Yesterday was weird. I’d been trying for three days to put together “meditations” for Holy Week, based on Scripture passages describing Jesus’ “Last Week.” It was as if I was fighting the task I had taken on, wrestling with every passage trying to discover something new and different. Trying to impose my will on them so I could shape something “just right” – do I dare admit “something perfect” to offer all of you. Because I had promised I would supply you with a week’s worth of meditations during this special week. I failed. They won. They (the stories) didn’t want to be changed; they wanted to change me.
I got stuck on the first story right away – the one immediately following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem after Palm Sunday. That one about cleansing the Temple. It’s always been a favorite for me. Not just because of what Jesus does, but how he does it. He’s passionate. He has amazing focused energy. He’s leaning into his life purpose and he’s “on fire” about it. Maybe this exciting action and purpose driven demeanor reminds me of how I was in my younger days.
Remember the story – it’s very short but full of action. It’s when Jesus strides straight to the heart of the city (the Temple Mount), barrels into its courtyards with blazing energy and starts sweeping away all the “stuff” that is cluttering up the way to the heart of the Temple, the inner sanctum where the Holy of Holies is said to live.
Lent is about cleaning up our act, asking the Holy “to create a clean heart in us and renewing a right spirit within us.” If we really embrace that idea, not just role play it year after year, the “stuff” in our lives that blocks the way to the heart of life, needs to get our passionate focused attention.
The way Jesus gives “embodiment” here finally to the message he’s been trying to get through to his disciples, the crowds that gathered around him, the Jewish authorities, everyone along the way, must have stunned those present to this scene. However, this Temple confrontation will lead quite clearly and quickly to the end of the story.
There’s something exciting about confrontation. This story of Jesus confronting so dramatically something that needs to be “overcome” has unsettled me probably because of the times we are faced with right now. Not just Lent with its theme of “cleaning up things” in our life that are destructive and unhealthy, spiritually, but because of the intrusion of the pandemic that is so obviously destructive and unhealthy, physically.
The enemy today, though invisible, is obvious. I am frustrated because I can’t figure out how to really take it on. I want to be passionate about it, confront it, fight it, do something about it. I got really fired up working with this story’s action hero Jesus finally taking things on with great energy and drama. I want to feel that energy.
But today, what are we asked to do as this virus is taking over our world? Be passive. How we best defeat this threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of all that is good, is to isolate. Be still. Because being active, entering the crowded areas of life to fight it, might just cause it to thrive.
This story confronts me with the question that takes on new dimensions at this time. “What’s mine to do?” I find myself questioning the question with not just anxiety, but frustration.
“Being still” as I have grown older has become a necessary part of my rhythm of life. It has helped transform some of my old unhealthy ways of living and being into more life-giving ones. But there’s just something exquisite about feeling that “youthful” rush of energy, passionate action, warrior approach to taking on what is standing in the way of transformation and renewal. So that’s why I think I am so attracted to this passionate Jesus.
As the week wears on, Jesus will become more and more passive, allowing the events to take their own course. Until he is laid, finally, motionless in a tomb. Which of course is just the beginning of something passionately, energetically renewed. I understand this theologically and spiritually. But still . . . .
I must admit I am somewhat jealous of those who are on the frontlines – doctors, nurses, health care workers, first responders, all of them at the ready or already in the center of the action. But that’s not what God has asked of me right now. Some of us are asked to simply isolate in place, be still, reach out in other ways, call someone whom God puts on our heart, post something funny or serious on the internet, to lighten the way through this with a laugh for someone or stir a thought that brings hope. But God lets us know, if we listen carefully, it’s not what we want, but what He needs for life to continue according to his design.