Day #35: Celebration

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Mark 11:9

 A good party is a good party. And Palm Sunday is a good party. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, he creates a gregarious, impromptu party (Jesus tends to do that). People begin to lay down their coats. They cut down branches and start waving them. They sing and dance. And on the other side of the city, somewhere in Jerusalem, Pilate is also holding a parade. Pilate, dressed in his military regalia, riding a warhorse, is riding through the streets displaying the Roman military might, and around him pedestrians are compelled to applaud and wave branches for this display of patriotic power. Pilate tries to force a party under threat of violence. Jesus creates space for people to share love, and that love yields a joyful all-ages party in the streets. In a highly stressful time, he revives the spirits of a discouraged, impoverished ethnic minority under occupied Roman rule.

Jesus invites hopeless peasants to find a reason to celebrate. He invites them to name and nurture their resilience. The whole community orients toward joy, working together with a purpose and an enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen for a long time. Sometimes resilience leads to celebration, and sometimes celebration itself becomes a doorway to resilience.

Takeaway: Find something to celebrate today. Hold a dance party with your children. Write a congratulations card to your co-worker who ran a 5k. Wave a palm branch when no one asked you to. There is plenty to mourn during Holy Week, the last week before Easter. But over and over (in the Triumphal Entry, washing feet at the Last Supper, sharing Communion), Jesus roots the people in practices of celebration. He creates ways for them to carry each other into joy. This week will take a turn for the somber, but today, there is celebration.

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Day #33: Patience

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.
Mark 11:11

 

Remember that time Jesus went to the temple and didn’t flip over tables and banish the moneychangers? I didn’t either, until I reread Mark 11 this week. Mark is careful to point out that the day before Jesus storms into the temple and throws out the corrupt moneychangers and commodifiers of salvation, Jesus goes into the temple and… does nothing. Jesus looks around, and “because it was already late in the evening,” leaves. Maybe the disciples were hungry; maybe there weren’t enough people to make the protest worthwhile; maybe everyone was tired from a long day waving palms and dancing in the desert sun. Jesus sees something that doesn’t sit right with him, but he waits before reacting. There’s a certain amount of patience in resilience—a sense that we don’t always need to react out of our emotions, or that our reactions will benefit from more thoughtfulness. In other words, resilient people pick their battles. They don’t exhaust themselves and their collaborators fighting every fire. They pick and choose which fires to fight when they have the water and peoplepower to put it out. For an afternoon, Jesus disrupts the temple economy and kicks out anyone who tries to make a profit off guilt. But not this afternoon. Not today.

Takeaway: Patience is another word for picking your battles. Patience means not collecting and carrying every pebble your emotional landscape brings to the surface. Carrying a bag of rocks doesn’t always makes you stronger. Sometimes it just makes you grumpier.  Where can you be more patient? What battles aren’t worth fighting today? When you notice yourself getting riled up today, take a cue from Jesus: look around the temple and, if it’s metaphorically “late in the evening,” go home. Think on it. Regroup. Gather your energy and your people. You can wait until tomorrow to flip the tables.

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

No More Palms, Please

Most Christians never question where the palms on Palm Sunday come from. It never occurred to me, until my first year pastoring, that someone had to get the palms (and order them well in advance).  But as we approach Palm Sunday, we ought to reexamine our theology of palms.

Traditional (read: conventionally harvested) palms are shipped from a handful of countries including Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. But because palm harvesters are paid by the number of palms, not the quality of them, the most efficient way to get palms is also the most destructive. Cutting as many leaves as possible from each tree damages the trees and the long-term sustainability of palm trees. Not only that, but palm trees grow in the shade of forests, and so sustainably-harvested palms support both the palms and the wider forest preservation efforts. Such noble organizations as the Rainforest Alliance have promoted the eco-palm movement.

Continue reading