Archive for April, 2009

Aware

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Luke 24:36-45
April 26, 2009
Mary Hammond

There were two days this week when the windchill was 32 degrees as I left for my 3 ½ mile walk with our dog, Irie. One day, it was perfect to wear three layers under my winter coat, a scarf, and hat. The other, I took off my hat within a block of the house and wished I’d skipped a layer by the time I was downtown. What was the difference?

The first day, the wind was blowing about 17 miles per hour and it was cloudy. The other day, the wind was nearly still, and the skies were blue and sunny.

I realized, at the moment I began shedding accessories on the second walk, how intricately aware I need to be, each time I leave with Irie in the morning. What is the difference between a -17 temperature, and a -17 windchill? What coat do I wear for -17 to zero, zero to 20 degrees, etc.? Walking Irie has given me a profound awareness of gradations of temperature and windchill I would never have otherwise.

Without that experience, I might never tolerate extreme cold or heat. I might dash in and out of places in the winter, rarely staying outside for long. I might never feel the gentle spring rain, or make tracks in the virgin morning snow. Awareness is everything.

Awareness is also the key to our resurrection story today. Sure enough, the Eleven disciples and their friends are aware that Jesus died. They are aware that the Romans, afraid that an insurrection is in the works, might be looking for his followers. They are aware that their hopes for the overthrow of the Romans are dashed, and they are full of fear and confusion.

Then Jesus appears! Whoa! All their former awareness is called into question. What should they think? What should they believe?

Not only does Jesus appear, but he offers them peace. Peace? They don’t “deserve” peace! Not from him, anyway! They deserve, at least, a good scolding, probably much more than that. They deserted him when he needed them the most. First off–why would he bother with them? Secondly–why in the world would he come to them in peace?

Crazy enough, the answer to both is the same. Because he loves them with an enduring love, and he needs them to carry forth his work on earth. Even crazier, he is willing to entrust them with that work!

Can they believe that he is real, not some ghost who has come back to haunt them? “Touch me. Feel me. See my hands and my feet,” he encourages them. “Oh, and by the way, do you have any food around here?” he asks.

As he eats, he reminds them to look again at the teachings of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, and to search for signs of his coming. He charges his disciples with developing a new awareness while stripping away their old understandings.

An insurrection, yes–they were prepared for that. But a resurrection–well, that’s a whole different story! Awareness can take time to develop. Eventually, their minds will grasp the import of this event, their hearts will begin to claim it as part of their own faith stories, and their lives will begin to spill out resurrection at every turn.

Today, as we participate as a congregation in the 2009 CROP WALK, we are charged with this same call to awareness that the disciples faced. We are asked to be aware of our neighbors around the globe who walk for water every day–oftentimes miles and miles. We are asked to hold in our hearts the 854 million people around the world who remain hungry in 2009–about equal to the population of the western hemisphere. We are asked to be advocates for the 16,000 children this year who are expected to die from hunger-related causes.

Closer to home, I spoke this week with Kathy Burns, Client Services Coordinator for Oberlin Community Services Council and Board Member for Oberlin Hot Meals. “We are seeing the first wave of people who have run out of unemployment insurance,” she said, “and now they have nothing. It is so tragic.” New faces continue to appear at OCSC, and numbers are up at Oberlin Hot Meals. One-quarter of the funds we raise will stay in Oberlin to help our neighbors here.

Everyone can do something today for the CROP WALK. We can walk; we can rock in rocking chairs; we can sponsor; we can pray; we can provide encouragement. We can educate ourselves about hunger around the world. We can help our neighbors in big and small ways.

Let me share a story from my time at the Global Baptist Peace Conference–a story that I am not proud of, but one that bears telling because it is instructive for both me and, I’m sure, you as well.

Before traveling, we read the warnings in the tour books about beggars and pickpockets, particularly at bus and train stations. I do not remember them saying, “particularly at historic churches where tourists gather.” But that was the truth.

I was completely unprepared for the aggressiveness of the beggars. Women, slight of build, faces lined with creases, babushkas on their heads, pushed pictures of young children into our faces, repeating phrases in Italian with their raspy voices. At times, they followed us. Some prostrated themselves fully on street corners near the Vatican, cups nearby for change. “How can these old women even stay in such a position for very long?” I wondered. “Who are these women?” I needed to know.

