Thursday, March 13, 2008

Holy Turmoil Week

We are in the last few days before Holy Week. For clergy it is a week of stress containing extra worship services and the pressure of a sermon and service for the largest crowd of the year. "Holy Turmoil" seems an appropriate title.

In Matthew's Palm Sunday text, (21:10) Jesus rides into Jerusalem and "the whole city was in turmoil, asking, 'Who is this?'" Thus begins a week of turmoil for Jerusalem. Jesus throws the temple into turmoil by driving out the sellers and buyers and overturning the money changers' tables. He raises the already high anxiety of the religious authorities with his clever answers to their questions and his sharply pointed parables about wicked tenants. Even vegetation is thrown into turmoil when Jesus curses the fig tree and it immediately withers. Who does not 'wither' when reading the 'woes' of Matthew, chapter 23? By the time the disciples gather for the Passover meal and learn there is a traitor in their midst, the anxiety in the plot is begging for release.

In place of release comes more turmoil but Jesus takes the anxiety of the system onto himself. From his own 'deeply grieved' prayer comes a calm presentation under arrest, interrogation, mocking, and beating. Then the turmoil shifts to us and we become bystanders at his execution. And we wait in our own deep grief for the promised release.

Humanity struggles to understand this week of turmoil as an act of compassion. Authors Nouwen, McNeill, and Morrison write that the turmoil of
"honest, direct confrontation is a true expression of compassion. . . The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought, and all who participate in these evils must be confronted. This is compassion." (A Reflection on the Christian Life)
They make the point that we cannot join Jesus in solidarity with the poor and oppressed or participate in releasing captives unless we confront the oppressors and the system of inequality that inhibits God's Kingdom from being realized.

Jesus began the work of confrontation that leads to freedom and release for all people. It is a work that Christians continue; it is our mission. Matthew's witness tells us that we can expect nothing less than turmoil when we join Jesus in his work of confrontation. On that day at Golgotha, even the earth shook and split when he carried confrontation to its ultimate end. Can we expect any less?

Happy "Holy Turmoil".

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