16 April 2017

Mary's Turn


Resurrection of the Lord

We owe Mary Magdalene an enormous debt of gratitude.  No, she's not a woman with a questionable past, although the Church has slandered her for centuries.[1]  No, she didn’t anoint Jesus’ feet with her hair; that was a different Mary, Mary of Bethany, brother of Lazarus (Jn. 12:1-8).  No, she didn’t have a reputation. No, she wasn’t a seductress—despite how Mary Magdalene is portrayed in Jesus Christ Superstar, singing to herself, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”[2] And there’s Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), who suggests that Jesus had a marital relationship with Mary Magdalene, and a family.[3]  Dan Brown was just playing with tall tales that are centuries old—and making a lot of money from it.  These images of Mary make good characters in musicals and fantasy novels, but they don’t reflect the Mary we find here in John.

So, no, she doesn't have a past.  In fact, we’ve only just met her. She first appears at the crucifixion— along with Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Jesus’ mother (Jn. 19:25). Three Marys.  We meet Mary Magdalene at the cross and then next at the tomb. And it’s this link between cross and tomb, and John’s decision to make Mary the main character (apart from Jesus, of course), which is significant and should grab our attention. 
           
First, we need to remember that in John’s Gospel everything—every word, image, metaphor, every character—is there for a reason. Nothing’s by mistake. So, this morning, I’m going to stay very close to the text.  Everything matters.  Everything is intentional.  So, wake up, pay attention, to what John is saying here about Mary’s experience, about resurrection, about Jesus. 

In hearing or reading this text on countless Easter Sundays—"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (Jn. 20:1)natural for us to focus on the moved stone and empty tomb.  But we need to notice right away that it’s Mary Magdalene who first discovers the remnants of resurrection. Mary.  Not the Beloved Disciple, not Peter.  Mary.

She runs to fetch Peter and the Beloved Disciple. They return together to see for themselves.  They find the tomb just as Mary described it.  Empty.  The linen wrappings are left neatly on the side of the grave slab. They’re flummoxed, confused, and then leave the scene, shaken by everything—so shaken they ignore Mary.  But we can’t ignore her.

Mary remained.  Mary remained in her grief.  She stood there, outside the tomb.  That’s what grief often feels like, doesn’t it?  You can’t move.  You’re stuck.  She stood.  Weeping.  Instead of running from grief (as the men did), Mary courageously faces hers.  John tells us, “As she wept,”—still weeping!—“she bent over to look into the tomb” (Jn. 20:11b).  This is remarkable—in the midst of her heartache she is courageous and strong enough to face the source of her sorrow, that which has broken her heart.  She enters into the place where death lives.  She goes into the dark tomb looking for Jesus. Although knowing his absence, her eyes still strain to find him; her eyes guide her forward into the tomb.  Her grief is leading her. 

In the tomb, she witnesses two angels sitting where Jesus once was—one at the head and one at the feet, John wants us to know (Jn. 20:12).  The angels intentionally frame the place of absence.  They “hold” the space between them, this place where Jesus once was and is no more. And, what comes to mind when we hear of something being flanked by two angels?  Anything? The “mercy seat” of YHWH, or kapporet, was the golden lid placed on the top of the Ark of the Covenant; it was flanked by two cherubim, with empty space between them, “locating” the dwelling place of YHWH (Exodus 25:17-22). The cherubim on the Ark frame or “hold” holiness, creating a space for the dwelling of the invisible, non-representable, non-possessable Living God.[4] In the tomb, Jesus “fills” the holy space with his absence.

With great respect the angels ask, “Woman,”—a word used earlier in the Gospel to refer to Jesus’ mother (Jn. 2:4)—“why are you weeping?” (Jn. 20:14).  She answers.  She says she was searching for Jesus’ body.  At that moment, John tells us, “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there” (Jn. 20:14), but she didn’t recognize him.  Then Jesus says to her, “Woman,”—again, so much respect—“why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (Jn. 20:15).  Assuming him to be the gardener, she doesn’t see him.  She’s too concerned with finding a dead body.

