|An Atonement parishioner with "Radar"|
Photo courtesy of Atonement.
Yesterday, we did it again, as we do every year at the Church of the Atonement; we reenact Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem by processing around the block led by our friend, Radar, the donkey. Arrayed in red vestments, holding palms, with bells pealing, we offered a witness of the Christian faith and story to the urban neighborhood in which we live. I always look forward to it. Once around the block, and then back inside for the Passion, the homily, the Eucharist, coffee hour, and the rest. But that procession was just the first steps of the entire Holy Week journey to the cross, the tomb, and new life. We walk with Jesus this week, marking out the places and events that define the essence of Christian identity. And hopefully, we will be changed by the experience.
|Clergy in procession on Sheridan Avenue. |
Photo courtesy of Atonement.
Through formal community engagement, we meet many spiritually hungry people, but there are many we don't meet. The procession may be an invitation to these other folks, but it can also be a spiritual "hit-and-run" experience, that cleanly tosses the ball in the other person's court, and relies on his or her initiative to inquire further. What an intimidating thought. The Church meets me where I am, but before I can ask a question or have a conversation, it's passed by me. You mean I have to venture inside that imposing building down the block to find out more, to learn what that spectacular parade was all about? The procession is a great beginning, but it may not be enough. The Palm Gospel above provides some insights on what might be required of us. The faithful go out in procession, SHOUTING to invite the whole city to learn about Jesus. The curious ask what all the turmoil is about, and Jesus' disciples in the crowd convey some pretty startling news. The procession is a means to an end, a disruption to tell the whole city about Jesus. That conversation changed everything, and here we are millennia later acting it all for the benefit of another generation. So, how might we do a better job of inviting people to explore the Christian faith?
|Mthr. Kate Guistolese passes out palm crosses.|
But it will take more than good signage or an advertisement in the local paper. It will take ashes, and palms, and other hands-on invitations that build relationships. It will likely ask us to try different and uncomfortable things. Imagine, for a moment, a Church that would offer to wash strangers' feet in public as a sign of servanthood--on a street corner, in a prison, in a park. And then feed them. What kind of message would that send to the world; what kind of invitation would that be to a stranger? Reflect on that as you hear the Word of God, and have your feet washed, and eat and drink, and strip the altar bare.
Many blessings for a very Holy Week.