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Monday, March 29, 2010  

The Lonely Truth
Rev. Ben Dueholm
March 28, 2010 (Palm Sunday)
Wicker Park Lutheran Church

Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last Saturday I decided to take Soren to a rally. Supporters and opponents of the pending health care reform legislation were demonstrating outside Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s office in Schaumburg. It will probably surprise no one that we went to join the supporters. But when we arrived, the pro- and anti- crowds were indistinguishable from ten yards away. People were a little bashful as they arrived, not knowing friend from enemy and not wanting to make eye contact with the wrong person. Each honk from a passing car was greeted with cheers by both sides.

As I got closer I could tell the crowds apart by their chants. To the west, the opponents were chanting “kill the bill.” On the east, we were responding with “health care now.” Three syllables each, easy to learn and repeat, but saying very little. “Kill the bill” was a not uncommon sentiment. But nothing in the chant suggested a way to help people who couldn’t afford decent health insurance through no fault of their own. It said nothing about people who could not buy insurance at any price because of a chronic health condition. It was silent on the problem of increasing costs that effect everyone who has insurance.

“Health care now,” on the other side, was a fine sentiment. But by it we apparently meant some new regulations on insurers this year and next and some tax credits for small businesses that insure their employees. Then in four years, the uninsured will be able to buy insurance on regulated “exchanges” with the help of subsidies from the federal government. And in seven years, large employers will be able to join these exchanges if they want. That’s a little more cumbersome and less romantic than “health care now.” Soren was cold so we left after a few minutes. I didn’t mind.

The fact is that people are rarley at their best in a crowd. People are rarely at their wisest chanting a three-word slogan. Make no mistake--our common life requires these things. We have to support parties that imperfectly reflect our values. We have to vote for politicians who have serious shortcomings. We have to worship in churches that incompletely embody our faith. We participate in denominations that stray from anybody’s understanding of true religion. We have to embrace the fellowship of people we believe to be in serious error, hopefully in the humble recognition that they may believe the same thing about us. Sometimes we need crowds and we need chants, and we can’t afford to be too picky about them.

As we hear again each Palm Sunday, however, all crowds and all chants are basically the same. Pro or anti, kill the bill or health care now, blessed be the king or crucify him. Every crowd offers the comfort of dissolving ourselves in a greater force. Every chant offers us the security of a simple truth.

And was we see again every Palm Sunday, the Truth is not a matter of splitting the difference between two passionate crowds. The Truth is not a matter of finding a more subtle way to combine the insights of clashing slogans. The Truth is not some magic middle ground on which we all come together. As we see again every Palm Sunday, the Truth-with-a-capital-T is always lonely. The Truth, Jesus Christ, is lonely on the donkey when the crowds cheer his entrance to Jerusalem. He is lonely at dinner, lonely in the garden, lonely in the betrayal and denial and abandonment of his friends. The Truth is lonely on the cross, with only thieves for company.

The Truth is lonely when we turn to him for a hero, for the fulfillment of our own hopes and dreams. And the Truth is lonely when we make him a scapegoat for our own fears. The Truth is lonely in triumph and the Truth is lonely in death.

The Truth is lonely. But that does not mean that the Truth is alone. All things came to be through the Truth. All things are sustained by the mighty Word of Truth. All good things find their center and their pulse in the Truth. The Truth returns, now, to reclaim his own. The Truth is not our possession; he is the one who makes us his possession. The Truth is not something we find; it is someone who finds us. The Truth is not something we know; it is someone who fully knows us. The Truth is not something we harness for our own purposes; the Truth puts us into his own gentle yoke and who drives us to greater charity, patience, and endurance. The Truth is bigger than any crowd, simpler than any chant, lonelier than any sinner. The Truth picks us up, washes us clean, and sets us on the hard, perfect, beautiful path of choosing God, choosing our neighbor, and gaining God’s kingdom. And even on the cross, the Truth wins out. Amen.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 9:08 PM
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