TODAY, like those early followers, we still tend to reinvent the character and the picture of the God we worship, so the image fits more tidily with the values and the priorities that define the culture in which we are comfortable. In truth, the huge win Jesus achieved at Easter still calls for us to reject the trap of the status quo. It is a W [win] over greed; selfishness; religiosity; and the entire me-first, consumer-driven mentality that illustrates our foundational cultural malfunction. But it’s easier to replace the scandal of the Cross with a basket of candy and less taxing when we focus on the traditions of springtime rather than an empty tomb. We’d rather not think too much about the heavy price paid for the freedom we take so lightly.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
THE SEASON OF LENT is about preparation, so that we can “Enter [God’s] gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4) with the quality of renewed spiritual energy that comes in response to the sacred rhythms of daily observance. Easter celebrates the victory of light over dark-ness and the reality of the kingdom Christ invites us to explore.
But Easter, like Christmas, has fallen victim to our cultural penchant for sucking meaning from significant Christian holidays and replacing that meaning with tawdry values borrowed from the secular world, values rooted in consumerism and humanism and our incessant demand to be entertained.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, there were 4 types of people there as He entered. As we look at these 4 types, which one fits you?
1. Adversaries: It is not listed in this Gospel account, but we know from other Gospel accounts that their were some there who wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted nothing to do with Jesus or what He stood for.
2. Apathetic: There were some who really didn’t care one way or the other.
3. Animated: These people screamed ”Hosanna” on Sunday and said nothing . . . or worse, they said “Crucify Him” at the end of this same week. These are the people who follow the crowd. They will sing the hymns, serve on committees, etc…; but never make a commitment to Jesus. They are going to go whichever way is popular, whichever way is the most fun, or whichever way “ministers to them the most”.
4. Authentic: This is the person that is like the owner of the colt. Whatever Jesus says they will do. Where He sends, they will go. What He asks for, they will give.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem He cried. Why did He cry? He cried because they didn’t get it. They did not understand Who He was, what He was doing, or why He came.
I CONFESS to a heart that does not widen easily. You may have a similar problem, but Jesus will not stop inviting us, calling us, to expand our hearts. Jesus will want us to make space for friends, he will want us to make space for neighbors, he will want us to make space for strangers, and then—even scarier—he will want us to make space for enemies. In fact, there is absolutely nobody who is not his friend. They may not know it, but he is friend to them already.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
DURING HIS EARTHLY LIFE Jesus went out of his way to eat with all kinds of people—his followers, his enemies, and those who were marginalized in his society. Ignoring the criticism of his choice of meal companions, Jesus enjoyed table fellowship, taught, and witnessed to God’s inclusive love. The phrase in our ritual which Christians should perhaps find most comforting and most challenging is the simple statement that he “ate with sinners.” Thank God that he did, and that he does. Pray that we might exemplify that love.
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
CHRIST INVITES US to come and share in an alternative to the anxiety and fear we experience and enact daily. It is as if Christ is saying to us, “Come to the Table of perfect love that casts out all fear and anxiety. Here is more than enough! All the fullness of God is here. When you come to this Table, greed motivated by fear will forever be inappropriate and unnecessary. Repent of it. When you come to this Table, all exclusion, hate, and vengeance must be left in God’s keeping. Come now; come, and count on God’s generosity toward all.” This invitation includes confession and pardon. The invitation requires the gathered community to deal with its own brokenness and sin. Love shared, not sin remaining, is the focus of the Eucharistic meal. The meal is for those who have forsaken conflict. The invitation, confession, and pardon call us to anticipate the new heaven and new earth.
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”
AFTER THEY HAVE taken their places and are eating, what are the first words that we hear Jesus say? He says, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” He added, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.” Isn’t this startling? What a way to start a dinner party! The first words of Jesus, at his final dinner with his disciples, name the conflict that is the elephant in the room. Judas is going to betray Jesus.
. . .
There is nothing Pollyannaish or sentimental or individualistic or pietistic about this meal. The meal is not privatized or spiritualized. There is nothing here that is romantic or escapist. This is the real world, with real and deep conflict. So, here Jesus sits at his last supper, under the shadow of the cross with the man who would betray him and the eleven others who will desert him. Does that sound like conflict to you? And Jesus named it. Justice requires the naming. Truth requires the naming. As important, transformation requires the naming. What is unnamed lies just beneath the surface. It often develops dis-ease. It gets worse until it explodes in very destructive ways. You must name it to heal it.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.