Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Ordinary Day

Holy Monday

Like many of you, we are having services each evening this week in my parish. We're having Evening Prayer today through Wednesday, then we will kick into high gear on Maundy Thursday through the Triduum.

I had the honor of leading Evening Prayer tonight, as I will again tomorrow. I'm putting a lot of time and prayer into the development of these services … as our parish is still not really practiced in the Daily Offices.

The Gospel for this evening (Mark 11: 12-25) struck me. It was just an ordinary day for Jesus and his disciples. They came up from Bethany on the way to Jerusalem.

Of course, we can't read "on the way to Jerusalem" in an ordinary way. We know what most of them didn't. When he gets to Jerusalem, all hell's going to break loose.

They're going along the road, like it's an ordinary day. Then they arrive in Jerusalem, and Jesus is livid when he sees what the religious leaders have done to the temple. He goes into a tirade, driving the merchants and money-changers out of the house of God.

We hear a worrisome echo in this Gospel: "And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching." You and I know what's coming. We know that the religious leaders of his day are going to get their panties in such a wad that they will eventually conspire to murder him.

But on this day, in this Gospel account, there's not that sense of foreboding. It seems – in Mark's telling – like just an average day in the life of Jesus and his motley crew of rather slow-to-catch-on disciples.

And, along the way, Jesus cursed a fig tree … which later they pass by and find it's shriveled. "Weird, huh?" the disciples must have mused among themselves.

But Jesus takes that moment to make a point to them. He says:

Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
I'm doing my best to walk with Jesus this week. But this is a hard reading. He tells his disciples that they will have awesome power. By inference, I guess he's saying that to you and me, too. How often do we claim that power or use it? Not very often, in my case.

And then there's the lackadaisical tone of this reading. Like Jesus is clueless – or at least the evangelist is clueless – about the powerful events that are being set in motion in Jerusalem. Surely, Jesus' rant in the Temple has ticked off the religious leaders. In a few days, they're going to kill him.

On this Monday in Holy Week, the reading was confusing to me. Jesus going blithely about his business. While I know how this week is going to end.

Here's a funny thing: I find myself, as a reader of this story, wanting to say to him: "Have a care! Watch your back!" But he's not going to do that. He's going to go on his way, still trying to teach the disciples. Still telling them they have more power than they or we can even imagine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3/18/2008 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fruit and leaves appear at the same time on fig trees. The tree Jesus cursed was a hypocrite, waving it's leaves as if it were fruitful when it really wasn't. I think Jesus' point was that you shouldn't be a show off. OCICBW.

Thank you for these thoughtful posts Lisa. You make me want to explore how these passages might sound to me if I didn't know the rest of the story. What might I see if I could loose my crucifixion anxiety and be more present with the text?

A blessed Holy Week to you.


3/19/2008 4:41 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for that horticultural insight, Lindy! I had no idea. So, yeah, it makes the reading a lot deeper and more connected. The fig tree -- just like those religious leaders -- were being hypocrites. Having the signs of life and growth, without the fruits thereof. Very powerful lesson to me in that. Thank you.

3/19/2008 7:08 PM  

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