So, at the hotel, I asked the receptionist. “Who are the beggars? Where are they from? What are their needs? In America, many of our homeless face mental illness, substance abuse, or other difficulties,” I said (although this is changing with the economic downturn). “What are the stories of these people?”

“I’ve never really thought that much about them,” the receptionist offered. “But they are the Roma. They come from outside of Italy to scam people,” he said. “Don’t pay any attention to them,” he warned.

I was conflicted. Sometimes I put change in a cup; sometimes I ignored a woman pushing a child’s picture in my face and haggling me in a foreign tongue. I yearned to be able to converse in a common language, to stop the beggars and ask, “What is your story? Tell me about this child whose picture you hold. Where do you live?”

At a conference two or three years ago in Indianapolis, I stopped and sat with a beggar on the street and did, indeed, ask her story, which turned out to be about an abusive boyfriend and being put out on the street—if she was telling me the truth. But, here, in Italy, with the language barrier, I was lost.

The last day of the Conference, we visited the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome. We were given box lunches to take for our day in the city. As we left the church, there were Roma children running to and fro, clanging their cups, seeking change from us tourists. There were women, pushing pictures in our faces, pressuring us in a foreign tongue. I pressed my way through the crowd onto the bus.

Later, in Assisi, I talked with some Peace Fellowship friends from the USA who also came to Assisi. Katie Cook, the editor of the BPFNA Magazine, mentioned that someone had pointed out the Roma camps–a tent village near the basilica–on the way into Rome. I had not heard about them or seen them from my vantage point on the bus.

Then, I poured out my conflicted feelings about helping the beggars on the streets of Rome, my conversation with the receptionist, my patterns of both helping and ignoring them. “At the basilica, I gave my lunch to a beggar woman carrying a child in a cloth sling. She began feeding the child right away, and the toddler seemed so hungry,” Katie said.

Instantly, I was ashamed. What a Gospel response that was! If Jesus had been on the bus that day and passed the Roma camp, he would have called out, “Stop the bus!” Then, he would have asked us to put together all our boxed lunches. We would have taken them to the camp and invited everyone to a feast. Jesus would have raised one of those submarine sandwiches that day, broken it, and blessed it. Who knows how many loaves would have been left over!

Alas, events did not unfold like that. The international group of Baptist Peacemakers headed on to their tourist day in Rome, with the first stop being the basilica where Katie shared her sandwich with the beggar and her hungry child.

I determined not to forget the Roma when I came home. So, I googled “Roma in Italy” on my computer. The first story was a scandalous story about a Roma teenager who was beaten to death on a beach while other beach goers just kept bathing, sunning, playing. The author saw this incident as a wake-up call for more attentiveness to the plight of the Roma. I kept reading…

The Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Church at Corinth, “We see through a mirror darkly.” This is ever so true. And yet our call as disciples is to keep opening our eyes, keep asking to see, keep confessing our ignorance and blindness, keep learning and changing, and keep loving our God and the world Christ came to redeem. Amen.

God’s Toxic Asset Recovery Program(s)

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Matthew 28:16-20
April 19, 2009
Steve Hammond

I think most of us here have heard the acronym TARP a lot lately. TARP, of course, stands for the Toxic Asset Recovery Program that the Federal Government has launched to deal with the bad mortgage and other investments that have swamped our banks and investment vehicles, as they call them, and put the entire world’s economy on the brink of disaster.

It occurs to me that the resurrection is kind of like God’s toxic asset recovery program. And it wasn’t God’s first attempt. I think Noah’s Ark must have been the first. But I want to even go farther back than that.

You all know the story of the creation. One of the refrains throughout the story is that it was good. And on the last day of the creation God looks at all that God has created, including human beings who have been created in God’s own image. And God says, “it is very, very good.”

But things didn’t stay good very long. We also know the story of Adam and Eve and how sin entered into the world. And things went downhill from there. Instead of things being very, very good they were awful. By the time we get to the Noah story, God regrets the whole thing. We talked about this a few months ago. We read this near the beginning of Genesis 6, which is not very far into the Bible. “God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil–evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry to have made the human race in the first place, it broke God’s heart. God said, ‘I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds–the works. I’m sorry I made them.’” And then a few verses later another voice writes this, “As far as God was concerned, the Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere. God took one look and saw how bad it was, everyone corrupt and corrupting– life itself corrupt to the core. God said to Noah, ‘It’s all over. It’s the end of the human race. The violence is everywhere and I’m making a clean sweep.’” And then Noah and the animals load into the Ark.