Jesus says to her, “Mary!”  And, then, what does John tell us? Remember, every detail matters.  “She turned and said to him, ‘Rabbouni, Teacher’” (Jn. 20:16).  Isn’t this odd?  “She turned.”[5]  Wasn’t she already facing him, the gardener/Jesus?   Something so simple can be so profound.  She had already turned once, turned around to see what she thought was the gardener; but that turn was insufficient. She had to turn again.  But this was not the turn of the head or the body, but the turn of the heart.  And it’s with this second turning, the turn of the heart, the turn of “Aha!”, the turn that comes with revelation, recognition, realization, which allows the blind to see, the lost to be found, and the dead to come to life.  What’s required in us is the second turn. Without this turn, we can see but still be blind.  Without the turn, we’re left with an empty tomb, and the gardener, but no Jesus.  With the turning, everything changes.

So, how does this happen? What prepared Mary to hear the divine voice and see the Risen Lord before her?  Perhaps it was her tears.  The only other person who weeps in John’s Gospel is Jesus, when he sees the mourners weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus.  We’re told that Jesus was deeply disturbed by their grief, to the point that he was shaking and shuddering (Jn. 11:33). His tears pave the way for resurrection.  “Take away the stone,” Jesus said (Jn.11:39).  Tears, moved stones, and empty graves link these stories together.  Here, Mary Magdalene weeps for Jesus. Her tears pave the way for her to encounter resurrection.

What if it’s grief that prepares Mary to make the turn?  What if it’s her sorrow?  Her grief became the portal, which guided her into a dark tomb and beyond it.  Her grief, her sorrow, her tears, was the door, a holy threshold leading her to experience resurrection.  It’s her confrontation with loss and absence, her unwillingness to turn from her pain, her persistence, her determination, which allows her to move through absence to see the Lord of Life, not in a cemetery, we’re told, but in a garden (Jn. 19:41). We see that her grief, all along, was being held by resurrection, held by the Resurrected One, who makes space for her tears but never allows them to have the final word.

Thank you, Mary Magdalene, for showing us how to face our sorrow and embrace resurrection.  The first preacher of the resurrection.  The first to encounter the Risen Lord—without the Church or an institution, without tradition, without the aid of church school teachers.  She had no one, nothing.  She had nothing but her love and her grief, which was deep because of her love.  Astonishing.  I can’t help but wonder, what if Mary Magdalene had been the first Pope, instead of Peter?  A blasphemous thought, perhaps.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Patriarchy has been disastrous for us.  The Church and the history of the West, along with the rest of the world, would have been very different had we listened to John’s Gospel and gave more space to the feminine and the witness of women.[6]  Mary models a different way for us to be disciples, a different way for us to see.

Sometimes it’s grief, sorrow, sadness, even suffering which prepares us to make the turn, to encounter resurrection, which opens our eyes to see God’s presence standing before us in surprising, startling ways.  Sometimes it’s beauty that opens our eyes to see resurrection. Sometimes it’s hearing your name called by someone who loves you through and through.  Resurrection can be encountered through doubt, as Thomas knew (Jn. 20:19-29). Or, resurrection can show up at daybreak to grill you some fish for breakfast, as John tells us (Jn. 21:4-14).  

Mary Magdalene teaches us to look for the Risen Lord precisely in those places of loss and sadness, in our tears, weeping for what might have been, for lost opportunities, regrets, wrongs, weeping for ourselves, those we love, weeping for the world.  Christ promises to meet us in those places.  

Isn’t this what we’re saying when we declare, “Christ is risen!”? For the one who said, “I am Resurrection.  I am Life.” (Jn. 11:25), holds life and death, all of it, the abandonment and abyss of the cross, all the pain and grief of the world, even the depths of hell itself—holds all of it—and holds all of us with the fierce, yet tender love of God, a love that will never, ever let us go. 

Christ is risen! 

Alleluia!

Thanks be to God!






Image:
1. Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898), The Morning of Resurrection (1882).

