Ash Wednesday -
In May of 2006 in the cities of New York and Los Angeles a documentary film opened. On Memorial Day weekend the film grossed an average of $91,500 per theatre, the highest of any movie that weekend and a record for a documentary, though it was only playing on 4 screens at the time. The film has grossed over $24 million in the US and over $42 million worldwide as of January of 2007.
The film to which I refer is entitled, An Inconvenient Truth. It was an Academy Award nominated documentary film about climate change, specifically global warming, directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring former United States Vice President Al Gore. The film explores data and predictions regarding climate change. Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future.
In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the US Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings. He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action. Not so. Some listened, some became disbelieving and others shirked it off.It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.
Our Gospel for Ash Wednesday is a small section from Matthew’s writings of the Sermon on the Mount. If we read between the lines, we will discover why Jesus was an Inconvenient Truth for both the religious and political leaders of his time. “He was a presence that disturbed the status quo; he burst the bonds of tradition, for Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies – he was none other than the Messiah.” His words would stabilize and destabilize, comfort and discomfort – he spoke what people didn’t want to hear; his words were full of force and challenge.
Jesus was an outsider by choice. He seemed to be attracted by the people who lived at the margins of society. He was forever wandering on the borders and crossing boundaries. He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; played with children and blessed them. Women were in relationship with Jesus. He healed them, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He spoke to people of the Reign of God. He spoke to their hearts. Here they were accepted, loved and liberated.
He challenged them to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile and bend and wash each other’s feet. He could speak to the wind and the waves of the sea; he cast out demons, he gavevision to the blind, and the capacity to stand tall to the lame and all those bent over from the backbreaking burdens of the Law.
Truly, he was the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.
Jesus calls us all to be disciples. Jesus’ idea of discipleship is not about giving people answers but leading them into that space where they will long and yearn for God – for wisdom, for healing and for transformation. Every authentic encounter with the Holy, “every true experience of God in whatever form, makes a person less insular, less complacent, and less isolated – and more restless, more inspired and more engaged with the world and humanity.”
And now we begin the season of Lent. The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that’s conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well. Throughout this journey of Lent, let us be open to all and every word, nudge, challenge, invitation, encounter and opportunity of the Holy One, who leads us to our own truth – be it convenient or inconvenient …