As we approach Passion/Palm Sunday, we traditionally reflect not only on Jesus’ healings and teachings but also on the suffering and death that await him. Psalm 118 is one of the most significant lections for this period. If we read the whole psalm, we see intertwined with the exultant praise and confidence in God the definite signs of the hostility and conflict that will confront the bold children of God.
Jesus, of course, would have known this psalm well. Perhaps he found it often on his lips and in his heart as he moved toward Jerusalem, knowing that rejection and danger awaited him there along with the triumph and welcome. But while realistic, the psalm is clearly not the lament of a victim moving toward doom. It is a song of strength empowered by God’s hand, God’s heart.
As Christians we are often called to encounter conflict along with joy, but our loving and suffering were never meant to be a victim stance. God, who rides to the gates of our hearts and who rides with us through “the gates of righteousness,” does not force or compel us as slaves. God sets us free to choose our risks of love.
Jesus is never a victim; he makes every choice in freedom. His eyes are open. He sees clearly, even as did the psalmist, that the choice of love is costly. But when we choose to enter our gates of righteousness, we enter them enfolded by God. The vulnerability to which we are invited is an empowered vulnerability.
“The Lord is God, and he has given us light.”
God of our strength, God of our peace, as I enter into whatever gates of righteousness open to me today; as I make my choices, help me face the risks of love, knowing that your heart holds me forever. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. What situations have called you to move forward in vulnerability, “knowing that God promises not safety but limitless strength”?
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. When have you claimed God’s strength to see you through “the gates of righteousness”?
• Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. In a trying time in your life, when have you turned to the love and care of friends? How have you experienced God’s entering your life calmly and gently?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this early Christian hymn of the church speak to you as you enter Holy Week?
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