Lent 2017: Palm Sunday
I'm going to cry if I write about Jesus today. The day we wave palm branches around and pretend he is our king, just like they did so long ago. But really we long for retaliation, for power, we long to make ourselves safe, we long to conquer death on our own, we long to forget our responsibilities to each other. Jesus brought a fire that divided, he brought the fire of neighbor-love and a kingdom without borders, a call to a life based on thousands of willing deaths and thousands of miraculous resurrections. And we killed him for it.
There is a man who grew up in my neighborhood, who runs a food bank so many of my neighbors use. I have not met him, but I have been touched by his life and work, even though he is so young. A few weeks ago he was arrested at his house by ICE. Due to a large outcry, he was later released on bond. He awaits his trial, which could be a year or two in coming. He did everything he could--applied to DACA, checked in with immigration--and yet there is hardly anything that can be done for him. The US has so few paths to citizenship (marriage to a citizen being one, or a family member applying for you--which is backed up at ten years waiting time or more). Isn't this so cruel?
And yet, Fransisco has faith. His community perseveres. I am surrounded by people who know intimately how bad the kingdom of the world is, the way power always tramples on the people who need it the most.
In Oregon, there are estimates of 130,000 undocumented neighbors. I love them, even as I profit off of their vulnerabilities in status. They cook the food I eat in restaurants, they pick my strawberries and blueberries and tomatoes, the drop off their kids at school with mine. Without them, our economy would collapse. They pay taxes and they do not reap the returns. They are constantly sowing into our communities and country, and yet they are the first to be betrayed when it comes time to make a political show of power.
I used to feel so sad for Jesus, on palm Sunday. He knew what was coming, didn't he? But then I got older, and I met so many people who have suffered, been tortured, watched family members die, be torn from their communities. Jesus, fully God and also fully human, met all of these people too. When he rode that donkey down that road, as he watched people pledge allegiance, as he knew how quickly it would all change, he did it for them. He came to show us that God doesn't punish us. He showed us that God suffers with us, and enters into it willingly. That is the direction Jesus is always going. Do we have the faith to follow after him?
I was reading this lenten devotional about today, how Jesus references the sign of Jonah. How Jonah was a messed up man who experienced the strangest of resurrections out of the mouth of a fish. It made me realize how nonlinear the invitation to suffering really is in this world. Sometimes I imagine that delving into a topic like immigration in America is almost a form of penance--the horror stories, the human rights abuses, the large-scale injustices, the current waves of fear and hatred. But it is also beautiful, and invitation to be swallowed whole and spit up on the shores of life very different than when you started. It is an invitation to be reborn, complete with sharper ears and eyes for what God might actually be up to in your own heart, and in the hearts of your neighbors.
Going into Holy Week, I want to take a moment and say how grateful I have been for this Lenten experience of reading, praying, meditating, and contemplating action in the area of loving our undocumented neighbors in America. I expect I will have more to say about it, but for today I will leave you with this discernment step from Street Psalms:
"As you pray this week, consider what the sign of Jonah might be pointing you toward. What in your life is being “storm-wrecked, drowned, swallowed whole, and vomited up”? Or might need to be? In the Communion Prayer, we ask God to forgive us “for all the ways we diminish the meal for the ways we guard against your mercy and withhold it from others, for all of our misplaced and displaced desires that have caused so much harm.” This hasn’t been an easy course of the meal to digest (just ask the creature who swallowed Jonah!). Are you able to discern, however, something of the presence of Christ and the movement of the Spirit in the hard places in your life? In the life of your community or the people you serve? Receive with openness what God might have to offer in this most significant week in the rhythm of our spiritual life together."