Well, as the Grateful Dead once sang... "What a long, strange trip it's been!"
This Lenten season has presented interesting, even unsettling, challenges to me. This latest one being the encounter in the coffee shop being stunned into silence by a "holier than thou" who couldn't mind his own business and felt the need to interject himself into a conversation I was having with a friend. When your Lenten practice is to be mindful of your heart and to soften the hardened places in your heart... such a person presents an unusually difficult challenge.
I reflected on my response: silence. What was the matter with me? Why didn't I do a verbal smack down of this sanctimonious SOB who seems to think he has a more special relationship with Christ than I have?
But then I remember how some of the gospel writers depict Christ's final day... especially during the so-called trial. Here are people making accusations about him, trying to drum up charges against him, and Christ didn't respond in anger at the lies. In fact, in some moments, he didn't respond at all.
And so maybe my own silence is a sign that I am learning how to keep the ground of my heart fertile for the growth of good seeds rather than rock hard, or overrun with weeds.
As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm one of those Episcopalians who actually does what's called the Daily Office. It's a habit I got into after last Easter. Pretty much the way it went, I was so exhilirated and excited by Easter... and all that it means to know that one can emerge from a Good Friday into having an Easter... that I wanted to get more of the story. I wanted to know "what happens next?"... and so I started doing the daily readings. This year, the folks who put together the Daily Office lectionary did me a huge favor by giving us passages from Jeremiah and Romans for the past couple of weeks. Especially Romans (yes, OK, I admit: Paul isn't as much of jerk as I used to think he was!) Again, as another reminder to me that I have a place with God, Paul says:
For there is no distinction between Jew or Greek: the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. (Romans 10:12)
I'm not sure the fundamentalist at the coffee shop understands that statement to mean that God loves him and me equally, because in God there is no distinction between straight and gay, black and white, able-bodied or disabled-bodied. I'm not sure if he hears how deep God's love runs for all of creation. Clearly, he mustn't hear the same thing I do; otherwise he would not have been offended by the conversation nor would he have piped up with how he has a "personal relationship with Christ".
OK... and so what does any of this have to do with "prepping for Palm Sunday"?
What I've been hearing... and what I know we will be hearing more of during the readings at Holy Week... is how God is instructing the people to not just be cheeleaders for Christ... trying to be good little doobies in this life so we can achieve something better in the afterlife. God is laying the blueprint for how to do the action of Christ in recognition that "the kingdom of God is at hand." As in NOW. Take up your cross now. Recognize that Christ is calling us to be willing to sacrifice our egocentric existence to see that we... all of us... are in this soup together and have a responsibility to each other and our planet... and it is all good because it is of God. Pay attention to the prophets and stories from the Hebrew Bible because it's all about God continually making covenants with the people, continually reminding them that God (YHWH) is hearing them. And the choice is always theirs: choose life, or choose death.
So, what's it gonna be?