Looking for a worship song on YouTube this morning, I was somewhat surprised when I was required to watch an election ad before I was able to hear my song! Since we are heading into an election in Alberta, you and I will be inundated by political ads and discussions no matter where we turn. On the nightly news, you’ll get stories attempting to sway you one direction or the other. On Facebook, people you know are posting articles that express their leanings. Around dining room tables, friends discuss what they think is best for our province. You see the signs. You hear the rhetoric, much of which leaves people feeling cynical (cue eye-rolling). But sooner or later, you and I will have to cut through all the talk and make a decision about where to put our X on the voting ballot. Life is, after all, about choices! Which leaves me wondering: what directs you, propels me, as we make our choices, political or otherwise?
Enter Jesus. Stay with me while I remind us of the narrative from Mark 9-11 and what I think it has to say regarding choices, even political ones.
It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the trees are green and people are out and about enjoying life. Jesus is sitting with a group of people, teaching, and soon others gather close to hear what he has to say. He’s always saying something interesting, something that challenges long-held beliefs or stands what people think on end. ‘What’ I imagine people wondering, ‘will he say today?’ Perhaps THIS is the day he’ll declare himself as Messiah, join the race for political leadership, throw his hat into the ring! Surely as the new/better political leader, he will fix all their problems. Put the Jewish people back on top. Give them a stronger grasp on their economy. Remove the fear they live with daily. That’s what good leaders do, don’t they? Now that would be good news!
On this day, however, as Jesus talks about his kingdom (hopeful, right? because if there is a kingdom, surely there must be a King!) his conversation centers not on power and influence or economy as they understand it, but around a different kind of economy – may I call it the economy of love? He advocates for people with no voice – women victimized by divorcing husbands; powerless children who hold no influence in this culture. He brings into question the assumptions around who’s at the top of the food chain. The rich? The powerful? In the economy of Jesus’ kingdom, when it comes to things that really matter, he declares that those who are ‘first’ are really not as important as we all thought – in fact they will be ‘last’ and those who are ‘last’ (the ones we tend to disregard) will be ‘first’. Now that’s a very strange economy! How does one buy in to that?
Here we have Jesus, the Messiah, speaking, inviting people to his version of the good life, but his conversation appears to be devoid of the rhetoric around power as they understand it. If others are talking about getting the upper hand on the ‘enemy’, he is not. Making more money/having more security? Not only is none of that present, but Jesus goes on to declare (for the third time, Mark tells us) that he will be killed. He’s going to die. He’s definitely not going to be the political leader they are hoping for. How do you choose someone who keeps saying he’s going to die? How do you put your X beside his name?
Just to be clear, the disciples are having a hard time understanding how this will work. Directly following all that Jesus has said about his economy of love, they are still talking about who is going to be the most influential in his kingdom. They are choosing him, placing their X by his name, but that ends up in an argument about seating arrangements that indicate power and authority. They simply cannot imagine a scenario in which Jesus is not the political leader they are hoping for, doing things in the way they expect and want their leader to act.
Jesus has actually been talking about power and authority – but almost everyone is missing his meaning. Remember the scene in the wilderness early in his ministry? Satan invites him to take power as the world understands it. It would mean subverting himself to the evil one, but he could rule nations and have people bowing down to him. Jesus says a definitive “No!” His authority comes from God, not from culture. Later, when he stands before Pilate, a man confident in his own power and authority, as the world assesses those things, he asks Jesus, “Don’t you know I have the authority to release you or to crucify you?” Jesus answers his question with these words: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10–11). Jesus’ words highlight that he’s not playing by the same rules. He’s already got all the authority in the world, and you can do your worst – kill him, in fact, and he’s still going to come out on top, victorious. Jesus is the King, and death cannot defeat him! Later in the book of Revelation, John paints a picture of the King on the throne with a sword proceeding from his mouth (yes, I know, that is a strange picture). But the meaning is that it is his words that are authoritative; he is the one who determines what is true and what is not. He is the one worth following! First and foremost, we put our X beside His name. He is the one who directs and propels our decisions about what we value and how we live life. I am deeply inspired by this King and his invitation to follow!
So, back to our Alberta election. I do not at any level presume to tell you how to vote. But as a follower of the King, who’s put your X beside his name, will you commit to praying? For the ability to have conversations with others that are couched in love? For God’s wisdom as you vote? For those running in the election? For those who will win and give direction to us? Is there a way you might advocate for the prosperity of our province while also keeping the vulnerable in mind? How does Jesus’ economy of love inform your choices?
Life is about choices. May God guide ours as we trust him with our lives, our church and our Province.