What does liberation by God’s love look like?

(A video montage of these reflections and readings is here for you to experience.)

Our experience of Holy Week, the beginning of our journey to Easter, begins with our remembrance of Jesus entering the holy city of Jerusalem on a donkey, met by crowds of the common folk, singing “Hosanna!” Which means “Save us! Deliver us! Liberate us!” The people had palm fronds, which they set on the muddy road before Jesus, to pave his way.

Now to understand what this “Hosanna!” meant and means and can mean for us, let’s take a moment to remember what Jesus said a few years earlier, when he launched his public ministry, in his hometown of Nazareth

First Reading

Luke 4:16-30

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Holy One has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send the downtrodden forth in liberty, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

REFLECTION “Good news to the poor,” “release to the captives,” “sight to the blind,” “liberation for the oppressed,” “proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor,” the year of Jubilee, which means debts are forgiven, sins are forgiven, the land is restored, a year of sabbath and celebration

– all of this is what’s in the “Hosanna!” of the people who greeted Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem – the hope, the vision, the possibility, the reality of deliverance, of liberation, of salvation.

So, what does that mean for us, now? What does that mean for you?

We have in our hands these evergreen signs of the evergreen love of our Creator God. I invite you to then pray with these palms for a moment, to pray on:

What does liberation by God’s love look like for you? For those close to you, those you care most deeply about?

What does liberation by God’s love look like for our society, especially for those who most need liberation?

What is the look and the feel of that vision, that hope, that promise, that reality?

And then, after praying on these questions, when you feel ready, I invite you to come up to place your palms up here near the cross.

What does liberation by God’s love look like for you? For those close to you, those you care most deeply about?

What does liberation by God’s love look like for our society, especially for those who most need liberation?

What is the look and the feel of that vision, that hope, that promise, that reality

REFLECTION

Now the people in Jesus’ time expected that when the person showed up who was anointed by God to have this saving, liberating role, they would just triumph over all the evil in the world and everything would be better. We’re probably no different in what we expect. But God, through Jesus, was up to something quite different – something startling, unsettling …

Second Reading

Mark 8:27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Anointed.”And he warned them sternly that they should tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that it is necessary for the Son of Humanity to suffer many things, and to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days rise again. He made this declaration frankly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

REFLECTION

Jesus here startles and unsettles Peter by telling him that the kind of liberation that he’s up to as God’s Anointed is not going to make him a superhero, but a loser, and a loser who is going to suffer at the hands of the worst that humanity can do to each other.

Through Christ we see God identifying with the ways that we are hurt, identifying with the ways we hurt ourselves, identifying with the ways we hurt others.

Third Reading

Mark 14: 32-46

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’

He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.

And he said to them, ‘My soul is in anguish, to the point of death; remain here, and keep watch.’

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass him by.

He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I will, but what you will.’

He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch one hour? Keep watch and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; truly the spirit is eager, but the flesh is frail.’

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Humanity is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’

So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and forcibly seized him.

REFLECTION

This has been a hard year, a very hard year – for everyone, really, to different degrees. A lot of vulnerability has been exposed. We’ve seen humanity at its best and humanity at its worst. There have been silver linings but, there has a been a lot of suffering, too much, for us to bear and to bear witness to and to be witnessed.Even the past two weeks with the promises of vaccinations and reopenings and spring, our country has been hit again with acts of violence and racism.

And that all can be really hard. It’s easy to related with Jesus’ disciples who just check out and fall asleep, when Jesus is there in agony.

Our faith, our Christian tradition, has been formed and forged by times such as these. And one of the core messages of the Cross is that whether or not we have the strength to bear our difficulties, God bears them for us – God is with us in all of it, through all of it – in our weakness, in our vulnerability, even in our feeling that God has abandoned us.

It is not ours alone to witness or to bear – God embraces us so we may embrace ourselves and embrace others as we are carried through to resurrection, renewal, transformation.

We’ll end with two reflections of the meaning of salvation through the cross. One is from Fr. Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan Contemplative. The other is from Dr. James Cone who was a liberation theologian.

Fourth Reading- Kazi

Jesus speaks to you from the cross:

“I am what you are most afraid of: your deepest, most wounded, and naked self. I am what you do to what you love.

I am your deepest goodness and your deepest beauty, which you deny and disfigure. Your only badness consists in what you do to goodness – your own and anyone else’s. You run away from, and even attack, the only thing that will really transform you. But there is nothing to hate or to attack. If you try, you will become a mirror image of the same.

Embrace it all in me. I am yourself. I am all of creation. I am everybody and everything.

– Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ pg. 156-157

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

Fifth Reading – Annie

“A symbol of death and defeat, God turned [the cross] into a sign of liberation and new life. The cross is the most empowering symbol of God’s loving solidarity with the “least of these,” the unwanted in society who suffer daily from great injustices. Christians must face the cross as the terrible tragedy it was and discover in it, through faith and repentance, the liberating joy of enteral salvation”

“But we cannot find this liberating joy in the cross by spiritualizing it, by taking away its message of justice in the midst of powerlessness, suffering, and death.”

– James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, p. 156

#Christianity #JamesCone #PalmSunday #RichardRohr

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