony, peace) can become perverted and demonic when they feed on themselves and they feed on us. Desire is a dangerous thing, and it is entirely possible to substitute our own vision of God and the Kingdom of God in place of God (or what we can sensibly call idolatry).

Second, confusion. Jesus is a confusing person in the Gospels. He can never be pinned down to behave a certain way, and in the film you could get a sense for the confusion of his disciples. What is he doing? Who is he? How do I love him, and can I still love him when I think he's wrong? Does he love me? The Christian tradition understands that God communicates to us the Truth even in the midst of confusion. It can be hard to see, and it is even harder to see when our desire is clouding what we see. When we are confused, our desires sometimes push their way into the driver's seat. Our confusion can, on occasion, be a fruitful land (though it feels like a desert) that reveals to us deep truths about ourselves, and God will be with us in the midst of that confusion. The world will not fall apart if we get it wrong; God is the creator, the Lord of all things, and our failures do not destroy his kingship.

Finally, power. You can attribute it to detailed study of Scripture, but you can see the role of the powers and principalities in the Passion. Who doesn't hold to power tightly to preserve one's own vision of how it should be? Rome wanted it one way and used its power to make sure that there was "peace" even while they oppressed others. The religious authorities had limited power but wanted to keep things orderly so that the world would not fall out of control. America, too, has its priorities (safety, wealth, etc) and will use power to maintain them.

Now add all these together. We have desires that push us toward satisfying some goals, we have confusion about how to reach those goals correctly, and then we have the power to carry out our plans.

Jesus pushed back against all these. What should we desire but God? Why do we stumble around when love of God with every fiber of our being and love of neighbor should be our guide? Who truly is the powerful One, who is the Lord God Almighty?

Even in our confusion, let us hold fast to the love of God, the desire for God. Even in our powerlessness, let us desire that "God's kingdom come, on earth his will be done as it is in heaven" by God's own power, not our power.

Peace be with you at this moment and forever.