Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. - Isaiah 50
Most of us don't want our religion - if we want religion at all - to be all about guilt Many, many people have fled from organized religion because it feels to them like a bludgeon, a place they go to get flogged for their failures. I have heard people from almost any faith tradition speak of how they learned about "Guilt; the Gift that Keeps on Giving". No wonder we/they flee. I fled church for many years, for very much this reason.
And the reason I came back? Come close; I'll whisper it. I was actually guilty of many, many things. Actually, there is much more to my return than that, but pretending that this wasn't a part of my aching need to return would amount to pretending I'd never done anything wrong. I've tried it; we all have. It doesn't work.
We approach the end of the season of Lent. If we've been paying attention to the season's call for repentance, self-examination, and humble prayer, we are more or less ready for some relief. (That's a pale, thin way of describing the power of Easter, but let it suffice for now.) There is one more stone in the road, however, and it's a big one. It's called Palm Sunday and Holy Week. The Sunday before Easter celebrates the day when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration - and for much more troubling times than his friends and disciples were willing to acknowledge.
Jesus had spent much time prior to his arrival here preaching, teaching, and healing. The word was out; he was a pretty amazing prophet - maybe even the Messiah. The crowds in Jerusalem hailed him as their savior; his parade into town rivaled, for excitement, the arrival on the other side of town of the Roman ruler, who had come to Jerusalem to keep the peace during Passover week. "Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
The celebration lasted a few hours; maybe a day or two. Then, the full force of Jesus' radical, world-changing Good News began to sink in. It was dangerous. It threatened the big powers. It asked people to change the way they lived, saw the world, and imagined their salvation. Everyone wants the world to change. Few actually want to change themselves. Not so slowly, the celebration turned into doubt, resignation, fear, and betrayal.
If we don't take the full measure of this all-too-common human reaction, then the miracle of Easter is nothing more than an occasion for chocolate bunnies, ham dinners, and the distant echo of a trumpet heralding a shallow elation.
So we read the story of what is called "the Passion." We listen to it. We imagine ourselves in the crowd, desperately wanting Jesus to change the world, and not wanting to change ourselves. It is a sober story. It is a big stone in the road.
But the stone will be moved. We will only comprehend the magnitude of that miracle when we walk around that stone. It is a really, really big stone.
But not as big as God's love for Creation - and the bumbling, beautiful human beings that area troublesome, but blessed part of that Creation. When we take the full measure of this love, the world changes forever. Because we change ourselves. That's what it takes.
Listen to what Passion really sounds like. We'll share the story at 10 AM. If we will open our ears and do not turn backward, as Isaiah invites us to do, we will be taught.
Passionate Sabbath blessings-