26th March 2021
MORE THOUGHTS 2 Mary Pearson
We are living in strange times and we may well wonder what is going on in our world which, it is tempting to think, used to be so much more stable and feel so much more secure. There have been many voices reminding us that a year ago we were focused on fires and smoke. We were beginning to deal with the virus and had no idea how that would develop. We still don’t. Now we are indundated with water and many people have, quite literally, experienced that. Maybe the water will drown the mice that have been plaguing the farmers and causing havoc with their grain and hay stores after a thankfully abundant harvest. What is going on in the world? Even voicing that question can make us feel a bit wobbly because it is really voicing feelings that things are getting out of control. Such a question is also an expression of powerlessness in the face of these big events.
There is also an upsurge in protests about the way power and control has too often been abused and that women have for so long been on the receiving end of subtle and not so subtle male dominance. All these things are taking place in Australia where we know we are so blessed in so many ways, especially when we see what is going on in the world where millions of people’s lives are scarred and forever changed by violence and injustice. What is going on in the world? How are we asked to live in the world? What does our faith tell us?
As we come to Palm Sunday and Holy Week, the theme of many of our readings is about suffering. The Psalms, of course, give voice to so many cries about human struggle and pain. They have spoken to human experience down the centuries. The Palm Sunday readings give us a powerful image of Jesus demonstrating how different his way was from the ways of Roman imperial power that was about displays of soldiers riding impressive horses and showing who was boss. Throughout Holy Week, Jesus makes choices of a different way. It was not, as we well know, a way that would keep him safe but a way that would expose him to abuse of power. It was the costliest way possible. He did not do this as a victim. He did not blindly accept abuse out of some misguided understanding of what it means to turn the other cheek. He chose this way because it was the way of humility and love that would ultimately show that God has the last word in terms of power and control.
But let’s not get there too quickly. If we keep grasping on to Easter Sunday without allowing the force of Jesus’ journey – which is the cross-bearing way he called his followers to take – then we will fail to allow suffering to find its way in and to discover the reality of grace that is woven through the Holy Week and Good Friday stories. We may not be able to understand what is going on in our world, but, however vulnerable or shaken we may feel at the unpredictability of things, we know that suffering has the power to draw us close to God, who is there, in it, and that the way of humility and love is ultimately transformative. It is not just individualistic. It is for everyone and so it brings us together. That is God’s way and we see it in Jesus. So maybe we can turn the “I” of this hymn to “we”, the “my” to “our”. It becomes even more powerful:
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.