For some reason the donkey who carries Jesus into Jerusalem never gets much press on Palm Sunday—or any other time, for that matter. This Psalm Sunday, however, I am recognizing something in the donkey that I’ve not noticed before. It started a couple of weeks ago and has been percolating ever since.
I guess I’ve known it for a long time, but one morning, as I awoke, words slipped into my feeble brain to articulate it: Faith is never an escape from reality, but an open door into a new, empowered, transforming experience of that reality, whatever “that reality” might be.
I do not know what prompted that early morning revelation, but it has continued to germinate just under the surface of my consciousness. And, it has prompted a whole collection of questions. For instance, what if I live the next hour resting on the assumption that God really does love me (and employs a host of people around me to incarnate that love)? What if I discipline my thinking to enjoyment of all that is good from moment to moment in stead of blithely indulging my tendency to obsess on frustrations and frightening possibilities?
What if I greet every encounter expecting that Christ is waiting, hidden within it? Or, what if, in addition to expecting to receive Christ in every situation I enter, I expect to bear Christ into every situation. That requires me to understand my life as Palm Sunday’s chaotic Jerusalem, and myself as the donkey Jesus rides on. There may be very little in any particular situation for me other than the thrill of having Jesus ride on my back.
The rhythm between recognizing the donkey bearing Christ in others, and being ourselves the donkey bearing Christ–that seems to be one of the paradoxes of a Christian vision of a responsible love among all beings, radiating God’s own love throughout creation. I appreciate the range of associations you put in the mouth of this donkey!
The donkey entrance to Jerusalem also hearkens back to the prophet Zechariah, who contrasted one kind of kingship with another by contrasting the kinds of animals ridden to the coronation. So attending to the donkey also involves attending to the larger political currents we inhabit; riding a donkey represented a prophetic form of political theater, much like street protests of today. To connect your new donkey thoughts & questions with some recurrent thoughts I’ve had about the point of social protest movements: one way to be the donkey is also to use our individual voices in our small lifetimes to speak to at least some of the injustices for which we’re collectively responsible as a people, even when we know that only an apparent death of our hopes might result. We have to bear witness, just as Jesus’ followers did, to what seems most right and good.
The Reign of God is no more and no less apparent in our world today than it was in the first century. Bearing witness steadily to an alternative way of being in the world involves practicing seeing signs of God’s love and turning our eyes in that direction, as you put it well. I’ve always been drawn more to faith-based activists because they are often driven by a sense of vision of something that they see is already here in our midst–not only arriving still.
It’s hard work to keep our focus on the ultimate amid the “chaos of Jerusalem,” so thanks for a grounding image to meditate upon.