LENT LETTER April 5, 2020 “The Beauty of Christ, the Glory of Christ”
Notes from the Pastor ~
We’ve certainly learned a lot in the past week or so. “How big is a virus,” the 5 year old asked. The teacher replied, “Well, do you know what a cell is? We are made up of zillions of little teeny cells that you can only see with a microscope. They are like Legos, all hooked together to make us who we are. But they are really, really teeny. A virus is even teenier than a cell. Here’s a way to look at it: if a cell is as big as a 3-story building, then a virus would be the size of a soccer ball. That’s how teeny a virus is.”
I was showing off my new found knowledge about viruses to my son this week. I told him that a virus is neither alive or dead. “It is simply a strand of DNA or RNA covered with a protective layer of some protein/fat stuff; if you can remove the fat, then the DNA/RNA strand falls apart. That’s why things like alcohol and bleach and scrubbing with soap works on these little guys.”
“Sounds kind of like a string of computer code,” he said. My son is a software engineer, by the way. “But what you’re saying is that it’s actually like a string of bad code; and once it gets into a cell, it rewrites the cell’s code and makes a big mess. Yeah, I get that.” Which makes perfect sense for a guy who spends the better part of his day writing computer code. It’s all Greek to me. Like I said, we have certainly learned a lot in the last few weeks.
So how do we even begin to approach Palm Sunday in this time of quarantine? So many of our Easter traditions are steeped in our acts of worship: the decorating of the church, the waving of palm branches, the telling of the story, and of course, the music. How do we do all that? The simple answer is: we can’t – at least not the way that we used to do things. What we can do is to follow our heart. But not only that, we need to follow our gut. We need to pay attention to the restlessness we feel in this time of uncertainty. We need to pay attention to that nervous notion that seems to hang over our communities. We need to pay attention to where we place our trust. It was Shannon Alder that once said, “Fear is the glue that keeps you stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets you free.” When this pandemic is over, let our prayer be that we emerged as a people of faith; a people of trust.
The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr writes, “For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we felt so little control over our destiny and the destiny of those we love. This lack of control initially feels like a loss, a humiliation, a stepping backward, an undesired vulnerability. However, recognizing our lack of control is a universal starting point for a serious spiritual walk towards wisdom and truth.” Recognizing our lack of control; paying attention to our restlessness; placing our trust in God alone: this is a big part of what it means to be a Resurrection People, an Easter People.
So welcome to the Sunday of the Palms, welcome to the beginning of Holy Week, and welcome to the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
“The Beauty of Christ, The Glory of Christ”
“Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey; on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” You have to wonder at these ancient words of the prophet, Zechariah. Over the decades, the temple priests had read these words to the people of Israel over and over: “Behold! Look up! Pay attention!” It’s no wonder that Jesus insisted on entering the Holy City the way that he did. It was important that this entrance fulfilled the scriptures; it was important that this entrance revealed the true Son of God; and it was important that this entrance was one that we would never forget. For us, who know how this all ends, the entrance is bittersweet.
But let’s step back for a moment. Let’s back away from the parade and the excitement. Let’s distance ourselves from the shouts of “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Instead, let’s focus our thoughts on the one person at that parade who, like us, knows how this all ends – Jesus Christ. If there was ever a time to get cold feet, this would be it. If there was ever a time to doubt, to reconsider, to waffle – then this would be the time. But there he was, and as he rode through the crowd the Lord of Compassion had to have felt all the love and anxiety and hope and desperation of a people who were looking for a savior. Hosanna – bless us; we beseech you; save us. There was no turning back at this point, but then again….we knew that. We know that all too well.
When we started the Lenten season this year, I made a point of emphasizing the humanity of Christ. Now, to a people whose creed states “We believe in Jesus Christ, his only son,” this might seem almost double-minded. But that is the beauty of Christ. That is the glory of Christ. I still have to pinch myself sometimes because it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to believe that for the love of us, God came to us in the only form that would really make sense: as one of us. And by being one of us, he was able to show us the one thing that we could only understand flesh to flesh: his heart.
When the Son of man and the Son of God rode into the crowd that day, there wasn’t a lot of pomp and fanfare. But for the faithful who witnessed it and for the faithful who treasure it still, there rode a heart of faith and a heart of trust. And it is this demonstration of faith and trust that gets our attention. Think about it – when Jesus the man started his journey to the cross, he demonstrated a trust in God that we can only imagine. Yet there it was – absolute faith, absolute trust. And if this inspires us – if this encourages to “have the same mindset as Christ” as Paul writes, then know that you have been touched by the heart of God. That’s the beauty, that’s the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen & Shalom