2. Saint Mary Magdalene icon, (11th century), Monastery Dionysiou, Mount Athos, Greece.

[1] For example, Pope Gregory (d. 604) preached in a sermon, in 591, “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected.” Cited in Jaime Clark-Soles, Reading John for Dear Life: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 133.
[2] Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar (1970).
[3] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (Anchor Books, 2009).
[4] Rowan Williams, “Between the Cherubim: The Empty Tomb and the Empty Throne,” On Christian Theology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), 187.
[5] I am indebted to Jaime Clark-Soles (137), for drawing my attention to the significance of the second “turn” in John 20.  The sermon circumambulates around this insight.
[6] The integration of the feminine into the psyche of the Christian experience is slowly occurring, but there’s still more healing or “therapy” required.  The psychologist C. G. Jung (1875-1961) was among the first to point the Church, and its theologies, in this direction toward deeper wholeness.  See Murray Stein, Jung’s Treatment of Christianity: The Psychotherapy of a Religious Tradition (Chiron Publications, 1986), 183ff.

13 April 2017

The Fruit of the Vine

John 15:1-17

Maundy Thursday
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

“Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Abide.  It’s one of John’s favorite words in this Gospel.  Abide.  Remain. Stay. Stay close.  Sixteen of the twenty-one chapters in John include this word; it occurs over forty times.  Intimacy, connectedness, relatedness, closeness, these themes run throughout John’s Gospel. For John, these are tangible manifestations of the Risen Christ among us and within us; they are signs of resurrection life.  These words describe life in community centered on the Risen Christ, Christ the center. John wrote these words to his community who struggled with what it means to be followers of Jesus, and, through the Holy Spirit who spans space-time, they are directed to us today, to the church.

To be part of the church of Jesus Christ means we are all connected, whether we like it or not.  We are in this together.  And we need each other in order to be faithful to Christ.  We can’t do it on our own.  We can’t “do” church or “be” church on our own.  We can’t follow Christ on our own.  We can’t be faithful on our own.  We need each other. We can’t be faithful disciples on our own.  The Latin American liberation theologians often talk about convivencia when describing the Christian life.  Convivencia means, literally, “living-with.”[1]  Convivence is what sustains us individually and together, as a community. We are living with one another and living with the Lord.

That’s why we have Jesus, here in John’s Gospel, in a section of the Gospel known as the Farewell Discourse, providing us with what we need to be faithful to Christ post-resurrection.  Jesus turns to an image that was familiar to his listeners.  He uses an organic symbol, the language of vines and branches in order to talk about friendship and love.

It’s a remarkably dynamic symbol, the vine and branches.  Jesus invites us to abide in him, as branch to vine. That’s because, Jesus tells us, he also wants to abide in us.  “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” He is the life force, the love that energizes the growth and brings about the yield, the fruit.  Even the relationship, itself, is fructifying.

Reflecting on this text took me back to Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago. In the Rioja region the Camino cuts around and sometime straight through acres upon acres of vineyards.  I was walking in late-September, outside Logrono, near the time of harvest.  The green, leafy branches were full of deep, red grapes, the branches led to old, knotty vines that thickened at the base where they sunk down deep into the soil.  It was a Sunday, but I didn’t go to worship that morning—at least, not in a church—I did worship and pray and sang my way along the way, out there among the vines and branches.  “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  I plucked off several grapes to eat; they were juicy and sweet.  I could feel the vitality of life all around me.  The vine is the source of vitality and life. That’s what Jesus wants us to know, that he is the source of vitality and life. As I walked through the vineyards I imagined all the wine these fields would eventually yield, the fruit of the vine to be poured out around the world.  I felt as if I was swimming in wine.  It was flowing all around me, through me.

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from him there is no life.  Apart from him there’s no yield.  No fruit.  And Jesus wants us to bear fruit. That’s why you’ve been chosen to sit at this table.  That’s why we are here.  We are his friends (Jn. 15:14).  As his friends, he says, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” (Jn. 15:16). “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn. 15:8).

