Over a decade ago, I was serving as a youth minister in a large, wealthy congre- gation. Freshly out of seminary, my head packed with all sorts of "great ideas," I had come into this church with my "guns blazing." I walked into a Junior and Senior High Sunday school program in which the kids had been used to playing games and singing songs. And what did I bring to them? A course on "media literacy." I spent the first two months of my tenure challenging the kids to take a hard look at media and the way corporations were manipulating them for money. There were kids who really got into it. Most of them, however, did not. I was over their heads, preachy, and challenging--without the relationships to back it up. And this is only one example of the dozen or more ways I was tone deaf to the culture I found myself in.
Within my first few months on the job, I was in trouble. A meeting of the parents was called. Moms and dads of kids in my youth program were going to come together and meet in a large and lovely home. They were supposed to come to have an "honest talk" about the state of affairs.
I was terrified. I asked my boss how I should prepare. He told me I was to sit there and hear them out. And to say nothing. I was not to defend myself. I was not to answer questions, he would do that. I was just supposed to sit there.
So I did. My lovely wife, Laura, and I sat on a couch surrounded by 30 or 40 adults. For the first twenty or thirty minutes, all we heard were negative statements about my ability to do this job. The comments started out general and got increasingly specific, and increasingly nasty. At one point, I felt like I was going to run out of the house. I could see myself sitting on the front lawn in tears.
But I didn't leave. And something remarkable happened. After one particularly hard-hitting comment, another parent raised an objection. He told how he was opposed to that comment, and how he thought I had done a good job in that moment. And then another parent spoke up in my defense. And then another. Pretty soon, even parents who had been critical of me were talking about the things I was doing right. By the end of the evening, I was able to genuinely thank them for their input (most of which I had written down) and assured them I would act on their ideas.
I do not know how Jesus felt before the Sanhedrin. He must have felt awful, betrayed, hurt, and frightened. I felt all those things that night, and I didn't even have to worry about execution! I think many of us have felt this way. We can understand a bit about how Jesus felt. The amazing thing, to me, is that Jesus took on that suffering on our behalf. He was guilty of nothing, but he was convicted for our sake. He knows what it is like to be on trial, and so he is perfectly positioned to help us in the midst of our trials.
As I pray the Third Station of the Stations of the Cross (found below), I am reminded that I worship a God who identifies with my suffering, my fears, and my anxiety. While I can not conquer these things, he can. I can go to him and receive peace and hope and even joy in the midst of my trials. I pray that Christ draws near to you this Lent as you draw near to him. And may we find strength in the midst of our many trials.
Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us,” but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.” Luke 22: 66-71
You will be hated by all because of my Name:
But whoever endures to the end will be saved.
Let us pray. (Silence)
Almighty God, who sent your Son to defeat the powers of darkness on our behalf: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may fully proclaim your Gospel, use us in the cause of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.