Yeager column: Jesus stands at the center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand:
Surely the Second Coming is at hand…
ó W.B.Yeats (1920)
The Irish poet Yeats saw it coming, and we have seen over the years the rise of the radical and lunatic fringe and the failure of the center. We watch pundits pontificate on news shows at every hour óexperts spouting pithy sound bites, volleying abuse and stinging rhetoric against the enemies of America and freedom. The louder they are, the more strident and more vindictive, the bigger their audience becomes.
Our nation has become so strident, so angry, so divided. We’ve become a nation of either/or instead of both/and óeither Democrat or Republican, either conservative or liberal, either black or white, either right or left, right or wrong, Christian or atheist, young or old, patriot or traitor, the “real America” or the “liberal media elite,” “country-first” or “blame-America-first.” rich or poor, for us or against us, us or them!
The center cannot hold óthe best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity!
Jesus himself was tempted by extremes ó the Zealots in the crowds wanted Jesus to assume military leadership and drive the hated Romans into the sea. Jesus aimed his angriest words against the legendary extremism of the Pharisees. He could have turned his back to the world like the Essenes in the desert.
But he resisted, because God is not an extremist or a radical. Jesus drew people to himself from all corners, from all walks of life ó rich, poor, insiders and outcasts, those on the left, those on the right ó he drew them to himself, in the center.
Every time Jesus met extremism, he turned away. He offered instead a new way, a better way. Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots: all extremists, offering radical solutions to the nation’s problems.
Jesus offers grace! Grace is God’s own limitless power ó but it is not radical. It’s the exact opposite ó grace draws in; grace forgives; grace embraces.
“Come to me, all ye that are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest ó Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Jesus stands at the middle, the center that holds, where instead it’s the best that are full of passionate intensity, and the worst have their shows cancelled for lack of interest! God grant us all the courage, the patience and the will to stand at the gracious center. All of us, Christian and otherwise, right and left, black and white, rich and poor together.
The Rev. Gregory Yeager is pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, China Grove.