Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday devo: The scandal of worship

Every year about this time, I pull out my DVD of Jesus Christ Superstar. Watching it has become an Easter tradition for me. I prefer the stylized, artful presentation of the last days of Jesus to the blood and gore versions that have become popular in recent years. And, yes, I realize that there is a good deal of theological fallacy in the screenplay. After all, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice are not exactly Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the scene that takes place on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Jesus' crucifixion, the Sunday we just celebrated here in 2014.  My brother's family were staying with me this weekend and over breakfast, I explained to my three-year-old nephew that this was the Sunday that Jesus came to Jerusalem and that when he got to Sunday school this morning he would be given a palm branch to wave, just like the ones that people waved and threw down in front of Jesus' donkey so many years ago.

In the movie version that I have, the one from 2000, instead of palm branches the people are carrying signs, the sort of signs that you see at rallies and protests, featuring a picture of Jesus and the words "Jesus Rules." They carry Jesus into the city on their shoulders, like a rock star, or a superstar. Their exuberance and celebration is over the top, unseemly in a way, for someone who is supposed to be a religious leader.  It's scandalous, and part of me always feels just a tiny hint of sympathy for the Pharisees who are looking on this spectacle and feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

That small twinge of sympathy is always followed by a dose of conviction. Not because I felt sympathetic, but because my worship of Jesus rarely if ever rises to the level of scandalous.  I would happily stand at the side of the road and politely wave a palm branch. But would I lift the Savior onto my shoulders, parade him around, while holding a giant sign that proclaims my adoration?  Of course, neither of these are happening in a literal sense in my life in 2014. But I fear that too often I let my faith become polite, never rising to anything close to exuberance or scandal.

I'm not saying that I feel the need to jump around and shout. But I am saying that occasionally my beliefs, my lifestyle, my faith should strike someone as a little extreme. As in, "Sure, you're religious, but do you have to take it that far? Can't you just reel it back in a little and be politely, nondescriptly spiritual, without all this Jesus stuff?"

Actually, no, I can't. Because the truth is, in both a literal and figurative sense, Jesus rules. Hosanna.

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