The God We’ve Got

 The shouts echoed off the city gate, ricocheting round the corners,
filling the space between the Mount of Olives and the city center.
The palms were waving, the clothes were thrown down across the road,
the people were in a party mood!
And they shouted out their joy,
their conviction that God had come to rescue them from the Romans
in the form of this interesting rabbi from Nazareth.

Each year, their cries echo inside my spirit,
reminding me of my own frailty,
and the mercurial emotions that can whipsaw through
an individual or a group of people.
Because those joyful shouts sound different when heard
through the hateful ones that were uttered just five days later.

Those folks in 1st century Jerusalem were not all that different
from people I know today.

Most especially, they are not so different from me.

Whether I’m engulfed in the busy-ness of life
or the monotony of it,
I, too, can shift from praise to fear to anger
with a rapidity that sometimes frightens me.

They did not ‘get’ Jesus, our pastor told us on Sunday.
And I do not ‘get’ him, either.
This odd celebration in the middle of building political tension,
strange miracles, super-sensitive women,
and behind-the-scenes machinations —
it never feels like it fits with the rest of the events of the week.
It’s a stand-alone, an odd duck, an almost unholy blend of
highs and lows.
Maybe that’s why it truly has two names — Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.
And two long gospel texts to choose from — one for each name.

Personally, I think we need to hang onto a bit of both.

I need to remember that even when I’m ‘high’ on Jesus, and happy to praise him,
grateful for a long list of good gifts,
convinced that I’ve seen the hand of God at work in the world around me —
even then (maybe especially then?),
I must also remember the hateful, frightened cries of that Good Friday mob.
I must remember the garden.
And the trial.
And the long, torturous walk to the cross.
The earth shaking, the curtain tearing, the darkness encroaching.

Yes, I need to hold the two stories in tension,
making space for all of it, telling the whole truth.

I think if I had been there, I would have been so happy
to lay my cloak down on the road.
I would have cried out the Old Testament texts I had built my hope upon.
I would have waved those branches and maybe even danced a little.
Because I, too, celebrate that idea of a hero with clout,
a military junta expert,
a person of power in the way the world teaches about power,
willing and eager to overthrow evil rulers, establish a government
that lives up to my personal expectations and understandings about
justice and righteousness and freedom.
I think we all secretly dream of a Superhero God.

But the God we’ve got is not that, not at all.

Thank God.
Thank God, thank God, thank God.

The God we’ve got is contrary to every expectation,
sometimes mysterious in the extreme,
prone to doing the exact opposite of what the systems
of this world tell us about power, position, status, reputation, prestige.
The God we’ve got is
always, ALWAYS surprising us with  humility, graciousness,
acceptance and grace.

The God we’ve got chooses to climb down into the dust with the likes of us,
to walk the roads and tell the stories,
to listen to his mama – or not! – and to spend time with friends.
The God we’ve got says a clear ‘no’ to the systems of intimidation,
injustice, oppression and favoritism.
The God we’ve got jumps into the midst of
humanity, lives an ordinary-extraordinary life,
and then faces squarely into the sentence given to him
by the very people he came to love and to save.
It’s a mystery.
And a wonder.
And something about Palm/Passion Sunday captures all of that.

Because, as Pastor Jon noted on Sunday, Jesus did nothing
to stop the shouting.
Indeed, he refused to do so when asked.
He accepted their acclamations, their heart-cries of hope,
he did not contradict them, correct them, or explain things to them.
He simply rode that donkey and claimed that if
these people didn’t praise him,
the very rocks in the road would
cry out in joy.

And then he kept facing into Jerusalem.

 IF DEATH WAS TO be truly defeated, it was only by dying himself that Jesus believed he could defeat it. If he was to reach the hearts of men, it was only by suffering his own heart to be broken on their behalf that he believed he could reach them. To heal the sick and restore sight to the blind; to preach good news to the poor and liberty to the captives; to wear himself out with his endless teaching and traveling the whole length and breadth of the land—it had not worked because it was not enough. There had to be more. “He set his face to go to Jerusalem,” the Gospel says, and it was a journey from which he seems to have known that he would both never return and return always even unto the end of time and beyond.
– Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus




Joining this with Michelle, Laura, Jen and Jenn tonight:

 


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Comments

  1. Wow, Diana. This was so much better than the sermon I gave. Thank you. I completely forgot about the two names- Palm & Passion. Peace to you this Holy Week.

    • No way, Jon. That was a fine sermon and I thank you for it. We had a family commitment right after church so I didn’t get a chance to say that in person. THANK YOU.

  2. “Yes, I need to hold the two stories in tension, making space for all of it, telling the whole truth.” Yes, this is how I feel.
    A funny thing, too, is that when people mention Holy Week I keep misreading it as Holy Wreck. Possibly a good description of what we become when we marvel on the events of Passion week? At any rate, Easter Sunday is such a flood of relief and joy after participating in the disciplines that embrace the events leading up to the resurrection. But it is all necessary! Thanks for reminding me of this with your words and wisdom.

    • I love that – “Holy Wreck!” I’ll tell you, if you serve on a church staff, you KNOW that it’s true. I ask extra prayers during this high stress time – for all of us on staff and for our families. And yes, Easter is a grand relief – and a release, too – of all the pent-up hallelujahs. I’m looking forward to Sunday!

  3. thank you for taking me to church!
    the rocks, stones, my every fibre reaches out in praise to Him

  4. Oh, that Buechner quote. I am mad about that man. And you’re none too shabby either, Diana. Beautiful contemplation. Yes, I’ve often had my, “wonder what I would have done” moments. Not so different from me, for sure. Very thought-provoking.

    • I am mad about the man, too, Laura. Thanks for reading – and for commenting. And blessed Easter to you, friend!

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