On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.
How horses, turned out into the meadows,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight!
But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.
Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.
I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.
© 2006 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 55
It is Holy Week. We are here. Where have we arrived? Easter is still pandemically weirded out. And yet, we press on. We are having virtual foot washings and drive through stations for communion and distanced services outdoors and in.
As I read this poem about the Donkey, I wonder if this is who we are. Are we tied to a tree? Are we stressed out as usual? Or have we learned to trust God a bit more in the midst of change and strife? I am “not especially brave or filled with understanding, but I, too, am waiting. I am feeling the call deeply to wait upon the Lord. I am sensing that I don’t have to move toward making all my plans weeks/ months/ years ahead to feel I am a worthy servant. Pshew – it is hard to admit that, it is hard to give up that pressure and makes my spirit feel lighter somehow. Maybe this is what trusting in God is? Waiting upon the Lord, not feeling forced to plan everything to a “T”? What if I am a better disciple for staying tied to the tree, standing about, something I rarely did pre-COVID? Hmm. Strange new world in which I am living!
Friends, I am grateful for your servant-living and the faithfulness you have offered in staying the course over these past months. You have reached out when you needed resources and you have stretched yourselves to learn and grow as pastors. You have provided pastoral care in unique and wonderful ways to both congregation and community. Like the donkey, you have been working behind the scenes, which might make you “small, dark, obedient” lovers of God. Surely you are. As we move toward Easter, I pray God’s Spirit will sustain you wherever you are worshipping and however you are called to offer a witness. As we together declare “He is Risen!” may each of you, children of God, know Christ died and rose for you. As Lisa Yebuah told us when we last gathered: you look like love. If I/ you/ all of us are created in the image of God and God is love, then you look like love. Thanks be to God we are loved and we look like love. God cares enough to draw us in, to send a Savior, to love us like no other can. Indeed, in this Easter week, where you are serving countless unseen hours and giving of yourselves in ways you never thought possible, you are faithful and you look like love to me.
We have been gifted with a Second Chance sermon that is available for all to use next Sunday (to give you a preaching break) by our NCC staff and friends. This resource is available to use live on April 11 and will be available as a recording to send or use within worship as your setup allows. (Second Change Sermon Link) As we serve a God of second chances, this sermon could find its way into your worship service throughout the Easter season or beyond. I pray you will find this and other resources useful, giving you a moment to breathe or take a few days away, over the weeks to come.
A colleague posted the poem above to his Facebook page this week along with a Holy Week haiku his son wrote (said it was okay to share). It may sum up how our families feel about this week when we search deep down:
It’s that time again
Five services in 8 days
Oh boy, excitement.
While Easter is exciting, it is a hard week to go through after a hard year with fewer than normal fulfilling days. May you find this holy week one of excitement as we receive vaccines and know that Jesus comes and reigns to end more than one pandemic. Thanks be to God!
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