Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday--Mark 11:1-11

Truth be told, Jesus was a big disappointment.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem carrying the hopes of all the people gathered for the Passover, hopes for deliverance from the Romans who occupied their sacred city. If anyone could inspire the revolutionary sentiments of the people to drive the Romans out, Jesus could. He had become extremely popular, as evidenced by the reaction of the people when he came to Jerusalem; they celebrated his arrival in a fashion reserved for the conquering heroes of Israel's past.

But what does Jesus do? He rides into Jerusalem humbly, mounted on a colt. According to Mark, he looks around the city and then departs to Bethany. Yawn. No wonder by the end of the week these same people who celebrated his arrival called for his execution.

Why doesn't he seize the day? Why doesn't he focus and organize the energy of the people and do what they ask--save them. Save them from the Romans.

For the gospel writers, of course, the reason is because God had another plan for Jesus. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus would reconcile all creation. He wouldn't save Jerusalem that week. He would save the world.

What are your plans for Holy Week? Is there anyone you need to disappoint?

Sometimes we must disappoint people to fulfil God's call, just like Jesus did long ago. It is difficult. Everyone wants to help people, to meet their expectations, to be liked. But there is something larger at stake. Your identity. Your destiny. Sometimes your life. 

This is Mary Oliver's "The Journey":

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Get Behind Me, Satan! Mark 8:31-39

Jesus sits his disciples down and begins to tell them that he must suffer at the hands of the religious authorities, be crucified and rise from the dead. This all must have sounded very odd to Peter. He had left everything to follow Jesus, who he believed to be the Messiah, and now Jesus is saying he must suffer and die. The Messiah was not supposed to do that. He was supposed to lead the Jewish people to victory over their enemies.

So Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him, which means, I suppose, that Peter tells him that he's got his wires crossed.

Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan!"

Such a strong reaction. I guess you don't accuse the Son of God of getting his wires crossed. Either that or Peter has hit a nerve. Maybe the victory over enemies thing rather than the suffering and dying sounded pretty good to Jesus. Peter had become the great tempter.

Where is Satan in your life? From this passage it sounds like Satan is anything or anyone who is distracting you from doing the will of God. What is the will of God for you? First and foremost, the will of God for you, like it was for Jesus, is to be human. I know, it doesn't sound very ambitious, but in actuality it can be very hard.

The Christian proclamation is that God took on flesh and became incarnate. Jesus did not just fake it. He suffered and died, and he called his followers to take up their cross and follow his path.

During Lent we practice self-examination to discover where we are making our own Messianic demands on life, where we are trying to wrestle what we want out of life by use of our significant powers of intelligence, creativity and energy. Trouble is, all this striving creates its own form of suffering. First, it gets exhausting. Second, at some point life overwhelms even our most formidable efforts.  

The way of the cross is the way of abandonment--relinquishing power, possession and security. Through trust in God, we let go of our fitful demands and find that we are buoyed by a grace we hadn't before experienced. By losing our lives, we find we are saved.