'How do you imagine the Savior enters the Holy City? Images abound. Some are famous and others merely prosaic. We have an artist's rendering hanging in our front hall at home. I like to stop at it periodically and ponder. The Lord's entry into the Holy City is worth thinking about. This is true at the start with the cross looming in the background and the tomb partially hidden behind. Still there is more here. It is worth pondering that his entry into Jerusalem is also and entry (or re-entry) into our town or city in our time.
The passage of ancient Holy Scripture once again rings out as true for our day, our time and our place.
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:38)
It sounds so good in Sunday worship. It can sit so uncomfortably on our soul during the week. This Sunday, which starts a week called Holy, challenges our most deeply held convictions about who is in charge and who is in control. I am not talking about the government or politics or even cherished personal preferences. The truth is, we often think we are the ones who are in control or at least ought to rule over our own personal lives. Our famed American individualism (can you hear the cry in the background of our lives … “I have a right to….”) is directly challenged by the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of a week we call Holy.
In principle, we Christians live with the strange conviction that when we accept Jesus as our Savior (“grace upon grace” – John 1:16), we embrace Jesus as our Lord. Put bluntly, with the saving comes the ruling. His grace – the radically free, utterly unmerited gift of God’s love poured out on us – is linked to his being our Master, our Lord. This is uncomfortable for us … be honest now, it is uncomfortable for all of us! (Bishops included!)
Small wonder then that some in the crowd recognized the danger in what was happening. Remember the Bible story? “Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!'” (Luke 19:29) They understood that our vaunted self-control is surrendered to the Savior who is Lord.
Nothing could be more counter-cultural today than the entry into Jerusalem which we celebrate.
Two thoughts come unbidden to my mind as I write. The first is from the noted contemporary author Annie Dillard. “Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.” (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, pp. 40-41)
The Second thought comes from C. S. Lewis’ magnificent work, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Speaking of Aslan, the great Christ figure, the dialog unfolds between the characters. “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
There is a third thought which comes to my mind. It is His, the master’s thought. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.’” (Luke 19:40) Creation itself, the cosmos, the universe knows who He is in His entry to Jerusalem!
I wonder, do we? Have we recognized his entry into our towns and cities?