So that was God’s first Toxic Asset Recovery Program. Just wiping the books clean and starting over with Noah and his family. It turns that God had even more regrets about the flood then the regrets that had led to it. So God tells Noah I will never, ever do anything like that again. That was awful. And besides, it didn’t work. It didn’t take too long for sin and evil and corruption to find their way back into God’s creation.

God doesn’t give up, it turns out, even though there is a lot about this world that still gives God plenty of regrets. So eventually another Toxic Asset Recovery Program is launched. He’s called Jesus. It’s a much different program than the flood.

As cute as the Noah story can be with the animals, and all the things that you can do with it, including things like Bill Cosby does with it, it is still, in my mind one of the uglier if not ugliest stories in the Bible.

In that story God gives into vengeance and violence, and becomes the antagonist is the most destructive story known to humankind. Not even Rambo managed to destroy every living creature, and kill every human being; every man, woman, and child in the world save those who got on to the Ark.

It’s a much different story with Jesus. Instead of God becoming the perpetrator of such great violence, Jesus absorbs the violence of this world that we all direct toward one another. Jesus is not the sacrificial victim God offers up to the world, instead he is our victim. The worst of who we are, all the suffering, all the prejudice and oppression, all the jealousy and fear, all the loathing and hate and violence that we inflict on each other meet in Jesus, who is the truly innocent victim. And he meets that death not with more death, like the flood did, but with life.

So was this Toxic Asset Recovery Program more successful than the first? I guess, or hope. The jury is still out. Part of the issue is, if you will forgive the expression, that God didn’t put everything in the same boat with Jesus.

The resurrection wasn’t just about Jesus coming alive again, or getting us into heaven when we die. It’s about us coming alive with him and bringing his life to this world. The incredible violence and destruction of the flood do not represent the God of Life that Jesus believed in. I don’t know if something about God changed, or Jesus was telling us we were looking at God in a wrong way, or what exactly was going on with this story of the flood. But Jesus believed in a God of Life.

It is Jesus’ plan that we bring that life to this world where death is having its way with us. In this newer Toxic Asset Recovery Program we are not called to float above it all in our safe confines in the midst of the bloated bodies. Instead, we are called to get out of the boat and clean things up by being the living presence of the living Jesus in the midst of all the toxic assets that are out there.

The alienation people feel from God and each other. The ways we separate ourselves from God and each other. The wars and the violence. The racism, oppression, and discrimination directed toward those who live in different places, speak different languages, have different skin color, different genitalia, different sexual orientation, and different incomes and backgrounds. The idols we make of power and money and possessions and status. The abuse we direct or ignore toward others. Our privileging of the powerful while turning from the powerless. Our refusal to love God and love our neighbors. These are among our sins, the toxic assets that are destroying the human economy. And Jesus calls us to follow him out of the tomb and do something about it. He calls us to believe in the God he believed in, the God of Life, and bring recovery.

We have been commissioned by the living Jesus to go into all the world, to make his way of life known, to help people become his followers, to find the God of Life. By being the agents of the resurrection, co-conspirators of the new creation we and the world will recover from things that have gone so badly. And it’s an ongoing call in our lives. Jesus said I’m going to be with you in this thing all the way to the end of the age. So keep it up. Keep bringing God’s life to this world until I tell you to quit.

And we can do it. One of the things you’ve got to like about the Noah story, in spite of all the problems it offers, it is a story of incredible faith. God told Noah to build that boat in the middle of his yard, with nothing but blue skies overhead. And Noah did it.

And look at the faith that enabled Jesus to take the worst humanity could offer and still save us from ourselves. Noah and Jesus trusted that God was with them.

None of us here, I don’t think, have the faith of Jesus or Noah. But Jesus said it doesn’t take much faith, just like a little mustard seed. That little bit of faith can carry us along troubled waters and out of silent tombs. And make us instruments of resurrection.

