Weekly Reflection • 29 March

Weekly Reflections

Good morning, it is Robert here sharing with you as we come apart and journey together for a short time at the feet of our Saviour. Welcome again to everyone whether you are joining us for the first time or a regular listener. It is always a pleasure to have you with us.

We are now in the last and sixth Sunday in Lent. Yesterday was called Palm Sunday. In it we remembered the last time Jesus would enter Jerusalem. He did it in grand style with thousands welcoming him with shouts, waving of palms and also branches and cloaks laid on the ground that the colt Jesus was riding would pass over.

Thus, begins this week called the Holy Week as we remember Jesus’ last week on earth. It will comprise of Maundy Thursday when we remember Jesus instituting the Holy Communion as he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. In it, we also practice the washing of feet as Jesus has given us as an example to follow.

This Friday is Good Friday where we solemnly remember Jesus’ sufferings at the trial, crucifixion, death on the cross and burial in the tomb. On Sunday, we will rejoice with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “He is alive!” goes the shout. We will have baptisms and Confirmations in the Cathedral as part of our Easter celebrations.

This is a dramatic and exciting week as we journey with Christ recalling his last week on earth. His love, tenderness, meekness and gentleness for us and for our sake.

Prayer of the Week

Sixth Sunday in Lent / Sunday of the Passion [Palm Sunday]

Almighty and everlasting God, of your tender love towards us you sent your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This morning our Bible Reading is taken from Mark 11:1-11

Bible Reading

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.


Returning The Colt

Like the Easter Story, many of us have heard the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem many times as it is repeated annually. I have heard of it about 50 times now and even preached on it on a few occasions.

As I think about this event again, I have a burning question. Why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany? As I search around for the answer, I came across a sermon by Father Michael K. Marsh – a priest in St Philip’s Episcopal Church, Uvalde, The Diocese of West Texas. This sharing is based on his sermon.

I think the answer to my question and the implications of that answer hold the key to our Holy Week this year.

You remember what happened, right? Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a borrowed colt. We call it the triumphal entry. A huge crowd gathered along the way. They were shouting their hosannas. They were throwing down palms and their cloaks for him to ride on. They were rolling out the red carpet. There’s excitement and anticipation. This Jesus thing is really going somewhere. Something big is happening.

We see Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he enters the temple, he looks around at everything, and he leaves….

He does nothing. He says nothing. He just leaves. He goes to Bethany. It’s a strange and anti-climactic ending to the triumphal entry. It sounds like Jesus is retreating, getting out of town. What’s that all about?

Did Jesus have somewhere else he needed to be? Did he have an appointment? Was he scared? After all, Holy Week is a scary week with Thursday’s arrest, the trial, the beatings and then the crucifixion on Friday. Could that be what his leaving the temple is about?

This is such a strange and anticlimactic ending to the triumphal entry that it makes me think there has to be something significant here. And it’s unique. Mark is the only one of the four gospels to describe this.

In Matthew (21:10-13) the whole city is in turmoil when Jesus enters. He goes to the temple and drives out those who are buying and selling. He overturns tables and chairs.

In Luke (19:40-46) Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and then enters the temple where he drives out those who were buying and selling

In John’s account (12:12-33) Jesus does not even go to the temple. He already cleansed it at the beginning of the gospel. Instead, he enters the city and begins teaching.

Mark’s is the only gospel that says Jesus entered the temple, looked around, and left. So why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany? The gospel tells us why. Jesus left the temple “since it was already late” (Mark 11:11).

What might Jesus be late for? I have an idea about that but I need to you bear with me for a minute. I think Jesus was late getting the colt back to its owner. Here’s why I say that. There’s another unique aspect about Mark’s account of the triumphal entry. Mark is the only one to say that Jesus promised to return the colt to its owner. The other gospel writers all agree that the colt was either borrowed from its owner (Matthew 21:1-3; Mark 11:1-7; Luke 19:29-34) or found (John 12:19). But only Mark speaks about Jesus returning the colt.

Jesus sent two disciples to borrow this colt and told them if anyone asked why they were taking the colt they were to say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly” (Mark 11:3). And that’s what they did.

So what if that’s why Jesus left the temple? Maybe he left so he could keep his promise and follow through on what he said he would do. Maybe this is about Jesus being true to himself and keeping his word. What if this is about Jesus staying centred within himself despite what the week will hold for him? What if returning the colt is a metaphor for us as we enter into and walk through this Holy Week with Jesus?

What might returning the colt mean for us throughout this week? It’s an image to ponder and it raises a couple of questions. First, what do you need to return this week? What do you need to release or let go of? We all have stuff that we have carried around with us for far too long. It’s no longer able to take us anywhere or give us life. It’s just baggage we carry that continues to weigh us down. It impoverishes life. It corrupts our heart.

What do you need to let go of, to release, and to return this week? Is it a grudge or resentment? Anger? Fear? Disappointment? Regret? Guilt? Envy? Maybe you need to return being in control, having to be right, a need for approval, perfectionism. I don’t know what it is for you but I am convinced that we all have stuff to let go of. Maybe this Holy Week is the time to return and release it all to God, trusting that God can do something with this stuff when we were never able to.

And what if returning and releasing this stuff is also about returning to our center, reclaiming our truest self? That means we could then move forward, not from the same old place, but from the newly recovered centered. That’s what Jesus did. He stayed true to himself through this week, and so must we. So maybe returning the colt is ultimately about returning to that self of beauty and goodness, created in and loved by God from the beginning?

What if these are the two movements throughout this week? Returning, releasing, and letting go. And returning to and reclaiming those parts of ourselves that have been lost, ignored, forgotten, or denied. Even as we carry around that stuff that needs to be returned, so also there are parts of ourselves and our life to which we need to return to.

This leads me to my second question. What do you need to return to? Is it to joy, hope, beauty, truth and honesty? What if we came back to justice, mercy, forgiveness? What if we reclaimed the dignity and holiness of each human life? What if we recenter ourselves in God’s peace and courage? What if we returned to love of neighbours ourselves? Coming back to ourselves would be like a new life, wouldn’t it?

So we begin this week by returning the colt. What do you need to return and to what do you need to return? To answer these two questions, we must look around like what Jesus did. Looking around at everything outside and more importantly, within us. Look at what’s there. Look at what’s missing. Look at what you need, what you feel, who you truly are, and who you want to be. And then return the colt.

Take that image of returning the colt with you this week. Take it wherever you go. Bring it to whatever you do. Hold it as you pray and worship this week. Let it be present as you live your life and as you engage people in relationships whether in your family, at work, at school, at the supermarket.

Returning the colt is how Holy Week begins. Returning to God and ourselves is the promise of how this week will end. Look around at everything and then go return the colt.

The Morning Collect

Let me today be a Christian not only in my words but also in my deeds:
Let me follow bravely in the footsteps of my Master, where they may lead:
Let me be hard and stern with myself:
Let here be no self-pity or self-indulgence in my life today:
Let my thinking be keen, my speech frank and open, and my action courageous and decisive.
Let me go forth, O Lord my God, to the work of this day, still surrounded by Thy wonderful lovingkindness, still pledged to Thy loyal service, still standing in Thy strength and not my own. Amen.[1]

The Blessing

May the beauty of God be reflected in your eyes,
the love of God be reflected in your hands,
the wisdom of God be reflected in your words,
and the knowledge of God flow from your heart,
that all might see, and seeing, believe
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thank you for our time together. Looking forward to be with you again next week. In the meantime, do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.

[1] A Diary of Private Prayer, Baillie, John; Oxford University Press, 1936. (Day 29)