text: Matthew 21: 1-11
Each year we re-tell the same story. And what’s not just fascinating but, well, a God-thing, is the way these stories carry a word of life afresh for us … meeting us where we are even as our circumstances can be wildly different from one year to the next. This is what we’re talking about when we speak of the Living Word.
So here we are entering Holy Week in what is for many of us unprecedented times, if I can use that word that we’re hearing plenty of times each day, these days.
One of the other things we’re hearing repeatedly is how, what we do today --our actions, how we take care or not-- affects what life will look like in the coming days. It’s a warning, it’s a call to be especially attentive, aware of our impact on one another. And it’s almost like that comes as news to us.
And it is news in terms of the way this particular virus behaves. But the very fact that what we are about affects the lives of those around us --that my actions have consequences for good and for ill-- this is not unique to COVID 19. This is a life truth! How we live our lives matters. So much of what can and will be is in our hands! This is a fact of relational life! And it’s one of the many things that is being lifted up and brought into focus in and through our experience of this pandemic …how we live our lives matters for the sake of life for others.
That’s the mantra I’m hearing these days as I listen to Justin Trudeau and other leaders. And, it’s this mantra that I’ve begun to hear in ways more striking than I’ve heard before as I tune into the stories of this Holy Week. How we live our lives matters for the sake of life for others.
There’s a kind of a shift happening for me or another angle coming to light in the way the stories of Holy Week are coming to me this year. I think in years past, this week has been about accompanying Jesus as he undergoes this journey. It’s his journey. And for the most part a solitary journey. But this year, because of this heightened awareness of how we live our lives matters for the sake of life for others, what I’m more attuned to is that this isn’t just Jesus’ journey … this is Jesus showing us the way to life that is the hope for our journey too. So this isn’t just us accompanying Jesus, staying with him as far as we can go, but this is Jesus schooling us in the way of self-giving love, a way made possible only through an abiding rootedness and deep trust in God’s love.
So in the story we have for today, on this day of the holy week journey, what if we ask, “Jesus, what are you showing us?”
Here’s some of what I see.
Where he is in the story today, coming into the city, it didn’t just spring up in the moment. This is a move borne of years of spiritual practice, of consistent turning toward, tuning in, listening, to the one he called Abba … his name for God that reflects an intimate trusting, the experience of being known and loved. This move of coming into the city didn’t just spring up … Jesus arrives at this moment grounded in Love-- his courage flowing from the heart of God.
And then there is this very particular way in which he comes. Coming into the city from the Mount of Olives on a colt, this is Jesus dramatizing a scene right out of Hebrew scriptures, a vision from the prophet Zechariah … where the long-awaited divine monarch arrives on a humble donkey, announcing “peace to the nations” … the dawning of a new era. On the one hand, this is an incredibly provocative action … to announce a radical alternative in the face of an oppressive establishment, while at the very same time he’s the picture of vulnerability, of humility, gentleness.
He comes carrying this huge dream, a wondrous dream of abundant life for all … and for all his passion about it, for all his longing for it, he finds this way to bring it that is absolutely consistent with this vision of a peaceable kingdom. And the remarkable thing as the week unfolds is that he remains true to the vision … he continues to embody this vision of justice, of freedom, of well-being for all. As passionate as he is about it, he never veers off course resorting to violence or domination. This is Jesus schooling us in the way of non-violence.
What else is he showing us?
I think Jesus arrives into the city this day, eyes wide open, fully aware of the resistance that he will meet. For all the eagerness and gratefulness and favour that he has experienced among people along the way, he’s not blind to the fact that the authorities are plotting against him. So he comes, knowing full well this may cost him his life.
So what is he showing us …what’s he doing here?
He’s refusing to let fear rule him. He’s refusing to step back from his commitment to the way of love. He is choosing to trust that finally, this way of love is the only way to life, even if it means letting go of his own life. This is Jesus schooling us in leaning into God’s deep love for the world, trusting that whatever we pour out, however we give ourselves to this vision of a world redeemed, it will not be wasted … it will not be in vain.
I wonder what else Jesus is showing you, teaching you?
In these last few days, I’ve been struck by some of the language that Justin Trudeau, and even Doug Ford have been using in their daily addresses … words like sacrifice -- how need to sacrifice some of our wants, our routines for the sake of preserving the life of others. Words like commitment, dedication, duty. This whole notion of being obedient to the way of love.
Wow! Words that were part of the lexicon of an earlier generation that in the meantime have kind of gone out of vogue, and the practice of them gone out of use! But they are beginning to ring true again, aren’t they? And mean something that calls to us … this notion that what we do with our lives matters for the sake of life for others --that so much of what can and will be is in our hands.
In our hands, and yet not only in OUR hands.
Which is what Jesus is showing us … that just as he was not alone, we are not alone. Not only do we have his embodied teaching and his steadying companionship. We, through him are given to trust as he trusted God’s way with us …God who not only inspires our love, and strengthens us and sustains us in this way of self-giving, but takes our love and heals the world with it.
What we do with our lives so matters for the sake of life for others. May Jesus continues to school us this way of love as the week unfolds.