Sometimes our religious traditions seem far removed from the world we actually live in. A question lingers: How does the message on Sunday matter on Monday?
Or to put it another way – Where does our faith intersect with the real world?
Do you think about these questions? I do.
Church has always been part of my experience, so it is hard to remove it from the way I perceive the world. Yet sometimes it seems that religious people live in two separate atmospheres – one that remembers ancient stories and practices, preserved and handed down from generation to generation; and a second where the blurred lines of our specific histories meet a technologically driven secular world where the only way forward is to lose the old ways in favor of the “new and improved.” Can they fit together? How?
Holy Week starts on Sunday. Many people across the Christian church in all its forms will receive palm branches and will wave them along with shouts of “Hosanna.” In doing so we commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, the visual reminder of our ongoing song, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In Holy Week we announce that our savior is not just a child in a manger, but the promised Messiah; the Christ! Yet just like the world around us we reject him.
Remember: the primary Christian symbol is not a palm branch, but a cross.
When Monday comes it is difficult to ignore that wars still rage on across the world. Corruption and greed dig deeper and deeper among the seats of power. The vulnerable are easy prey. Children and women are exploited. People die of diseases we can easily cure or prevent if we only had the will to do so. Justice and human dignity are ignored. The challenges of hunger and food distribution are forgotten. Homelessness, unemployment and underemployment persist. The numbers of refugees continue to increase. What appears to be senseless suffering – is all around us. We reluctantly accept our inability to change anything. We look the other way. We pretend these and other challenges don’t exist, but this is the real world. Yet Jesus still rides on his donkey toward a cross. Are we willing to take notice?
If we are honest, we know deep down that it is a fair assessment by those who have left the church (or who were never interested) who say “you Christians claim one thing and do another.” When people say that they, “like Jesus but not the church” it is easy to see why. We are a mess. If Holy Week does anything for us, it should cause us to open our eyes.
Open your eyes.
Sometimes I think our greatest fear is that our faith will “lose” to the surrounding culture. We are afraid no one will want to hang on to our traditions. We judge them for not “getting it” like we do, and we judge ourselves even worse for not passing the faith on effectively. So we bunker down – uncertain of what we should do, if anything at all. Good traditions don’t insulate us from the world, they help us engage and make sense of it. Sunday and Monday go together, even though they sometimes feel further and further apart.
Christ on the cross is as relevant as ever. All of the challenges before mentioned are exactly the place where Jesus meets us in pain death and suffering. Can we articulate it? Jesus comes in on a donkey to go to the cross; meeting injustice and cruelty with mercy and compassion. His grace is overwhelmingly one sided. In a winner-take-all world that leaves us feeling inept, he becomes the loser for you and me. What makes grace costly to us is that Jesus asks us to lose everything for others.
There are many connections to make between Sunday and Monday. Our life in the Spirit calls to make those connections. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Can we name the power of God in our own lives? Does what we do together on Sundays impact how we live on Mondays? If not, why not? If not, why are we doing them?
It may be true that the church is increasingly irrelevant. But Jesus doesn’t call us to preserve the church – he calls us to make disciples. If all we do is look inward we have missed the point. Then we will be left behind. Then Sunday and Monday have nothing to do with one another. Then our call to the nations (starting in our own neighborhood) remains unfulfilled. Will we always get it right? Of course not, but connecting Sunday with Monday gives us a way of seeing, talking ad acting that lives boldly into God’s grace as we step one foot at a time into a hurting world. Remember where we stand and shout “Hosanna” is never a stationary spot.
Jesus is riding towards us on a donkey. Will you follow where he leads?
Grab your Palm branch.
Open your eyes to the cross and see a whole new world.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)