Hindsight blinds us to what was really going on in that procession into Jerusalem. We are accustomed to read the narrative through a particular set of goggles that focus in on those elements of the story that allow a knowing juxtaposition with events soon to come.
The crowds of people greeting Jesus as Messiah – waving their palm leaves and lining the road with clothes – could not see into the future. They longed for a Messiah to come and solve their very immediate problems. They needed him to be a King of action; a King who would burst onto public life and overturn the politics. A Vengeful all-powerful King who would smite the oppressor and raise up a new Holy Empire. There were a few clues that they were always likely to be disappointed; he was riding a donkey for a start, and then there were all his scruffy no-hope followers and his past association with all sorts of outcasts and undesirables. This King was never going to deliver what people thought they wanted.
The thing is, even with all this hindsight, we often still make exactly the same mistake. We think that the answer to our serial problems lie in the achievement of fresh conquest and we even come to believe that these are God-ordained, despite all the evidence to the contrary- the donkey, the Lepers and all.
We forget that in this upside-down New Kingdom, power only matters when it is laid down in the form of love.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
It was a grey day, with rain blowing in from the west, but with the occasional glorious shaft of sunlight. What was needed, I thought, was a cup of tea.
Fortunately I am a man equipped with the means of making fire. And a particular kind of fire at that- ultra efficient hot water boiling fire. Marvelous it is too.
I am man, and I provided…
I read this today, from an article in which the writer reflected on her experience of attended 12-step recovery meetings, and comparing the community she found there with church. I found it very moving and full of truth. Community can be hard, but it is also where we are most fully beautiful and most fully human, so these things seem ever more important to me;
…and then it hit me. Maybe the depth of community I experienced in recovery, but rarely in church, had something to do with the inclusive nature of the meetings. Here, it was safe to be honest about your journey with God, because it was impossible to be “wrong.” Here, the basis for acceptance began and ended with a mutual need for healing, which led to honesty and connection.
These days, I still think what happens in recovery is in many ways a wonder, but my bafflement about the power of this community has passed. I think I get it now, and I think it’s really pretty simple. It’s definitely something Jesus understood: People bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.
I have a couple theories about why this is the case.
When folks gather in church around a strict system of beliefs, the price of acceptance in the group is usually agreement, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being right, which in turn invites conformity.
But when people gather in recovery around a shared need for healing, the price of acceptance in the group is usually vulnerability, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being real, which in turn invites community.
In case you were considering your options, take a look at these pictures. If you ask really nicely I will tell you where it is…