Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week and Taxation of the Spirit

Some of us have been preparing for this week ever since Ash Wednesday. For others, yesterday's Palm Sunday observances served as a reminder "That's right - Easter must be next week!"

Whatever our route to this particular Monday morning, some of the momentum from the celebration-charged energy of Triumphal Entry probably still remains - at least enough to make some kind of a difference this morning. But is it enough to get us through the week?

Even those fortunate enough to have been physically present (in Jerusalem, the day Jesus rode a donkey into town) ran into a stone cold wall of reality before the "Hosanna's" ringing in their ears ever died down. It wasn't too long before they caved in to the status quo that seems to exact its levy with ease, facing only token resistance much of the time. It's a kind of taxation of the spirit.

Jesus calls us away from "The Way Things Are":
There's a great story I heard from my friend Trevor Hudson a while back: Passover, as we know, was a huge deal in ancient Jerusalem. Jews from all over the known world converged for the celebration, literally crowding the streets with people. The Romans knew this, too, and took steps to assert their ascendancy and reinforce the visibility of a military presence in the city.

Typically, there were a limited number of soldiers posted in Jerusalem. But at Passover, the Roman governor would bring in a show of force (from the garrison at Caesarea) and enter Jerusalem, parade style, to remind everyone who was in charge, who was "Lord", and who would step on their throats at the slightest sign of insurrection.

Hudson pointed out the irony of Palm Sunday, suggesting that Christ entered Jerusalem from the East, riding a donkey, waving palm branches, offering "Peace, not as the world gives..." and that he came in full knowledge that the Romans had their own parade going on, entering from the West, riding war-horses, carrying weapons, offering oppression.

It must have been glorious, loaded with anticipation and excitement and a realization of the freedom they were missing... But then soon enough, probably later that same day, these same people got a good look at the Romans again and they realized how their religion was pretty-much hand-in-glove with the occupying forces... and that the powers-that-be were on the same page with the Romans and the status quo... and that the power-&-value system their lives operated in was - essentially - life and breath to them and their families. And they thought about what all that cumulative weight of soldier + religion + commerce really stood for, and they thought about what they had always been told was important... and what mattered... and what life was all about... and they just lost the glory if it all.

They just lost the glory of it all.

So I have to 'fess up that I'm worried this morning that we will lose the glory of it all in short order and that - just like the people in Jerusalem - we will sell out Jesus in a heartbeat because we're just so used to the possessions and values and priorities that have come to define our lives...
...And that we too would crucify him come Friday if he said one more thing to tip the balance of stability away from the materialism and the power and the politics that protect the real stuff that has our allegiance and that we worship...

Think about it today. Tomorrow we'll take another look at the message that got Jesus killed.

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