God’s Toxic Asset Recovery Program. The God TARP. I don’t know what all that stuff with Noah was about, but I do know that God is now flooding this world with love and grace and forgiveness and mercy. That is the flood that will save us, those are the currents of resurrection.

Now What?

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Easter 2009
Steve Hammond

Sisters and brothers, he is not here, he is risen. It’s the most amazing thing. They laid his broken, tortured, lifeless body in a tomb. He was dead. Crucifixion is an awful thing. Those bloody Romans don’t have an ounce of humanity in them.

We watched him die from a distance and weren’t there when they rolled the stone across the entrance to his borrowed tomb. That’s how courageous we were. Think about it. Jesus gave his all. And what was he left with at the end? Us. That’s a tragedy all in itself.

We just left him behind, and walked away in our grief and confusion and fear. Actually, we ran. Believe it or not, we loved him. We loved him even though we could never figure him out. But at the end, or what we thought was the end, all we had done was left him there to rot. We wondered how we could have gotten it so wrong about him, how our hopes for him could have been so easily shattered. All it took was a cross. Jesus was dead and we found a place to hide.

But now, he’s not there. That tomb is empty. It’s kind of funny when you think about it. By time we went to the tomb he had already left. It’s not like he hadn’t told us what would happen, and how he would rise again. But we didn’t believe. We didn’t actually believe much of anything he said, even though we were so drawn to him. But after the horrors of Friday, after the failure of the whole world, beginning with us, everything has changed.

He is loose in this world, loose in our lives. There is forgiveness. There are new possibilities for us and this world. In spite of who we are and how we abandoned him when he needed us most, he is still with us.

And it sure gets you thinking. He was convinced about God’s love for us, God’s love for everybody. Us? Not so much. We were really blind, like those guys he healed. He actually healed them. And now he has healed us and given us a new way of seeing, through the eyes of resurrection. And now that he is alive again, we are more alive than ever.

So what’s this mean for the future? Are we going to be able to live outside of the shadow of death? What will resurrection enable us to risk? We can no longer look at him in the same way now that all that stuff he talked about doesn’t seem so impossible. I guess it wasn’t the rantings of somebody who was just a bit too intense. So intense that it got him killed. So intense, that we were afraid we might get killed with him.

We were pretty clueless most of the time. This is what we did know about him, though, and saw all that time we traveled with him. Some of it was so crazy. But the truth is that He had a vision. There is no doubt about that. ‘The Realm of God is at hand.’ He said that all the time. It was his mantra, the vision that kept him going. And got him killed.

Every thing we had ever thought about God, Jesus turned upside down. He was working with a much different vision. And even though we couldn’t figure it out, there was something about it that kept us on the road with him.

It’s no wonder the religious authorities were always looking for ways to discredit him, and when that didn’t work, kill him. He called everything they were about into question.

For some of them it was a personal threat. Their power, their prestige, their privilege was under attack. They liked making the rules, because the rules served them so well.

For others, though, it was much more than that. They really did see him as a heretic and a blasphemer, not to mention some kind of zealot who had to be stopped before he brought down Rome’s wrath on the whole nation. They thought they were doing God’s will. They thought they were saving us from Jesus, doing God a favor when they managed, literally, to get him hung out to dry at the hands of some Roman conscripts.

It turns out that in an ugly, distorted, twisted way they were doing God a favor. Jesus met their brutality with grace and love. He proved himself in Jerusalem and even more on that Sunday morning. He put his faith in God and stuck with it until beyond the end.

Jesus had every opportunity to turn on them, to become like them, but he didn’t. He must have been so scared those last few days. But he trusted God in spite of his fear, and he didn’t turn aside. He stayed true to what he believed about God. Even though they came at him with death, and he met them with life. And now he has opened a new way for us.

All along the way, we kept trying to correct him. “You can’t mean that Jesus, it makes no sense.” “You can’t do it that way, Jesus, you will just get hurt.” “That’s unrealistic, Jesus, you can’t live that way in the real world.” But he did live that way and, boy, do we have egg on our faces.

He was so patient with us. He went to that cross because of the difference it would make in our lives. He did it for us, not himself. The guy practiced what he preached. He was believing God for us. By his faith, we are saved.

