Sunday, April 1, 2012

Welcome to Jerusalem! And Now, Let's Kill Him!

Bless their hearts!

You can put whatever emphasis or intonation with that standard Southern stock phrase that you want.  But I am thinking about the decision the Episcopal Church made somewhere along the way to slam together the entry into Jerusalem with the crucifixion.  One minute, we're singing, "Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"   And then some 20 minutes later, Jesus is getting nailed to the cross.

That isn't how it happened.  And I'm sorry the church seems to think we have to do it in this way in order for the people to have Holy Week so neatly wrapped up in one service that they don't have to live out this week with intentionality and focus on the steps that led to the cross.  I'm afraid it robs the power of Holy Week in an effort to make it all "convenient". 

And so, rather than focus on the Passion Gospel, I'm going to stick with the other readings, each of which give us something to ponder deeply.  Certainly I found myself in tears as I read through the Isaiah passage that I was going to have to deliver to the St. John's congregation at 11:15.   The events of last week were reminders of what has been my life ever since the morning of November 11, 2007:

The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.

There have been days when I wanted to rebel and run away.  But I can't because "morning by morning he wakens my ear" with a song, a psalm, a Scripture passage, a thought.   This adventure of blogging began in December of 2007 as a means of expressing those things that have come to me as I travel a path toward God.  Insights, or indignation at oppression, have been with me in the moments when I'm waking, going to sleep, or waiting at traffic lights.  I can't escape God, or what I think is God, constantly nudging me along.      More and more in this past month I have felt myself moving in a direction that Paul talks about in his letter to the Phillipians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. 

Am I sure about this?

My mentor posed some tough questions this week in her sermon:    What if Jesus requires more of me than I can give? What if following Jesus really costs me my life as I know it, my well deserved, hard-earned security? 

Yes, what if that is the case?  What if I have to take some bold steps in faith and stretch further than I have at this point?  So often it seems to really follow Christ closely means we have to walk through some rings of fire in our lives and trust that we won't get burned to a crisp in the process.  Following Christ means that we have to be brave.  We have to be willing to walk into places that challenge us, enter into conversations with people who try our patience, and we have to stand when others wish we'd simply sit down and shut up.  I think about the courage of those in England who were under enormous pressure to vote for the Anglican Covenant because that's what the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted.  Eighty percent of the English bishops have voted for the Covenant, but the clergy and laity split 50-50 on adoption.  It must be very difficult to oppose one's bishop on a matter of church politics.  And yet, they have stood up for what they believe to be the direction that the spirit is moving the Communion.  

I also think of the countless number of saints, known and unknown, who have advocated for a more inclusive vision of what the Christian church should look like.  Their positions have not always been popular and have often made the people uncomfortable, even angry.  Yet, having the mind of Christ in them, they continue to articulate a message of what it is to be in Love.  And in Love there are no exemptions, no black-out dates, and no out-clauses.  No matter how much we may not like someone or some group, it is never our place to decide if that person or group is worthy of inclusion at the Lord's table because we are all guests, and the host is generous.

Each one of us will have this week to consider if we are going to go the distance with Christ, even if only metaphorically speaking, and be at the cross on Friday.  We will each have our own experience of this week in which God came down to teach us to live in Love with one another and we, in our fearfulness and resistance,  killed Love.  Will you be there on Friday when they crucified my Lord, nailed him to the tree, pierced him in the side, laid him in the tomb?       


Phoebe McFarlin said...

A Holy Week hymn I grew up with but hear no longer except in my mind...

Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye that feel the tempter's power,
Your Redeemer's conflict see,
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgement-hall
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss
Learn of him to bear the cross.

Calvary's mournful mountain climb;
There adoring at his feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
---God's own Sacrifice complete;
'It is finished,' hear him cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

(James Montgomery 1820)

Anonymous said...

Phoebe, remember that hymn and I love it.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Susan, I don't like the fast-forward, either. Not at all. It's quite jarring.

Anonymous said...

This is the week for sure when the pain is palpable. I heard and felt, in this mornings readings, the anger, frustration and angsst of God's son as he moved toward the cross. Regardless of the gentleness, regardless of the great strength shown in turning the other cheek, holding one's tongue...clearly Jesus knew in those days the pain, the sorrow to deep for words, the anger and the angst. Money changers, fig trees, whatever was in his path was not immune to experiencing some of that. All covered up with the chocolate coating and the truffle filling..methinks the reality is the emptiness...the sense of total aloneness is more thabn he can keep to himself and every thing is his path is up for receiving some of that.
Yes, Susan, this is definitely the week to struggle with it all. Just know you are not alone.

SCG said...

Phoebe: Great song! Glad Peggins knows it, too.

Anonymous (the Snail): Welcome to the struggle! You, me and Jesus walking together!

Mimi: I s'pose whenever we can get past the Anglican Covenant and stop obsessing over who's doing what with whom in the bedroom, we can start a movement to get the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to PLEASE separate Palm Sunday and the Passion gospel! It is really, really bad to make us crucify Jesus and lay him in the tomb for the WHOLE WEEK!

Anonymous said...

"Tradition" We are like Tevi who couldn't let go of days of yore when simple things like feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves, lighting the darkness of night in the world we lived in so we could see, and traveling the distance to join with others in a faith community to share the passion, the crucifixion, etc. etc. and when clergy traveled from community to community to lead days of yore combining the Jerusalem celebration and the passion seemed like a prudent way to be sure the body was able to experience it all and prepare for Easter. Some parts of tradition need a bit of adjustment for more modern and relevant means of experiencing Holy Week. While we bothered to include the liturgies for Maundy Thursday, for Good Friday and even returned to the Easter Vigil...often those in worship leadership fail to share the poignancy, the depth of meaning that participation of the congregation can experience in those opportunities. Educating the church, recognizing that educating ourselves is an ongoing process is often rampant..besides...such things require "change" and change is to be resisted...isn't it? And ironically enough, experiencing those added Holy Week moments might bring about change in us we hadn't expected...wanted...believed we needed. Ahh the Paradox of the Paradox as John Martin says.