D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: palm sunday

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?

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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."

 

Holy Week

Maybe it is just a sign of where I am at in my life, but I am so excited about Holy Week. This has been a rough couple of weeks, and things with the refugees that I work with are very, very hard right now. The darkness seems to be pushing pretty hard right now, and I feel all shaky and powerless.

And then yesterday I remember that this is Holy Week. So I am praying, thinking, dreaming about all the things Christ did. It puts things in perspective.

 

 

When I was a kid, I loved Palm Sunday. Some of my favorite Sunday School memories revolve around that holiday: making the palm fronds out of construction paper and waving them around, marching in a circle and shouting "Hosannah!", thinking about donkeys.  I loved that people were being so nice to Jesus, falling all over themselves to welcome him into their city.

Now, it is such a confusing day for me. Thinking about how people loved Jesus until they suddenly didn't, about how Jesus must have felt while riding on that donkey. How he knew, he knew, what was coming mere days later. Palm Sunday to me seems like one of the saddest days of the year. There it is, written down: our fickle, selfish human hearts on display for all to see. How we love Jesus until we realize how much he wants us to love others, and then we discard him. How I wave my branch for him until life doesn't go my way and I turn to myself for answers. I am a palm sunday person: I sing Hosannah, and then I turn around and demand Christ's death.

 

And oh, how he died. I don't like to think about it all the time, but this week it is inescapable.

And I am truly seeing the beauty in it, the wonder of experiencing the palms and the cross and the resurrection together, not rushing through one to get to the other, but really experiencing the width and breadth of the story of God saving us.

 

"that mystery the Jews traduce, the Greeks deride, but we adore. For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on him, so much the more does he makes his Godhead evident. Thus by what seems his utter poverty and weakness on the cross he overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and suddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize him as God."

--Fourth-century bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (from the reading from Common Prayer today)

 

And that is how he is winning over my life, slowly but surely. I love him because he first loved me, as evidenced by this week.

 

So will I do anything different this week? I will create a space for more prayer. I will read the stories from Holy week, and I will not shy away from the grief. I will meditate. I will listen to Keith Green. I will not buy into any Easter-related nonsense (and if you aren't with me on this one, please read this amazing blog post by Jen Hatmaker). I will dwell on the utter poverty and weakness and be amazed that this is who I follow. And I will celebrate hard core on Sunday.

 

Happy Holy week, ya'll.

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