In my faith tradition, yesterday marked the beginning of a very holy week. What began with palm branches and hallelujahs ended with silence, and, for me, the heavy dread of knowing I would grieve at the foot the cross before I could stand in the sunshine.
Sitting there listening to a reading I have heard all my life, I realized is how easy it is to get the story wrong. How easy it is to skew it to favor one group of people,one mindset, one religion.
We are all living in exile. Living in a land that is far from safe, far from the paradise it was created to be. And that is because the creator had no intention of making obedient robots when we were set in this place. Free will is the most unselfish gift we could have been given. It resembles that thing parents do when they understand their children have minds and lives of the their own and deserve to use them as they wish.
In spite of the fact that Jesus made it his focal point, over and over and over, that God is love and we are to love one another, we as a church have failed to mirror that unconditional love. We give our blessing to those who agree with us,those who are like us, those who buy our brand. But the view from the back of a donkey has nothing to do with keeping traditions. It has everything to do with radical risk taking. It has to do with a love that is reserved for no one people, but given to the whole of humanity, the ultimate inclusive gathering of all souls back to the heart of the creator.
People who live in exile are never quite comfortable. This exile is no exception. There is always the tension of life pulling against death, well-being against illness, joy against sorrow. Jesus modeled life for us, in this home we have been given that is never quite safe and never quite comfortable. Love. Forgive. Share. Show mercy. Judge not. Love some more. A very few days later, he modeled death for us.
It is no mistake that we given the stories from the cross. The forgiveness continues. For the ones who nailed him to the cross. For the criminal hanging beside him. Love continues. For his mother, who needed comfort. Mercy was not reserved for some and denied to others. The grace flowed then, as it flows now, to cover us all.
It is no good to be critical of the church as if it had nothing to do with me. The failings of the church are the failings of human beings. When we get it right, when we love mercy and do justice, we are triumphant in exile. When we extend the grace to others that we need so badly ourselves, we are as at home as we will ever be in this life.