What is that fruit?  Love.  Love is the fruit of faith—love in relationship, friendship, community.  Jaime Clark-Soles writes, “If we are not a community marked by friendship and love, then we should close up shop.  If we are not a community with friendship and love as our key goals and markers, then we may be many things, some even useful and worthwhile, but we are not a Christian community.”[2] 

Love is the vine.  Love is also the force—the vinculum, meaning the connector, the binding agent—that links vine, branch, and fruit.  “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).  Jesus said, “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” (Jn. 13:34).

Let us share in this meal, given to us in love.  

Let us share this meal in order to deepen our connection with one another. 

Let us remember the one who showed us many years ago what love looks likelove is cruciform.  It takes the shape of a cross. 

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Let us abide in him, the one who lives today in bread and wine, 
and in us. 





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Photos:  K. E. Kovacs, along the Camino de Santiago de Comopostela, September 2016.
[1] Cited in David Congdon, The God Who Saves: A Dogmatic Sketch (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016), 42.
[2] Jaime Clark-Soles, Reading John for Dear Life: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 101.

09 April 2017

Broken Hosannas

Matthew 21:1-17

Palm Sunday

As Jesus made his way up to Jerusalem, the crowds ahead of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The crowds swarm around, almost swallowing him.  He’s surrounded by hosannas. Not unlike us, in our worship this morning.  We’re swimming in hosannas. Why was the crowd chanting, “Hosanna!”? What are they saying?  Why are we saying, “Hosanna!”? What are we saying?  Should we be shouting “Hosanna!”?

It’s a curious word that has changed in meaning over time.  Originally, in Hebrew, hosana was an invocation, an address to God.  It was a prayer of petition, meaning,“Help!” or “Save!” or “Save now!” or “Rescue!”  We hear it embedded in Psalm 118:25, “Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!  O LORD, we beseech you, give us success.” Followed these words, in verse 26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”  Hosanna is a cry for divine deliverance, for liberation.  Save us!  In Jesus’ time, the meaning of the word had morphed into something else. It had become an acclamation of joy, adoration, praise.  In the Gospels (and the Church) it’s become a synonym for “hurrah” or “hooray” or, as the British would say, “huzzah!”

It’s a fun word.  It’s fun shout and chant in festive procession.  It’s a fun word to say.  I remember as a boy singing along with the soundtrack from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar:
I sang it over and over again, playing with the words.

Today, hosanna is almost synonymous for hallelujah.  The story is told that architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), after finally securing a commission, breaking a dry spell in his career, once shouted, “Hosanna! A client!”.  Hosanna.  Hallelujah.  They’re almost interchangeable, aren’t they?

So, which is it here in Matthew?  Does hosanna suggest praise, adoration, or does the word carry something of its older meaning, a cry for liberation? Pay attention to who’s voicing these words and pay attention to the entire flow of Matthew’s narrative.

The suggested lectionary for this morning ends at verse 11, before Jesus enters the Temple.  This doesn’t make sense to me because stopping at verse eleven obscures the reason Jesus entered the city in the first place, which was to go directly to the Temple, which is what it says in verse 12.  And when he entered the Temple all heaven broke loose!  He drove out those who were selling and buying in the Temple, he overturned the tables of the moneychangers.  He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer and you are making it a den of robbers” (Mt. 21:13).  Then we learn that the blind and the lame arrived at the Temple, and he cures them. 

The chief priests and scribes, the religious authorities, were furious to see such praise being given to Jesus from the children, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Mt. 21:15).  Now, this wasn’t harmless pious musings of children.  Why are the religious authorities troubled? Because the children are shouting politically-charged theological slogans about Jesus—the children are doing this!—in the Temple precincts.  The religious authorities asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” (Mt. 21:16). “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  Who was David?  The king of the Jews!  Right?  And who was the King of the Jews at the time of Jesus?  Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus. Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus, the Emperor.  Caesar Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD). 