Now what? It would have been easier if he had just stayed in the tomb. We could have all gone home and tried to pick up where we left off before we started following him all over the freakin’ country. But how can we do that now? What does it mean to follow him now that he has left death behind? How can this trip we began with him ever end? What is the destination of this post resurrection journey?

I guess that is what we are going to find out. It was so amazing to hear from the women that he was alive. And then we saw for ourselves. He wasn’t mad. He wasn’t looking for vengeance. He was still talking about his vision for God’s Realm and expressing some kind of faith in us to keep the movement going. He wants us to live into the vision. And he said he would still be with us until the end of the world. That’s a long time, I suppose. But who knows? Who knows anything anymore other than the vision is now ours.

God’s Realm. He was focused. And he was right. All the time, he was right. So maybe he was also right that we can take his vision and do something with it. I mean he was able to beat death with it. And not just that day. We realize now that he was taking on death all the time. He brought life to so many people, in so many places. They could feel it, we could feel it coming out of him.

All that stuff he talked about, all the crazy stuff he did, Healing lepers. Drinking water from that Samaritan woman’s cup. Refusing to meet violence with more violence. Showing us and telling us all the time about how much God loves us. He would take little kids, and what is more useless in this world that a little kid, and say they had a lot to teach us. He even forgave the people who hung him on that cross. He redefined the whole meaning of power. He looked so vulnerable on that cross, but that was his power. All the time, he was showing us how to walk away from death toward life. He showed us that the power of sin can be broken, and what God’s forgiveness can create in our lives.

So how do we keep going? One foot in front of the other toward life. I guess that’s the destination of this journey. Life. That’s the now what.

The tomb. It’s empty. Amazing. But that’s only the start. Some of us have been into this thing for three years now, and that was just the prologue. This story is far from over. This journey has just begun. ‘Follow me.’

Let’s go. Jesus is out there. Hey, if he can do it with us, he can do it with you. He is alive and life is waiting for us. Amazing.

Fear and Trust

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Steve Hammond
Holy Week, 2009

Every year at this time, I think many of us wonder what it was like for Jesus that last week of his life. The two words that have come to my mind this year are ‘fear’ and ‘trust.’ It’s obvious from the stories in the Gospels that Jesus was scared. He went into Jerusalem to ‘endure the cross’ as the writer of Hebrews put it. “Now is my soul troubled. And what should I say–Loving God, save me from this hour?” “My Loving God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”

He was afraid. He didn’t really want to die. But he had this abiding trust in God that enabled him to risk death. “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Humanity will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

Fear and trust. None of us experience what Jesus experienced. But we know about fear and trust. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Just ask Jesus sometime.

There are plenty of people, some of them in our own congregation, or in our families, or among our friends, who at this very moment feel like they are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It is a time of fear and trust. My prayer for them, and you, if it happens to be the case, is that as strong as the fear is, trust will abide until resurrection comes. It is no easy journey, but one the living Jesus walks with us. I hope prayers and support will sustain until the tomb stands empty.

He Knew

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Psalm 31:9-16, Mark 1:1-11
April 5, 2009 (Palm Sunday)
Mary Hammond

Last Saturday, four of us spent a few hours drawing new signs for the weekly Peace Vigil, which has been going on at the corner of Tappan Square since shortly after 9/11. “When do we know that we are done with this vigil?” someone recently asked. “We need some new signs,” I suggested. “There are new things to say now, and old statements to repeat, with a new administration in office,” I continued. So, after thinking really hard and not feeling particularly creative, I went online and discovered many helpful ideas for new signs. We went to work.

With the Peace Vigil on my mind, I began to think about Palm Sunday and Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Over the centuries, the event has lent itself to pageantry and theater, but it embodies so much more than high drama. If Jesus’ acts that day were written on signs for all to read today, one might say “A DONKEY, NOT A STALLION–GET IT?” and another, “WEAPONS-FREE ZONE.” There surely would be a sign proclaiming “GOD SO LOVES,” in big, bold letters, with a multiplicity of colors and images reflected on the posterboard.

What signs would you design to capture Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem? [Congregational sharing]

There are so many textures and layers to this brief narrative, filled with what Bruce Prewer in our opening prayer refers to as “the sweet-sour mood of Palm Sunday,” “the grief-joy of…Christ,” and “his terrible-wonderful mission.” I hope we can at least peer into the depths of this story a little bit, teasing out its essence, joining Jesus’ journey while exploring our own at the same time.

