Saving Face

In the light of the golden gate that Jesus entered on Palm Sunday we can identify the shadows that are present as well. The beginning of Holy week is a microcosm of the whole lenten journey. It is a bright sadness. The ones who have journeyed through lent in honesty can now see the end of the journey. But the vision we end up seeing might not be what we expected when we set out some 7 weeks ago. Tears tend to clarify the vision. For some reason the destination we are heading towards looks like a cross, a death rather than the jubilant celebration of overcoming sin and darkness. Much like the disciples we might have expected a conquering of the forces that is oppressing us. We thought that clinging to Jesus, following Him as His disciples would eventually lead to the physical enforcement of true justice. That we could skip the cross section of our walk by trying to obey the law.

Head in Hands

To be fair, Jesus entering into Jerusalem is the beginning of the culmination of a very physical enforcement of true justice, but not like we expected. Not like we anticipated it to look. It is physical in a different way.

It is the physicality of it all that presents us with the reality of the depth of our depravity. We thought that He came to throw the Romans out. Instead He is thrown to the ground. We thought that He would ban capital punishment and torture. Instead He is unjustly tried, tortured and killed. We thought that He would bring the biggest army ever seen to enforce justice, instead He walks the way of pain alone. We thought that He would whip evil out of the world. Instead He is whipped. We thought that He would stop the shedding of blood by one final battle, instead His blood colours the ground red. What is going on here?

The physicality of it all becomes a testimony against us. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that my sin and my shortcomings are just thoughts, that they are “spiritual” only. That my sin is somehow separated from any physical reality. Jesus suffering and pain forces me to face myself and the reality of my sin. I am part of the mob shouting to have Him killed every time I close my heart to the suffering and lonely. The least of these are still dying.

It might begin as a thought but if left to grow, that sinful thought will eventually manifest itself in physical reality. Either by doing what is wrong in the light of truth or by ignoring to do what is right in the light of truth. Christ receives blows from my hand every time I sin. The least of these are still crying.

Jesus road to the cross this week forces us to face the reality about ourselves and if we are being truthful, that reality might not look that great. In our efforts to manage the parts of our lives that we try to hide we forgot that nothing can be hidden from His sight. How is that possible? How can Jesus possibly know our innermost struggles and secrets? How can He know our shame? Because He is the victim of it. He physically carried it. His suffering brings light into the darkness because His body is bruised for our transgressions. Through His body reality is revealed.

When He faces the forces of darkness and sin He is facing the things that I have been trying to hide away, keep under lock and key. The things we have done in trying to avoid shame and saving face.

Jesus taking the humble path as a servant is truly astounding because in doing so He lets us know that He is not after shaming us. He is not after to “get us”. He is not enforcing justice from “above” in a way that we have to be afraid of. No, Jesus comes from below to carry the shame we could not carry. He meets our heart in the secret place when that is what we need. All we have to be is honest so that we may encounter our true self and the reality of our situation.

Instead of trying to save face we have to encounter our true face because when we do we will encounter the Face that saves.


The root of prostitution.

The other day I read something very troubling in the newspaper( I read that Saskatoon city council are contemplating a zone in Saskatoon where “massage parlours” can operate. This could be translated into having a designated “Red Light district” where prostitution would be “allowed”.

Now, in Canada it is not illegal to exchange sexual acts for money but it is illegal to market prostitution in public, make a living on somebody else (pimping) and to operate a brothel. This would suggest that having a “Red Light District” would be virtually impossible unless law enforcement agencies turn “their blind eye” to the activities because at least “it is in a manageable area” and “we can not get rid of prostitution anyway”. I believe City Council in Saskatoon are flirting with the idea of “managing” prostitution by having a “designated area for it” (since everybody seems to believe it is impossible to get rid off) so that the problem would be easier to handle. In practical terms it would mean that city council are contemplating to break the laws of Canada.

The ironic thing is that history shows prostitution and crime does not decrease if you “manage” it like this, it actually increases. To solve prostitution you can not manage it, you have to get to the root of the problem. And what is the root of the problem?

The theological answer would be that we do not see ourselves as being created in the image of God any longer (hey we do not even believe we are created).

The humanistic (which in essence is a theological answer as well) answer would be that we do not really believe that everyone are equally valuable and worthy of love and respect.

The economic answer would be that we believe that everything has a monetary value and should be possible to buy if we desire it.

The naturalistic answer would be that we in essence are animals that only follow our natural instincts.

It is how we view each other and ourselves that is the problem.

The word prostitution means “to put of front for sale”. It is no coincidence that it is in countries of capitalism we find the most buyers of sexual “services”. We have made it our creed that “everything can be bought for the right price.” We have come to believe that everything is for sale. This notion of that we can “buy happiness” is at the root of the problem of prostitution. There are not many woman who want to be in this situation. They are almost always forced to in one way or another. They are forced (by the pimps) because there is a demand for sexual services. The root of the problem is not found in the sex industry, it is found in the one who buys such services. It is lust that is the problem. And lust is rampant because it is promoted largely by society as a whole.

When society looses its vision for spiritual things all that “is left” is the physical. The adoration of the physical is called lust. The ironic thing though is that the spiritual does not go away when we worship the physical. No, when we give into lust, when we worship the physical, it has huge spiritual consequence.

We need to realize that not everything can be bought and sold, human dignity and morality knows this. Maybe that’s why it is human dignity and morality that are being persecuted by evil forces?

I would encourage you to study the root of the heresy (not problem) of prostitution. And, encourage your local politician to do the same. Until we do, prostitution will provide what lust demands.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

Ps. If you live in Canada, sign this petition Ds.