There are so many words, so many in this story of Jesus last days and hours. So many. There is so much to try to say to describe – ‘here’s what happened’. The crowds would have been huge in Jerusalem for the Passover. There would have been people there on pilgrimage from all over the Mediterranean. So many different voices and faces and characters are there in this scene of Jesus’ last hours on this earth. It’s dizzying to sort them all out and to find your bearings. In my imagination, it reminds me of a day in 1972 when I stepped out of a cab in Times Square in New York by myself in the clothes my father had bought for me for my first solo voyage out into the world. I was dressed as a buttoned-up southern gentleman though all of 13. And what I saw and heard, like Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover, was overwhelming. Haitians running three-card Monte in heavily accented English and Russian cabbies shouting out sounding to me like Boris and Natasha from the television cartoon show Bullwinkle, and tourists laden with cameras from Des Moines or Tokyo or Hamburg, and Indians from the South Continent dressed, to my 13 year old eyes, so strangely. It was a cacophony of the whole world in all colors and languages surging in this one place.
The Gospel of Jesus’ death describes a scene just as dizzying where we are bounced around in the surging crowd just as bewildered as a kid from the south in Times Square. And it’s hard to know where to stand or what to do or to know where you belong or even who you are in this crazy scene that seems to be accelerating towards some hidden but inevitable place. Who are you in this crowd? Where do you stand? Whose side are you on? – because knowing what side to be on seems to be of the utmost importance these days.
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
I spent several years as the religion teacher at an Episcopal day school in Baton Rouge. I taught about 300 students from PreK – 5th grade. They called me Church Lady and I loved it. I wish I had written down all the things they said and did, because there are some hysterical and profound stories.
One day I was teaching the story of the Good Shepherd to a group of Kindergartners. I talked about how the Good Shepherd led his sheep to green pastures and cool still waters and through the dark rocky places. I told them that the Good Shepherd knew all his sheep by name and if even one of them was missing he would go out to find them and bring them home. I used big pieces of felt and small wooden sheep and shepherd to tell the story. At the end of the story, Warren, a darling, precocious boy with strawberry blond curls and freckles all over his big moon face shook his head. He had the best gravelly little voice I had ever heard from a 5-year-old.
I don’t know Miss Amelia….”That Good Shepherd must have had some kind of good GPS system to not get lost out there.”
Warren, the son of an avid Louisiana outdoorsman, knew how easy it is to get lost travelling in the wilderness without some help.
David helped us start off this Lenten season by reminding us that God has a burning question for us all, and it has been his question since the garden…. Where are you? We humans have gotten very good at hiding. From God. From each other and from ourselves. And the call of Lent is to try to stop hiding so much and show up. Not an easy task.
We are closing in on the last days of the season of Lent, which you probably know. Although, it’s possible to lose track of where we are. It’s been known to happen. But maybe you know right where we are. Maybe these past few weeks have been times that have brought you closer to your own heart, or someone else’s, and that when that happened it was like the Good Shepherd had come and found you and carried you home. Maybe that realization came when you saw someone take someone else’s hand into theirs, and with bright clear eyes say to this person you’re pretty sure they’d never seen before, ‘oh sweetie, you’re precious, precious. That’s what I think.’ Or maybe something you’d decided to do for Lent – forgo a luxury, make sure you say your prayers each morning and each night, lay your hand on someone’s shoulder while prayers were said for their healing one Wednesday – something you gave yourself to do in these past weeks, opened a window in you to God that you didn’t even know was closed.
Or maybe it’s been a flop. You’ve missed the whole thing, like arriving at the platform for a train that left an hour ago. And then said to yourself, ‘well I never wanted to get on that train anyway!’
Or maybe you started off pretty good, but, well, life happens and this and that, you know. Maybe, honestly, the best you could pull off was getting you and your family to church one Sunday in Lent, mostly in one piece and with a minimum of tears, all things considered. Whatever it has been is what you have to offer. And so, whatever it has been, trust in the slow workings of God’s grace and give thanks.
This time of the year, I like to check the times for sunrise and sunset in the newspaper to see how much more daylight we will have today than yesterday. This time of the year even just a one minute more of sunlight is cause for rejoicing. Each day, we’ve got a little more light, just a little more time.
I’ve found that the season of Lent is a pretty good time to think about things like this: how much more light, how much more time is there in this day? How much more time, how much more light is there in each of our lives? Lent begins with the Ash Wednesday words ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’, and gives us a time and a place to think about that. How much more time will I be in this world? What do I hope can be a part of the time I have left?, because what is it, really, that matters most? And on the other hand, how much of the time I have do I spend on things that really don’t matter at all?
So, how shall we live? That is the question that is at the heart of Jesus’ insistent cry for repentance. There is time enough to turn aside and behold God’s goodness. There is enough time. But not for ever.