In preparation for the entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples off on the most mundane but critical of missions–to fetch the animal which he will ride into the city. You have to understand some context for this request. Earlier, two disciples–James and John–ask for positions of honor at the left and right side of Jesus in the coming kingdom. When the others hear about this, they are incensed. The argument becomes so heated that Jesus ultimately intervenes. He makes it clear that those who wish to be greatest must take a back seat and first learn to serve (Mark 10:35-45).

Is it James and John to whom Jesus delegates this donkey-fetching task? We don’t know. Yet, Jesus never misses an opportunity to provide an object lesson and burn his teaching into the soul. Taking a place of honor in the coming kingdom sounds a lot more glamorous than fetching a young colt. And yet the smallest tasks are the pillars on which the great ones stand. History bears this out again and again.

It’s a donkey, not a stallion, Jesus rides into Jerusalem. A military leader–any earthly king, actually, would make his grand entrance on a magnificent stallion, not a lowly pack animal! What kind of king is Jesus, anyhow? What kind of counter-intuitive strategy is this? Plainly, simply, with an animal as his partner, Jesus bears witness to the upside-down nature of the Reign of God.

Further, Jesus carries no weapons with him on this dangerous–indeed, treacherous–journey into the Holy City. The One whom the crowds anticipate as a military conqueror comes without sword or shield. The One who is being plotted against, who within a week will be hanging on a cross, comes in peace, with no weapons save his fierce love for God and deep devotion to his people. This is an incredible act of faith, courage, and resistance to the powers of this world whose greatest reliance, again and again, is on military power.

Insurrectionists have come and gone, been arrested, imprisoned, and liquidated by the Roman Empire. Others still foment armed revolt. Yet Jesus comes–not to launch yet another military insurrection–but to offer an insurrection of hope among the hopeless, of love among the unloved, of non-violence among the violent, of justice among the powerless.

In my simple understanding, Peace Vigils have one primary purpose: they openly, publicly bear witness to a different reality than the one in which we live. Similarly, but with a somewhat different twist, protest marches challenge the dominant order and call it to account. Particularly in repressive political contexts, joining in peace vigils or protest marches can be a deeply courageous, risky venture. Such events moved mountains in our country in the 1960’s as they challenged segregation, and they have spoken truth to religious and state powers throughout the centuries. Countless people have bled and died in public dissent and hope for a new day.

Jesus embodies both protest march and peace vigil as he enters Jerusalem, weaponless, riding a young donkey. He protests the dominant ethos of both the Roman Empire and the institutional religion of his day. He offers friends and enemies alike not a sword, but shalom–the peace of God that passes understanding. I am reminded of the powerful words of Paul, believed to be quoting an early Christian hymn, “[Jesus Christ] always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7a).

There is one more aspect of this entrance into Jerusalem that bears notice as we begin Holy Week. Only Jesus and perhaps his close friend, Mary of Bethany, intuitively understand it. They sense–indeed, they know–that this entrance into Jerusalem is also part funeral procession.

Not everyone is glad to see Jesus coming to the City with throngs of enthusiastic followers surrounding him. Jesus knowingly, publicly enters what is indeed for him, dangerous ground. He stands firmly with the God whose Reign he represents. Before the week ends, the praises that begin this journey turn to jeers, the “Hosannas” transmogrify into “Crucify him!”, and the palm-strewn roads are replaced by the silhouette of a wooden cross.

Jesus knows what entering Jerusalem ultimately means for him, and he has “last things” and his own “last days” on his mind. Later in the week, when Mary of Bethany anoints him with expensive ointment, all the male disciples complain, yet Jesus affirms her, saying that she has done a good thing for him, anointing his body for burial (Mark 14:3-9). The two of them, alone–Mary and Jesus–understand.

The story unfolds, day by day, creeping along, crashing through, staring us in the face, forcing us to confront all the possibilities of darkness and light within our own human experience. As we prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, I invite you to be with Jesus, and let him be with you. Find yourself in the story, and lean into the truth you see there.

Take your time walking through Holy Week. Don’t let it zip by, barely noticed. Sit with Jesus, and he will sit with you. If you do so, by next Sunday, you will surely be ready to encounter an empty tomb! Amen.