Holy Week Reflections (2018) – Fruit on the Road From Bethany

fig-tree-1    I think Jesus liked figs.  At the top of His last week, He curses a fig tree for its leafy show without fruitfulness, just as He had referenced another fig tree in a parable earlier in His ministry.  In the parable, the keeper intercedes for the tree, buying it some more time for fruit-bearing.  The middle-years can find you seeking to buy more time for fruitfulness. But perhaps neither time nor seasons are the issue if eternal fruit is the goal.

     My own words, to the college-aged young man sitting beside me on the flight back from my Grandfather’s funeral in Jamaica, have come back to try me often.  In response to my questions, he had described several opportunities and gifts that he had possessed but that he did not pursue because, as he put it, “He didn’t have the time for it”.  After listening to him repeat this several times, I finally could not help but ask “So, what are you saving up all this time in your life for?”

     Before I knew it, I was again filtering someone else’s life through my own impatience-pocked spectacles – striving to get a young college-aged student to view life through the eyes of a woman in the midst or near the end of her parenting years.  My craving to see ‘tangible fruit’ from my life, other than my precious children, was a false hunger pang.  And that stripling’s life story was his alone to live in the timing determined between him and His Maker.  My stated quest was for eternal fruit, but maybe I also just wanted what the world would regard as worthy fruit and, then again, perhaps those are distinctions only the Almighty is capable of making and is evidently quite willing to assist us in discerning.  The definition of fruitfulness for women in Jesus’s day was generally assumed to be homemaking and childbearing.  Yet, a careful reading of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, reveals more.  1 Samuel 1:9a reverberated when I read it this Holy Week.  It was as if I were seeing the words for the first time – “So Hannah stood up…”.  The sound echoed again in my heart, when I later read in the Gospels that, at the start of Jesus’ last week before His great atoning mission was fulfilled, Mary of Bethany, also stood up, and taking expensive perfumed oil, anointed Jesus.

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     The action of both these sisters required risk and resolve and sacrifice – it required their ‘standing up’.  Was it false hunger pangs, as I assumed mine to be, that stirred them to unusual action?  No, there was more, much more.  They broke with the ‘status quo’ to pursue a heavenly vision that met them in the midst of their day-to-day lives.  They were devout women who, while faithfully doing the ‘day to day’, refused to deny that the need to accomplish something more than their lot dictated pulled at their souls.  They both exhibited unwavering trust in God despite what they observed in the natural.  They knew and obeyed God’s Word, as their worshipful declarations and devout lives demonstrated.  They remained faithful to their families, despite the trials of polygamy and singlehood, respectively.   And in the process of offering up their prophetic hunger to God their desire was purified:

     Through Hannah, instead of just another Hebrew male child, Israel received a judge, Samuel, who was also one of their most significant prophets.  For Mary, the oil, believed to have been intended as her future dowry, was sanctified through her hands, as sacrificially she poured it out on Jesus’ head – anointing Him with the fragrance that would follow Him throughout His approaching ordeal.  For such a time as that, Israel did not need another happily married young woman but a bold young hand-maid, willing to carry out a prophetic act that would bless the Savior.

     Initially, their action resulted in harsh judgments and misunderstanding of their hearts and motives: Hannah’s husband thought she should be satisfied with him and her ‘lot’ of infertility; Eli the priest thought she was drunk, as she stood silently pouring out her desire and resolve before the Lord.  Had Jesus not intervened, Mary could have been thrown out as improper for touching a man, and was indeed derided for wasting what could have been sold to aid the poor.  But, in both instances, heaven smiled and gave a hearty stamp of approval and wove them into the Divine Tapestry of God’s eternal story and redemptive work.

jesus-crucifiction1-e1522547095147.jpg       The lives of these two women reminded me that a Divine alchemy takes place when we turn over our lives, humble or privileged, to Jesus’ use: a ‘barren’ home-maker can alter the course of a nation; a young unmarried woman can see beyond learned priests and teachers and wordlessly declare the obvious – that God’s Redemption sits among them.  Even the surrendered ‘time’ of a young roving college-aged kid might yield vast eternal returns.  The trail was blazed when the Holy Son of God, in obedience to His Father, ‘stood up’ saying “Here I am.  Prepare me a body…” and, in complete trust, gave Himself away for the redemption of a rogue race, bringing many sons to glory.  With such fruit, God is pleased.

 

Holy Week Reflections (2018) – The King’s Ride

I love Easter!

