Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; I Samuel 1:1-18; Hebrews 9:1-14
Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary…But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with human hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! [Hebrews 9:11-14, NRSV]
It’s very hard for most of us to let go of anger, guilt, resentment, and a whole host of other emotions that threaten to crush us with their sheer weight. It’s why we have particular acts to help us let go of such things – confession, both individual and general; absolution, both individual and corporate; penance as a way to act out regret and remorse. It’s all designed to lift the burden that we don’t seem capable of casting off of ourselves: a way to pass the awful potato of soul death.
Sometimes, the mechanics of it all take a dark turn. Instead of handing it over to the loving hands of God, we throw the existential spud at someone else, or a whole group of someone elses. All our bad stuff now becomes theirs. We turn some other group into sin personified, then feel perfectly justified and holy in punishing them, even unto death. And this pass-the-potato game goes both ways: sometimes we hand it on, sometimes it’s handed to us.
Jesus came to end this game, not by improving our potato passing skills, but by stepping in the middle of it. Instead of handing it on, he took it out of play. Our failings don’t burden others, and theirs no longer become our burdens.
It’s revolutionary – this truth that we don’t have to live in an endless cycle of pass-the-potato-of-existential-angst. Clearly, God doesn’t want us to play the game any longer. When we decide we don’t want to play it, when we refuse to play it, when we walk away from it, it’s more than revolutionary: it’s holy.