There’s an inelegant term in Broadway parlance for what you do with the actor-singer who can’t dance: park and bark. While the dancers move gracefully around the stage, directors find ways to get the non-dancers from one place to another and then let them stay there to do their thing – singing and acting. (Having just watched the Olympic gymnastics trials, the floor exercises are somewhat similarly disjointed: spectacular tumbling runs connected by only vaguely artistic dance-like movements. It’s sort of the reverse of park and bark.)
Similarly disjointed, in some respects, are the gospel narratives. For most of them, Jesus’ ministry is a string of miracles, exorcisms, and moving around, disrupted by long monologues or static discussions. The flow is often reminiscent of the conversation around a campfire with an older relative, where a rogue reference in one story sparks the memory and telling of a completely different story.
So goes Luke 11.
There are a bunch of vignettes that are only barely connected. Some are famous: The Lord’s Prayer, for instance. Most are pretty obscure.
As much as I’d love to focus on verse 17 (“Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long; a family divided against itself falls apart.”), what actually sticks out for me tonight is a mini-tirade at the end of the chapter. Jesus goes to eat with a Pharisee, who notices that Jesus doesn’t wash his hands first, which is contrary to Jewish law. And Jesus goes off.
“You clean the outside of your cups and plates, but inside you’re full of violence and evil….Give what is in your cups and plates to the poor, and everything will be ritually clean for you.”
“You give 1/10th of your seasoning and herbs, but you neglect justice and love for God.”
“You are like unmarked graves which people walk on without knowing it.”
(In a pivot that I find amusing, only because I’ve experienced something like it, another group of religious leaders objects, and rather than backing down, Jesus turns on them, too, without losing a bit of steam.)
“You put onto people’s backs loads which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry these loads.”
“You make fine tombs for the prophets – the very prophets your ancestors murdered.”
“You have kept a key that opens the door to the house of knowledge; you yourselves will not go in, and you stop those who are trying to go in!”
Oooh, that last one. It sounds familiar, as we discuss whom we should deny grace.
People with a temper love this stretch, because it allows them to say, look, Jesus had a temper, too.
But I believe the only time we see that temper come out is in response to religious leaders who want to justify themselves at the expense of the outcast. We should sit with that when we’re tempted to park and bark at someone we don’t think measures up.
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