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Visions from The Catacombs

Matthew 21:1-11

21When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

What I Am Learning:

The crowds knew where Jesus came from. He came from Nazareth in Galilee. The well worn phrase, "Nothing good comes out of Nazareth" had faded from their minds as they saw the public leadership of Jesus as he oriented himself and others to God's way of mutuality.

But Jesus left Nazareth.

He left Nazareth and went to all the small towns, the cities and even Jerusalem proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come near. It was time to change, time to repent, time to re-imagine: it was time to love the one creator of all human beings and to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. And their neighbors included their enemies, the Romans.

Jezreel Valley from Nazareth out toward Mt. Tabor

He could have stayed there. He could have lived a life overlooking the Jezreel Valley fixing things for people as a carpenter. He could have had lots of thoughts about how the world could change. He could have held in his heart and head all sorts of righteous thoughts about how the Romans and the collaborating Jewish leaders were screwing things up for the common folk. He could have even eventually preached about it at the synagogue, making other's heads nod in agreement. But nothing would change except the thoughts in his head. Resentment and powerlessness could have been his blanket at night and the cold hard reality of his mornings.

But he chose to leave resentment and powerlessness behind him there in Nazareth and enter the real world of human problems and politics and passivity.

A week or so ago I was talking with some folks in a church about how our larger culture views Muslims. "Well I certainly don't think that way!" a woman told me. It struck me that what she was saying was that it was what was in her head that mattered. That somehow her thoughts were pure and that this was enough.

How many times have I thought that way?

Too many to number, I realize.

Like many of us, I have stayed in Nazareth, in the Nazareth of my own head.

Many others can't afford to stay in Nazareth. Muslims, Latinx, Blacks, LGBTQIA, Hindu's, those displaced from jobs and meaning by automation and mechanization. It is my white privilege that I could stay in Nazareth so long, to the detriment of my self and others.

Jesus left Nazareth to proclaim God's way of Mutuality - to proclaim love of one God, the creator and lover of all peoples, and love of neighbors.

In that unjust and broken time, Jesus' proclamation was dangerous. Powerful interests benefited tremendously from the way things were. They didn't want things to change.

But for one brief moment, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a sign of his entrance in peace, the crowds saw what could be and left their own Nazareth's to take part in a public demonstration of joy, resistance and hope.

Jesus invites us to leave our Nazareth's and join with others in public. What we may find is that the heaviness of our hearts, the burdensome thoughts that haunt us will be replaced by the the joy of being a part of Jesus' movement of love in the world. The blanket of resentment and powerlessness that we often experience will be replaced by the warmth of knowing we take part in the love of God in the world.

Passivity may save energy. It may make us safe. But it can limit who God is making us to be, and to be together.