A Past That Divides
There is a time when we’re all confronted with the realization that something we’ve held onto has to be released. We hold onto ideas about the world and ourselves that no longer hold up to reality. We cling to prejudices and beliefs that divide us from others. In addition, we nurture past slights that are too painful to open up to healing and as a result we often maintain a festering divide. We end up building barriers between ourselves and the world around us. Worse still, we end up erecting a wall between ourselves and God. When this sort of barrier building defines our life we are called to repentance. Without repentance we are unable to heal, grow and move forward in life and faith.
Repentance From a Difficult History
This week, we, as a country, have been confronted with our painful history in a particularly ugly way. Many of the people who are against removing Confederate monuments make appeals to the preservation of history. By removing the statues from public spaces, the argument goes, we turn our backs on part of our history. This argument assumes that preserving the statues as they are is the best and only way to preserve history. I believe that this argument also assumes that the history we are preserving is a benign history. It is not. The sin of racism is at the core of it. While I’m not the first to point it out, each of these statues was erected to a person who committed treason and sedition against the United States. We could probably agree that there are more helpful and appropriate ways to remember this part of our history.
Letting Go of the Past
While this is a particularly painful example of holding onto things, the example itself also illustrates the basics of our text for Sunday. The disciples struggled with how to make sense of Jesus. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the disciples struggled largely because they had a difficult time reconciling their expectations with the example that was right before their eyes. In many cases the disciples held so tightly to centuries-old expectations that they had no room for what they were learning. They would need to let go of much of their past if they were going to be successful at embracing the new gift that God had in store for them. There is much we can learn from this story as we commit ourselves to the life of Christian discipleship.