Remember, the imperial might of Rome conquered Palestine in 63 BC and oppressed the nation. And here in Matthew’s Gospel the Romans are always in the shadows.  The Roman legions stand guard, watching over everything.  Every year extra legions were brought up from Caesarea Philippi, along the coast, to Jerusalem, for Passover.  They were sent to Jerusalem, not because they were Jewish, but because Jerusalem during Passover was a powder key waiting to explode.  The legions were stationed in the Antonia Fortress, built by Herod the Great (37-4 BC) next to and above the Temple, so that from its towers they could keep watch over what was going on down in the Temple precincts.  They were they to keep the piece, to watch for days like this one: when a radical rabbi orchestrates a demonstration, gets the entire city stirred up, overturns the economy of the Temple (which profited Rome), and claims the Temple, itself, as his personal house of prayer!  Oh, and the children are shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” giving to Jesus the honor that belongs to David, King David.  “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look your king is coming to you…” (9:9) Matthew interjects into his account these words from Zechariah (9:9).  This verse alone is a politically charged claim, which should get our attention.  What an entrance.  What a visit.  And after raising this ruckus, Jesus leaves the city and spends the night in Bethany.

Can you see why we need to read all the way through verse 17, to complete the narrative?  Otherwise, we are left with a parade of palms and praises, with no real context or reason for the parade.  So, what was the reason?  To shut down the Temple.  New Testament scholar Obery Hendricks (who was my classmate at Princeton Seminary) writes “that it is no exaggeration to say…the was fundamentally an economic institution.”  Jesus’ outrage was directed, not to a group of merchants who happened to set up shop in the Temple precincts the day Jesus came to town; it was “a very public attack aimed at Israel’s center of power….it was,” Hendricks makes clear, “an overtly political act.”[2]  Jesus and his followers shut down the Temple—they shut it down; it was a religious-political-economic demonstration that sought to expose the corruption at the heart of the Temple authority.  Why?  “Because despite its veneer of holiness and religiosity, beneath its proclamations of justice and concern, the Temple did not treat the people and their needs as holy.”[3] As the prophets have said for centuries, it’s the Temple’s responsibility to care for the needs of the poor.   As Hendricks makes clear, Jesus’ demonstration in the city was a protest, it “was a repudiation of the Temple and those who ran it, repudiation of their abuse of the people’s trust, their haughty dismissal of the people’s worth, their turning the Temple of God into a profiteering enterprise, their exploitation of the people in the name of God and for the benefit of themselves and the Romans.  It was a prophetic pronouncement to the priestly aristocracy that they must change or be judged by God.”[4]

 As we know, by the end of the week Jesus would be judged by the Temple—judged by both the religious authorities and by Rome, and condemned to die on a Roman cross.  We know this.  We might be shouting hosannas today, but we know that Friday’s coming.  And, yes, we know that next Sunday’s coming, resurrection, Easter.  But knowing how the story resolves itself is, at some level, not helpful, because it eclipses, it undercuts the intensity of this text.  Jesus’ arrival into the city was a match to a powder keg.  It’s explosive.  It should make us uncomfortable.

Which brings me back to those hosannas.  Praise?  Adoration?  Joy?  Knowing what we know, these hosannas sound hollow. Save us?  Rescue us?  Help us?  The older meaning of the word makes more sense, given the context.   Although even these sound hollow.  We might say they’re broken hosannas.  I’m intentionally playing with a line from Leonard Cohen’s (1934-2016) song “Hallelujah.”  Cohen wrote this song in 1984, but it wasn’t all that popular.  Other artists, such as John Cale, Jeff Buckley, U2, and Rufus Wainright, later recorded it.  It became very popular with the release of the movie Shrek. It’s the song we hear in the background when Shrek and Princess Fiona part ways as she prepares to marry the tiny prince.  Cohen wrote, “Love is not a victory march/ it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”  A broken hallelujah.  It’s a powerful image, isn’t it?  I remember singing this song with a group of pilgrims, last year in Spain, at the Church of Santa Maria in Carrión de los Condes, in one of the most moving and memorable experiences on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. 

When I imagine the crowds around Jesus entering Jerusalem, putting so much trust and confidence in him, and knowing what the city will do to him, I can’t help but hear these hosannas as broken.  They praised him for what they thought he would do for them, that he would release them from their suffering.  He didn’t bring about the political revolution they hoped for. 

We could also say that these are the hosannas of broken people, people oppressed, economically impoverished, scared, weighed down by force of Roman power.  For these are the people Jesus came to save, not through a political coup d’etat or military might, but through the stronger force of love and mercy.

