“A Different Pace”

A Different Pace

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday

Psalm 118; Mark 11:1-11

 

Recently, I’ve been rushing through life too quickly.  I know this because—well, because several of you have told me so. Take, for example, Jesse Spencer who, at our last Session meeting, said something like: “You mean we aren’t having something special EVERY day of Holy Week,” or Bart Greer’s suggestion that I not only rest up for Holy Week but that I also be sure to take my vitamins. And if your comments haven’t been enough to get my attention, there have been other signs—like the fact that I forgot to text Sissy Almand as soon as I arrived at the office Tuesday—something I assured her I would do. I remembered at 5:30 that evening when I was getting ready for Tuesdays at the Table. Oops!  Yes, I admit it. I’ve been rushing through my life too quickly.  It is a common refrain though, isn’t it?  How often we walk through our days—“run” might be a better term—and in all our rush and hurry we miss the signs.  In our urgency, we can, in fact, miss life.

 

As you may have heard me say before, one of the most frequently used phrases in the Gospel of Mark is “kai euthos” which is translated in the NRSV as “and immediately.”  There’s a sense of movement and urgency as Jesus goes from place to place. Looking back over the first 10 chapters of Mark we find: The Spirit immediately drives Jesus out into the wilderness; As Jesus passes along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus immediately calls Simon, Andrew, James and his brother, John and they follow him; When a leper begs for healing, Jesus touches him and immediately he is made clean; When Jesus heals the man with the withered hand on the sabbath, the Pharisees go out and immediately conspire against him; When the woman who has suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years touches the cloak of Jesus, immediately she is healed and immediately Jesus is aware of it; When Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John and they come down from the mountain, the crowd sees Jesus and they are immediately overcome with awe.

 

All this motion, all this urgency, brings us to our text today —which happens to include the phrase “and immediately” twice.  Yet it is a phrase that will be used seldom in the remaining six chapters of Mark because with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, things slow down. Mark alters the pace for us to accompany Jesus slowly and intentionally through his last days—days we call Holy Week. Truly, as we celebrate Palm Sunday, our gospel reading invites us, entices us, begs us to slow down enough to really be present for this week of events that will change the world—that will change us—if we only let them.

 

Those of you who attend the First Friday Contemplative Service are familiar with Lectio Divina.  Lectio Divina (Latin for “Sacred Reading”) is an ancient practice in which a small section of Scripture is read, pondered, and prayed over—allowing time for the Holy Spirit to reveal new understanding. The process is sometimes described as ruminating over Scripture much like a cow chews cud.  The reader reads the same short passage over several times, perhaps aloud, allowing for quiet moments of reflection in between the readings.  Another approach is to read the passage several times but to imagine, each time, that you are a different person in the scene.

 

While preparing this sermon, I was struck by how our gospel reading lends itself to the practice of Lectio Divina, especially if imagine ourselves in the story—playing different roles, different parts.  So I invite you to sit with me for a while to ruminate over Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

 

While we hear verses 1-9 again, let us imagine we are one of the disciples who has been instructed to fetch the donkey. Following the reading, we will have a moment of silence and then share with one another.

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that had never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

[Silence & Sharing: What was it like to be asked to fetch the donkey? Would you have preferred something more glamorous? Did it make you uneasy? Has Jesus ever asked you to do something that made you feel uneasy?]

Although not named in the text, we might consider the owner of the donkey.  Let us imagine we are the owner.  Following this second reading, again we will keep silence and then share our experience with one another.

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

[Silence & Sharing: How did it feel to have something Jesus needs? Isn’t it true that we all have a donkey? We all have something Jesus needs to build up his kingdom here on the earth.]

Now let us imagine we are in the scene as the “many people.”  Eager to praise this king, we throw our cloak on the road. Perhaps we race into the field to cut down branches. Perhaps we have nothing to offer but our voice, so we shout, “Hosanna, Hosanna!” I invite you to hear the reading once more.

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

[Silence & Sharing: What did you do as Jesus passed by? How did you participate in the story? While these people shout “Hosanna” today, what will they shout when Friday comes?]

With the practice of Lectio Divina, we approach Scripture slowly and reverently.  It is, in fact, the way we might approach this entire week—this week we call Holy.  Maybe this is the best week to slow down enough to experience what God has in store—through prayer and Scripture reading, through one of the options available here at the church this week—like Tuesdays at the Table, walking the labyrinth or the Stations of the Cross, or participating in the Maundy Thursday meal and Tenebrae Service. With the celebration of Palm Sunday, our Gospel reading invites us, entices us, begs us to slow down enough to really be present for this week of events that will change the world—that will change us—if we only let them.

*Cover Art “Where the Way Leads” ©Jan Richardson Images; Subscription