This week we heard of President Obama’s visit to Cuba. It was amazing for me to hear about it. An American president in Cuba. My whole life, Cuba has been an enemy of the US though just 90 miles from Florida. In high school we read 13 Days about the Cuban missile crisis. I couldn’t put the book down. Many of you may actually remember the conflict. The world was poised, at the edge, on the brink, of nuclear war. Now, the US president has visited Cuba. On one hand, I never thought I would see it happen. On the other, I wonder why things haven’t thawed sooner. Really? Cuba? We have relations with other communist countries and other countries with human rights records we condemn. Maybe it has taken so long because there are many Cuban exiles in the US and they exert a lot of political power.
I appreciated listening to the President’s speech to the Cuban people. He didn’t portray the US as paradise. He didn’t extol democracy as nirvana. He admitted that the US has many challenges. But the President explained that our open, participatory system allows the people to work for improvement and change. And he affirmed that changes and progress are needed in the US and in Cuba.
This week we are remembering Jesus’ life and ministry. This week, we remember his last teachings and his last days. We remember his crucifixion. Jesus’ unjust death stems from his life and teaching. He pointed people to God with no self interest involved. He encouraged God’s vision of community, inclusion, and justice, for no personal, individual gain. The gain was to be collective.
Before we get swept away by the glories of Easter, we want to remember that Jesus did not say that God’s way would be easy. A seed must die. Give up your life for your friends. Many of Jesus teachings show the cost of discipleship. They convey a path of sacrifice. Jesus died for being true to God. Others were killed for their faith. But the way of justice and peace is the very way to abundant life. Joyful life. Not simply going through the motions, in bondage to self interest, but living the good life for others, for humankind, for Creation.
I found President Obama’s trip to Cuba hopeful. I was moved to tears at his speech. Now, finally, we are beginning to act in mutuality with this small, poor neighboring nation. There are issues to be resolved. The countries have their differences and ever will. But we should be talking, visiting, playing music and baseball together, in a spirit of good will and mutual respect.
It was refreshing to see a US leader pursue peace with a former enemy without using a gun, or a bomb. And it stood in stark contrast to the bombings in Brussels. It was a bright spot, a moment of sanity, in a world that too often seems insane and inane.
Pilate let Jesus off. Herod let Jesus off. They didn’t think he deserved to be killed. It was the crowds that called for crucifixion. There are those who still call for severed relations with Cuba. May we be the crowds, the people, who cry out for peace.
This Holy Week, remembering the death of Jesus, we pray for all the things that make for peace. Amen.