Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Hell Run


I got my license in March of 1989 when I turned sixteen.
Shortly after that my friends and I developed what we came to call, "The Hell run".
We would go to this windy road that ran between Derry and Windham.
My parents had a Toyota van.
It barely had any front.
It looked something like this.
And we would drive it as fast as I could.
Often times the car would come off the ground.
The key to the Hell run was that we would play the Ramones greatest hit.
The  best song to do a hell run was, "Sniff some glue".
The complete lyrics where, "Now I want to sniff some glue
Now I want to have somethin' to do
All the kids want to sniff some glue
All the kids want somethin' to do"
The Ramones are the perfect band for indolence male expression.
They can sum up how you feel about the world at that time in a 2 minute song about sniffing glue.
Recently I was talking to someone in my family about how much we couldn't stand being in High school.
We talked about how glad we were to be done with it.
You see the "Hell Run" was more a good metaphor about how I felt at that time in my life.
Stuck in hell.
Not sure what life was about, other than it was about some loud music, and driving dangerously.
This one night in particular, we were going to pick up another friend and on the way decided to sneak in a "Hell Run".
This time it didn't end well.
I came over a hill and the car  lifted off the ground.
On the other side was a big truck.
I hit the brakes and tried to veer to the right to get passed the truck.
Instead I hit a tree.
Instantly I could hear my friend Don yell from the back of the van.
He wasn't hurt just really scared.
We all got out and realized that we were OK.
As soon as I knew everyone was OK, I thought about  what my parents were going to do.
Especially my father.
As is often costmary in your teen years my dad and struggled at times to understand each other.
I knew my mother wouldn't be happy, but she would be her normal calm and patient self.
My dad on the other hand wasn't as patient.
My mother drove all of my friends home and made me go in and tell their parents what had happened.
We of course left out the part about the Ramones and the "Hell Run".
Everyone understood and was glad we were alive.
I worried about what awaited me at home.

Pilate like everyone else believes that the world works a certain way.
There are rules, there are protocols, there are things to conquer.
The way you make it is to be ruthless, the way you get what you want is to punish those who don't do as you wish.
If you want something you raise an army, and then you destroy that which is not good for you.
There are categories for things, there is order to be maintained.
In fact, the main part of Pilates job was to maintain order.
During Jesus day there was a lot of unrest among the people.
Mainly because they were forced to pay high taxes to Rome, and their religious beliefs were not respect, their rights were trampled.
Religious leaders were in cahoots with the Roman authorities to keep people sedated from the truth.
However, the more that Rome tightened their grip the more people rose up to oppose them.
This was especially true in Jerusalem around the main religious holidays.
This was Pilate's main task to keep the peace during these times.
Pilate's answer was to beef up security, and to have any trouble makers crucified.

During the time of Jesus their lots of people who wanted to rise up and overtake the Roman occupation.
It is in this category that Pilate puts Jesus.
But what we fail to see, what Pilate failed to see, was that Jesus was not from this world.
He was the word, he was there at the beginning when the world was created.
He didn't exist within this time and place.
He didn't belong to the categories that we place things.
If he had he would have raised an army, and set out to conquer and destroy.
Jesus was king but not in the way that Pilate, or anyone else, thinks of Kings.

Jesus was king because he loved the world.
He was king because he was willing to give his life.
He was king because he served the women at the well.
He was king because he brought joy to a wedding feast.
Jesus was king because he fed 5,000 people free of charge, not because they deserved it, but simply because they were hungry.
He was king because he was a shepherd.
Jesus was king because he forgave sins, and washed his disciples feet.
Jesus didn't fit in the categories we think of now.

I got home and my dad was in his usual place watching sports.
I walked in to the room very slowly and sheepishly.
I was ready for his wrath.
Ready for him to put me in my place.
Ready for him to regain control of his son who was out of control.
"You scared?" he asked me.
"Yes...I am really sorry."
"We all make mistakes. I am not upset. It is Ok. I am glad you are OK."
Not the category I was expecting.
A moment of grace.
A moment outside of this time and place.
A moment that doesn't seem like something that should have happened that way.
It should have been worse.
I deserved worse.
Maybe my parents didn't know the whole truth, but they knew I was on a road I shouldn't have been on, driving faster than I should be driving.
The Kingdom of God is not a place.
It is an experience that we have.
It is those moments of unexpected grace.
It is those moments when something happens that is different.
It is those moments when we are in hell, and the kingdom of God breaks forth.
That is when we realize that Jesus is King.

In this time when we are asked to give our lives over to those who want to control us.
When we are asked to be afraid of people different than us.
When we are told that we can have safety and security if we only yell more or impose our will more.
Christ the King reminds us that the kingdom is not of this world.
It is not the categories that Pilate makes, it is in the word made flesh.
It is not to be found by those who think they have power, because they have the biggest army or the best houses.
It is in the one who dies on a cross, who gives his life as a ransom for many.
It is in a father showing some grace upon his son who hasn't figured out that hell is not the place to be, but has given him a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

This week may Christ the King give you a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
May you know God's grace in an unexpected time and place.
Maybe there are days when all you want to do is sniff some glue, maybe there are times when you feel like you are on a hell run, know in those times and places that Christ is King and his kingdom comes. Amen