One of the most recognizable tropes in movies and TV shows is the angry mob. I first remember seeing it in some Frankenstein-esque cartoon where the towns people all gather together and in one voice, with torches and pitch forks express their collective outrage at the potential villain of the story. If ever there was a week for a good angry mob, certainly this felt like that sort of week.
In a week that saw John Oliver take apart televangelists, hackers release the names of very public, very Christian, cultural figures implicated in an Ashley Madison scandal, and even more brutal, dehumanizing, Planned Parenthood videos, the angry mob/moral outrage scale is off the charts. The internet has become the place we sharpen our pitch forks and light our torches so we can skewer whichever villain is placed before us.
As I read the readings for this Sunday (Psalm 84, Ephesians 6, and John 6) I can’t help but notice the absence of this sort of moral outrage. There are battles to be won and lost, fights to be had for sure, but the entire tone of these passages forces me to pause. The battle against the powers and principalities is not the battle of the pitch fork wielding angry mob. It is rather a battle of prayer, confession and the presence of God.
The right response to the events of this week may in fact be anger and outrage. I am almost certain that it is anger and outrage. The problem for us, is that our anger and outrage goes everywhere but back on us. The point of the armor of God is not that we are morally upright beings who can attack the world, the point is that without God’s presence engulfing and surrounding us we too are unable stand in the midst of corrupting and destructive powers. The armor of God is not about our strength in a spiritual battle, it is about our weakness and inability to deal with our own sin. Its God’s armor, and God’s presence as our sun and shield (beautifully sung about in Psalm 84) that allows to stand.
Our response to the public, moral failings and the injustices of our world really ought to be the same as the response of Jesus’ disciples in John 6. “Where else can we go Jesus? Who else has the words of life?” This sort of humble, contrite, confession is really the heart beat of the Christian life: if Jesus can’t save us, we have nothing left. The good news, of course, is that Jesus can and does rescue us, not by becoming the angry mob seeking our destruction, but by submitting to and subverting exactly that angry mob.
May we confess, and learn to stand, in the spirit and life of the God whose presence is better than the riches of the televangelists, whose armor can guard us from ourselves, and whose very body was broken and shared for the wicked. Jesus has already faced down the powers of our world, and he comes to us not wielding pitch forks and torches, but sharing his body and blood for the life of the world. In Eucharist we remember who are true selves. We are reminded that we too are broken, beggars trying to find bread. In the Eucharist we find the bread of life which doesn’t make us morally superior, but drives us to confession and thankfulness. Jesus says I am the bread of life. Take. Eat. This is Christ’s body broken for you.