Our Chance to Respond
I suppose it would be overstating the obvious, but Palm Sunday feels totally different this year. Engaging in the physical distancing that gives us the best chance to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus makes it an ongoing challenge to connect with the community that shapes our life and faith. I have continued to be inspired by the efforts that different relationship groups within the church are making to stay connected with each other. It isn’t as easy as connecting on Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night, so it is taking a disciplined and concerted effort. Based on reports that I’m hearing, it sounds like this has become an unexpected Lenten spiritual practice. This time will change the way we think about beloved community, Jesus’ expression of a radically inclusive community.
Learning New Community Building Skills
I realize that from my experience, I have taken a lot of things for granted about building the beloved community. After 30 years of ministry, this period in our life together has taught me how much I have to learn when it comes to new skills, tools and experience to do the work of community. The most important thing is that communication must be intentional. I can’t wait for the opportunity to come to me. These are important lessons for us to learn in every generation. Each challenge that we face in building the beloved community will call us to engage new learning and new skills in order to meet the challenge. In the great social movements of our lifetime we see this truth worked out. From Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church movement in Germany in the 1930s to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to the Civil Rights movement in this country, the image of beloved community took on new dimensions. This is the work that is accomplished when the community itself speaks. This is what happens when common folk join their voices together.
Crowdspeak on Palm Sunday
So often on Palm Sunday the focus is on Jesus’ ‘Triumphal Entry’ into Jerusalem. The language and sermons often speak of the image as a fulfillment of prophecy. The image of Jesus’ entry is also a counter point to Empire. This year, it seems important to claim something different about the crowd. While it is true that the crowd would have different understandings about why Jesus’ ministry was significant. Some expected a King to reestablish a political/theological Kingdom. Others expected something different, perhaps even novel. Still others may not have been able to articulate anything that looked like a future image. One thing they held in common is that they all were responding, in real time, to their own experience of Jesus. Before COVID 19 our tribalism was already straining our social fabric, in many cases, physical distancing has done nothing to alleviate it. This Palm Sunday, we, as a community of faith committed to bearing witness to the grace of God and Jesus’ call to build beloved community can join together in spirit and let our voice be heard. Across our different relationships and communication platforms we can learn new skills and help build a community that will emerge from this crisis and begin the work of reweaving our life together.