Benediction Online

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bug Splat

Matthew 26:14- 27:66  (Palm Sunday)

Bug Splat. That’s what the people who operate drones call the images of the damage they do. The pictures of the dead people and destroyed buildings that result from a “successful” drone attack apparently resemble the death of a large insect on your windscreen. So they call it bug splat. In Pakistan, a group of artists have printed and installed a 100 by 70 foot banner of a child whose parents were both killed by a drone strike in 2009. It’s about the size of a tennis court and can be seen by satellite. It can also be seen by drone operators flying their weapons over the area. It puts a human face on “bug splat.”[1]

Today we enter what a friend of mine called “the hell hole of Holy Week” with today’s curious and painful juxtaposition of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey with everyone cheering and having a good time, and his subsequent betrayal, sham trial, humiliation, torture and death. Bug splat.

In the last hours of his mortal life, Jesus experienced in some way all the things that make our own hell holes. Pain, fear, terror, embarrassment, humiliation, impotence, betrayal, abandonment, not being able to breath… all the things that we humans experience when things are at their very worst, Jesus experienced. And because Jesus experienced it, God experienced it.  God experienced the hell hole of humanity. God experienced bug splat.

In this very public execution – so public that all around the world this week there will be people like us reliving and remembering its horrors – in this very public execution God gave us a graphic image of the effects of sin. It is easy for us to turn our gaze away from the effects of human sinfulness. But now it’s up there on the cross, raised up for all to see. Bug splat on a cross.

I don’t believe the story we were told in Sunday School, that Jesus died because of the lies that I have told or because I stole bubble gum from the corner store or because I was rude to my mother or took God’s name in vain. I don’t believe we can understand the mystery of the cross at that individual level. I think it’s much more complex and much more profound than that.

Most of our sin is at arm’s length. Most of the effects of our sin we don’t see. We don’t see the way the world is effected by our thoughts and the power of our judgments and attacks –we think they’re just in our minds – but they fuel the collective atmosphere and that is what leads our government to act in ways we find unconscionable and that is what leads to ghettos and crime. We don’t just allow it to happen, we help it to happen and at the same time we feel utterly powerless because even when we are aware of our part in the hell holes of the world, we don’t understand how they happen and we have little idea about how to change them, so even in these days of rapid communication, we turn away. It’s just bug splat.

Jesus’ death was the result of human sinfulness. It was the inevitable result of teaching and living a holy life and engaging in public non-violent resistance.  On a cosmic level, it was also God’s teaching moment. Look, God says, this is what you do to each other. This is the result of your behavior. This truly innocent man experiences a speeded-up hellhole event which leads to his painful and public death, suffocating under his own weight with nails through his hands and feet, every movement an agony, not because of anything wrong he did but because of human sinfulness.

The cross is God putting a human face on the results of our thoughtlessness and recklessness, our exploitation and oppression of each other. God didn’t put a picture in a field that can be seen by drone operators and satellites; God put his humanself on a cross in the middle of the Roman Empire for all the world to see and to remember again and again. Godsplat.

And so what is our response as we go through this week of gathering gloom? The challenge I think, is to keep our eyes open and not to make excuses. Not to think, as we watch the news, that this is happening to someone else, but to remember that we are so connected that it is happening to us. To remember that Jesus the Christ is in every human being and all that we see happening is also happening to him. Every day the Christ is being tortured, every day the Christ is being starved, every day the Christ is being imprisoned. Every day the environmental disaster of global warming comes closer. Every day of inaction is another day of bugsplat/Godsplat.

And let our hearts be broken. Let our compassion flow. Let us cry out to God for forgiveness and mercy.



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