Remember, the religious and political authorities were not the ones rejoicing the day when love came to town.  They were not among the people in the streets; they were not in the crowds shouting hosannas, happy to see Jesus. Those in power, the dominant culture, those with authority, privilege, financial means, all those who lived comfortable, undisturbed lives with no theological qualms about being part of an Empire were not glad to see Jesus.  Empire is never happy when Jesus shows up. 

Where would we—you and I—have been on that day?  With the crowds? In the street?  With the religious authorities telling Jesus to keeping it down, the Romans are watching? 

We need to be very careful with our hosannas, especially if we find ourselves in positions of power and authority and privilege, part of the dominant culture, people with financial security, comfortable. Jesus’ humble arrival was political statement about the proper use of power, as it mocked the pomp of imperial Rome.  I’m not trying to give a politically, socially charged spin on the text.  Instead, a politically, socially, economically charged reading of the text is there in plain sight.  It’s there for us to see when we remove the wall between religion and politics and economics—a wall that the West erected in the 17th and 18th centuries.  A wall, by the way, that often serves those with political and financial power and separates those with power from those without it.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t support the separation of church and state in this county, because we should.  I’m saying that this separation, of dividing religion and politics is alien to the Bible.  In the Bible, there is no separation between sacred and secular domains, between faith and politics and economics.  “The earth and all that it contains belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1).  It’s all one.  Everything is connected.  When we interpret Jesus, his ministry, his preaching, his healings and miracles, his death on the cross as having only to do with spiritual things, as having no direct bearing upon the rest of our lives, including our political and economic choices, then we’re guilty of spiritualizing the gospel, of distorting Jesus’s message; we are guilty of undermining the gospel, and, therefore, cannot hear and see the radical and scandalous message of the cross. 

The feminist theologian Dorothy A. Lee-Pollard writes, “The cross reveals where God’s kingdom is to be found—not among the powerful or even the religious, but in the midst of powerlessness, suffering and death.”[5]  This is not good news for those in power.  But it’s really good news for those with broken hosannas, for those lost in grief and pain and sorrow, for the oppressed, for the marginalized. 

The theologian James Cone, father of Black theology, wrote in his recent work The Cross and the Lynching Tree, a theological tour de force, “God’s salvation is a liberating event in the lives of all who are struggling for survival and dignity in a world bent on denying their humanity.”[6]  In other words, the cross is for people whose hosannas are broken.  “We cannot find liberating joy in the cross,” Cone says, “by spiritualizing it, by taking away its message of justice in the midst of powerlessness, suffering, and death.  The cross, as a locus of divine revelation, is not good news for the powerful, for those who are comfortable with the way things are, or for anyone whose understanding of religion is aligned with power.  The religious authorities of Jesus’ time were threatened by his teachings about the reign of God’s justice and love, and the state authorities executed him as an insurrectionist.”[7] 

So, yes, the cross is good news—but it’s not good news for everyone.  But it’s most definitely good news, maybe especially good news, for those whose hosannas are broken, because the message of the cross tells us, shows us, that the Lord of the universe shares in the suffering of God’s people, participates in our inhumanity, and can and will triumph over death and sin and evil, not through brute force, but through the force of love.

What about us? What’s behind our “Hosannas!” this Sunday?  Praise?  Adoration? Hallelujah?  Rescue?  Save us?  Liberated me?  Perhaps a little of both? 

How you answer, how you understand this cry is crucial, because it will inform how you approach all the events of Holy Week.  It will shape how you understand the cross.  It will shape your understanding of Jesus.  And how you understand Jesus shapes everything else.
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Image: Triumphal Entry from the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, the Rosanno Gospels, Rosanno, Italy, 550 AD.
[1] Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
[2] Obery Hendricks, The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of the Teachings of Jesus and How They Have Been Corrupted (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 114
[3] Hendricks, 114.
[4] Hendricks, 122.
[5] Cited in James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis, 2013), 157.
[6] Cone, 151.
[7] Cone, 157.