     I love ceremony that helps seal my awareness and that celebrates the restorative, reconciling events of life on planet earth, and Easter is just about the most important Bridge Event that ever was. This, my first post this holy season, will not have any specifically cross-cultural references, such as the all-important Jamaican Easter bun 😋. But stay with me and you might actually be sweetly surprised🇯🇲. This Holy Week, stick to the theological term The Atonement if the etymology of the word ‘Easter’ bothers you but don’t deny yourself these reminders of the ever true, ever-relevant Work of Christ in reconciling God and Man, through His substitutionary death on the Cross, and His Glorious Resurrection! “Hosannah!”

Palm Sunday

black panther2     By the time Palm Sunday 2018 had come around, the wave of The Black Panther movie had crested and was seeking fresh patterns of box office ebb and flow, in the entertainment world, beyond America’s shores. Most of the political and socio-economic mileage had been juiced out of it by the various talking heads. Late-comers to the conversation would never have the chance to just enjoy it as the aesthetically rich, clean, exciting Afro-centric fairy-tale that it was. A wholesome plot line and humorous scenes such as the tech-genius ( played by Letitia Wright) sister of T’challa King of Wakanda, left sitting unceremoniously in a holographic driver’s seat – all that was left of the King’s Ride – tempted us to believe again in a promise of goodness in the world, that God is in His heaven, even in Hollywood. But the smiles did not last too long, as fresh issues of racial injustice and systemic bias promptly filled the posts on our church’s ‘Be the Bridge’ * (BTB) Facebook page.

     As I entered the church’s fellowship hall, converted to represent the various Stations of the Cross on Palm Sunday, I was reminded of the struggle I have been having this Easter season. Even here I realized a losing battle was on, as I strove to keep my eyes on the historical Jesus in period garb, placidly entering Jerusalem astride a donkey. The scenes of all the down-trodden of ancient Israel crying out “Oh save!” to Jesus, soon morphed into the various scenarios from today’s news about America’s ongoing racial, and socio-economic struggles and the seeming powerlessness and disconnectedness of the Christian community. I realized that I had been “ruined (again), for the ordinary” and yearned to see through the eyes of the Man of Sorrows who alone has always seen it all, understood it all, and whose shoulders alone can bear it all.

cross-1     Sitting at the station of the cross representing the Via Dolorosa, I caught a new vision of the One acquainted with our grief and realized that He has been answering my prayers – tears flowed silently, as I held a 12″ cross in my hand, intended to represent the burdens of others – I acknowledged my total inability to carry burdens myself anywhere but to the feet of Jesus! Relief washed over me as I felt oddly like a little child taking a young friend with an adult-sized problem to the only One I knew who could fix any and everything – My Heavenly Dad.

Almost without my knowing it, the awareness, acknowledgement, lament, confession and forgiveness stirred by sharing with brave souls, across ethnic lines in the BTB small groups, along with going through the Prayer Counseling Ministry of our church, and earnestly reading thru Scripture had changed me, changed the way I looked at the world and its sorrows: IT WAS NO LONGER UP TO ME, and in fact, never was. I could now look at pain and even let myself feel …without despairing!

picture2-palm-sunday-entrance-e1522213092601.jpg    Looking at the ancient scene in my mind, one last time, I recognized my place in the montage — I am the little colt, the little donkey sure-footedly ploughing through the crowds, freshly awakened to the fact that the cheering is not for me but rather for the King — the One I bear to the place of His Divine appointment. My only job is to be the King’s ride, responding to His whispered instructions and gentle nudges, without resistance or implosion, to prayerfully re-present Him to the various sites of my world’s egregious issues, wherever He steers me, from Heaven’s control tower. To arrogate more to myself is to risk winding up on my rear midst life’s troubled highways, in all that’s left of a virtual driver’s seat. He will do what only He can do — defeat the arch-enemy, destroy his works, heal the orphan’s broken heart and tame the zealot before he warps into a Judas or a ‘Killmonger’— establish His Kingdom’s reign where justice will freely pour down like a river. So, “Ride on King Jesus! Ride on!”. Come ride on my life; colt or Chariot of fire, this woman won’t “a-hinder Thee!”.

* ‘Be the Bridge’ is a small group curriculum designed by lover of King Jesus, Latasha Morrison. Available online, it provides content, reading recommendations and a framework for small group engagement of the sticky topic of racial reconciliation, across ethnic lines, from a Biblical stand-point. It is further supported by a FB community