To my fellow pilgrims in this week of passion and palms
Last weekend, I had the joy of attending the Kids’ Camp Out in Narrandera. Many of the children there have never set foot in a church before. Many did not know the Easter story which we can probably tell off by heart. Many of them have seldom heard how good and beautiful and loved they truly are.
As they encountered the elements of worship, gospel, and fellowship in this carefully-prepared, child-friendly setting I noticed two distinct responses: for some, the words seemed to make little sense and they fidgeted and found excuses to leave the room; for others, it was as if a light had been turned on inside of them and they glowed with curiosity and delight and wonder as they invited Jesus into their lives.
As I write this letter and engage with this week’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (Luke 19:28-40), I see in the crowd those same faces: those who are uncomfortable with what is happening in front of them and who demand of Jesus that he make it stop, and those who raise their hearts and voices to cry “Hosanna! Lord, save us!”
What strikes me particularly about this passage is that – in this case and in many places in the Gospels – those who seem the most uncomfortable with God’s saving grace are the deeply religious people who know off by heart the history of humanity’s disobedience and God’s faithful intervention in generation after generation. Yet, those who know best the Scripture’s promises of a Messiah who would set the world to rights want to put a stop to the people praising and praying that Jesus will save them because 1) he is not what they expected and 2) they have no control over what he says or does.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s another reason for their discomfort. Maybe, despite being able to read and recite all those words which spoke of God’s love for the world and longing to be in relationship with each and every one of us, the words never really made sense to them. Maybe, just maybe, they had heard so many times over so many years that they were so dumb or stupid or ugly or mean or weak or bad or worthless that they could not believe the words of God or make sense of what was happening right in front of them.
Can you make sense of the fact that for YOU Christ came into the world, was crucified, died and was buried, and rose again?
Can you make sense of the fact that for the liar, gossip, murderer, backstabber, paedophile, adulterer, wife-beater, unbeliever, <insert whatever label makes you most uncomfortable> Christ came to do the exact same thing with the exact same heart of love?
As we mark the beginning of this significant week in which we remember and retell the familiar Passion story, perhaps Palm Sunday invites us to reflect on the condition of our faith and our relationship with the God who loves us. Perhaps it challenges us to consider which face (or voice) we are offering to the world for which Christ came. And, perhaps, it offers us the opportunity to reach out to those who have never heard how good and beautiful and loved they truly are, knowing that they might make a hasty excuse to get away from us but hoping that a light may be turned on inside of them by the Light that shines in us.
Yours, in Christ,