April 10: Palm Sunday

Scripture Reading (CEB) Luke 19:29-40

29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road. 37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.” 39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”

Good Enough – We are a Group Project

Last week’s recap:  It’s humbling accepting help.  But in asking for help, we choose not to participate in the troubling and toxic “I can do it myself” culture convincing ourselves that the whole world rests on our individual shoulders.  Instead, embracing our vulnerability, the selves that make mistakes, fail, and even die, this fragility teaches us to better understand others.  Humility invariably leads to empathy.  And when we practice humility – learning to value and accept even our good enough selves – we are better prepared to accept good enough others.  In spite of society’s increasing individualism, we are a group project. 

We like to recite pithy proverbs like it takes a village to raise a child, but we tend to believe that once raised, you’re on your own.  We see it come out of people’s hesitation to support charities – usually with some justification that “no one ever helped me – I just had to pull up my bootstraps and do the hard work to get to where I’m at” – which leaves us speechless.  Why don’t we ask:

                                       ‘Wouldn’t it have been easier if someone helped you?

Wouldn’t that connection made help you to feel less alone – wouldn’t that have been healing?

Could you become the person, for someone else, that you needed when you were younger?’

Someone recently was raising money for the Food Bank when out of the blue they received the comment, You know the Food Bank doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t alleviate the root causes of poverty or the ever impenetrable housing market or an indifferent governmentStop wasting your time.  While it’s arguably true, were they arguing to let someone starve to make their point?  Just help someone now, and fix the problem later.  The potential for change surrounds us, for we are a part of this global group project.

That’s why the story of Jesus is still so captivating.  He cannot help but see the potential around him: a donkey becomes the sign of God’s kin-dom.  Water becomes wine to help the celebration of a wedding.  A boy’s young lunch becomes a feast for thousands.  Mud becomes a healing ointment.  Bread and wine become a symbol for not just life and death but service and love.  Fishermen become teachers.  Women become preachers.  Recognizing and reaching potential is attainted when we accept what is as good enough, rather than focus on all that is lacking or less than.  It’s in Jesus’ very nature to recognize potential and transform that which surrounds him.  He never reaches into the emptiness of a top hat to magically prestidigitate a rabbit.  Seeing potential around him, he invites and involves others to bring about needed change.  Today’s scripture displays this beautifully.    

29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden…33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “Its master needs it….” 37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. Luke 19 (CEB)

One friend tells two friends who tell two more…Jesus sends two disciples which in turn involves the owner of the colt, and then Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem spreads from those three people to the whole throng of disciples and the crowds, and the Romans and the Jews…everyone is invited or involved.  Jesus doesn’t get the donkey himself, or start up the parade himself, or do anything alone or even outside of his community.  And while we’ve turned it into a pithy proverb, where two or three are gathered…community is born…and Jesus is present.  (Matthew 18:20)   Brené Brown defines this power of community and

connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.[1]

This is not something we choose – it’s something we are, for

[w]e are wired for connection.  It’s in our biology.  From the time we are born, we need connection to thrive emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.  In his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman writes “Even our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming our emotions, some desirable, others not.  The more strongly connected we are emotionally, the greater the mutual force.[2]

The mutual force between us…that energy field created by all living things…surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together[3]  sounds ridiculously idealistic. 

As those gathered excitedly to see Jesus come through town, so too there were others present planning to do him harm.  The risk of broken relationships or broken community will always be there because of either bad behaviour or unmet expectations of ourselves and others.  This risk grows as we stray farther from God’s ‘good enough’ declaration towards unobtainable perfection.  Even at the General Council meeting this past week, someone uttered an obscenity[4] during a presentation, rendering deep brokenness and hurt in the gathered body.  Those risks tempt us to the dark side of believing we’re better off on our own, and that community isn’t worth the struggle.  If you’ve ever sat through a tense church meeting, you’ve felt that same feeling.  We think: ‘I can just go home and read my Bible and that makes me a Christian,’ but hopefully we’ve learned enough from the last two years of pandemic separation to know that it’s just not true.  The mutual force of connection between us – it challenges us – it forces us to learn and listen from one another – and ultimately, it powers us. 

As we remember last week’s scripture between Jesus and Judas (since it comes into play a lot this week) Jesus thrives on the mutual connection between him and Judas.   We can debate the omniscience of Jesus, of him knowing everything that was to happen, but imagine the moment when Jesus said the words one of you will betray me.  Instead of judgment…hear the hope with which Jesus spoke, reassuring Judas isn’t not too late to change.  Jesus looked with love, looking deep into the pain of Judas’ eyes.  The power of community, of holding one another in accountability, in seeing others for who they are, in offering grace and recognizing potential, valuing even in times of correction, this is a model for compassionate connection. 

Jesus thrives on that mutual force[5] and bears unfathomable grace, and unconditional love for Judas, in this crowded parade, again in the upper room, and still in the garden.  While sometimes one-sided and unreciprocated, Jesus never ceases to derive strength and sustenance from his relationships.  Jesus is willing to risk his love and life for the sake of community, risking these even to the cross.  Even from the cross, in one of his final moments, Jesus looks to the beloved disciple and his mother and creates connection and community.  The pain of this world is not reason enough to pull apart from one another.  For we are a part of this global group project filled with so much potential for change, and even when our independent, individualist strength has failed us…we have so much, when we have each other.   

Has anyone seen the movie Don’t Look Up on Netflix? 

While it didn’t win any Oscars, this allegorical film features

… a surprising depiction recently of faith being what’s left, when everything else has failed us… [If you haven’t seen it, the movie tells of humanity’s reaction to when] a meteor is moments away from destroying the earth.  [And preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber recently reflected at how] the characters are in the deepest part of the deep. And when putting faith in political solutions and big tech has failed them, [the main characters] face their last moments by gathering for a thanksgiving style meal, a net-straining feast of gladness and gratitude…In the midst of the world quite literally ending, no one was practicing self-improvement, or attempting to “manifest” some kind of excellence, they were praying… The world was about to be destroyed AND YET [they] prayed.

[and this is the prayer shared:]

“Dearest Father and Almighty Creator, we ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride, your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all, Lord, we ask for your love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance.”[6]

When everything fails us, we have one another. 

For as we walk into Holy Week, we ask for grace despite our pride, forgiveness despite our doubt, and love to soothe us through these dark times.  For we face whatever is to come together, with courage and open hearts of acceptance, even as we cry out, Hosanna, in the highest…

Amen


[1] Brown, Brené, The Gifts of Imperfection, p19.

[2] Brown, Brené, The Gifts of Imperfection, p19-20.

[3] Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan teaching Luke Skywalkers

[4] https://generalcouncil44.ca/news/apology-april-6-incident

[5] At one point literally feeling the power as it left him when someone touched him!

[6] from an email by Nadia Bolz-Weber entitled Between Exhaustion and The Deep, February 6, 2022, https://thecorners.substack.com/p/between-exhaustion-and-the-deep

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