Today’s scripture moves away from the action of donkey rides and perfume anointing to Jesus’ final public preaching. One could easily view this scripture as just a crucifixion/resurrection prediction and use the the kenosis model of Christ.
However, Gerard Sloyan wants to explore something more identity oriented. Take the verse: “Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever.” We could easily use this verse for the abusive idea that the poor, the marginalized, the others should continue to sacrifice their place in society, their basic needs, and their ability to make their own future. We do this. We let the rich spiritualize sacrifice and praise the poor who “work hard” and “bear their burdens in silence.” We will then quickly judge the poor with smart phones and cars that aren’t falling apart.
This is not a helpful interpretation.
Instead, Sloyan will point toward acquisitive valuation. That is people basing their identities on their socio-economic standing. That is, particularly a collection of consumer/economic oriented markers that label one as a successful or important in society. Rural communities are not immune to this, as country music culture (one example) in the twenty-first century leans toward the consumeristic idea of life.
But what does Christ have to say to the rural world? Sloyan reminds us that the Gospel of John is a testimony to the faithfulness of God. He also points to the faithfulness of God as one of cosmic orientation, that is, all of creation is pulled into Christ in salvation. But does this include rural spaces? Are the saved pulled away from their homes, their ways of life, or their sense of connection to place? I should think not, but so often we preach a leaving of our home both in society and faith.
Instead, my hope is that we can see salvation not in terms of leaving our homes, our place, the key components of identity, and instead see them as illumined or valued by God, as spaces of salvation. Sloyan reiterates that our value, our self worth, comes not from the consumeristic/acquisitional identity but from Christ, who is his glorification illumines us. Our value comes from God.
I now turn to John Wesley’s understanding salvation’s impact on creation. That is, humans are made in the political image of God, and thus given authority/stewardship over creation. Therefore, this illumination from Christ should pour out of us onto our places. This theological interpretation counters escapist theology of getting to heaven as fast as we can. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ also leads to the salvation of the rural world by assigning its worth through the Image of God and not the valuation of the world.
Why aren’t we preaching more of this?
Side note, the Gospel of John is the Gospel I have the least experience with, so this is a challenge and delight for me.