Some years ago I worked for Grace Presbyterian Church, we had a preschool, Sand Hills Preschool, that was connected to the congregation. One year for science and nature the school adopted Caterpillars. This was a cool science project, rather boring, but cool. We ordered caterpillars from an educational science company, received care instructions and basically, watched, and watched, and watched, and waited.
In the last days of the caterpillar’s growth, which was the most exciting, you can see the rustle inside the cacoon as the caterpillar was growing and forming, trying to make its way out. Now when we see a living being struggle, our instinct is to want to help, want to ease its struggle, want to take away its pain, but here when the caterpillar struggles the most important thing we could do is sit still, wait and witness. If we are to touch the caterpillar too soon and try to bust it out of it cacoon, it wouldn’t be fully developed. Perhaps it would lack its wings, or even die, but if we carefully witness and observe the caterpillars struggle, a miraculous transformation takes place, the caterpillar is born again into a new life as a butterfly.
This process of waiting fills us with mixed emotion, both sorrow for the struggling caterpillar and joy for the celebration of new life in the butterfly. Imagine for a moment the first human to witness the transformation of a caterpillar into a glorious butterfly with its colorful wings. I wonder what their spirit said to their souls… sit, wait, witness.
Our Gospel tells us the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus’ three years of ministry coming to the focal point of our faith. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. This is the week we’ve prepared for. This is the center of our Salvation history.
I can remember when the box with the caterpillars arrived and all the young eyes looking inside the box with excitement, anticipation, and hope as their teacher gently guided them.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
The people of Bethpage and the disciples were excited to see the Son of David, who was here to save them. Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven! The very definition of Hosanna is to save or rescue. They march into Jerusalem proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth is here to save us.
Now this left the people of Jerusalem in turmoil, some not knowing who Jesus was, but had heard of the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. What were they to believe?
This begins the struggle.
A caterpillar stays in their cacoon for anywhere between five to twenty-one days. You can imagine the great disappointment in our children when their expectations of the birthing of a glorious butterfly didn’t meet their imaginations.
Christ, humbles himself as a servant slave. He doesn’t very much look like a king who will save his people. He is betrayed by Judas and suffers great pain. He is persecuted and condemned to die. Imagine the disappointment, the sorrow felt by many. Imagine the pain of his mother and the disciples who believed in him, had faith in him, trusted him and walked with him.
We walk into Holy Week much like children, excited for its arrival. As Christians this is what we prepare for, the highlight of our liturgical year. As a priest there is no greater anticipation than to walk alongside a congregation through this unfolding story, to experience and learn through the rustling of our own cocoons as we journey with Jesus on his way to Calvary.
While we experience mixed feelings of joy and sorrow into every Holy Week as we affirm our faith and trust in Christ Jesus, it appears we do so, even more, this day. As our world has changed and the comfort of being in the presence of community has altered our experience of Holy week, it is never more important for us to be present in Holy Week. Waiting, witnessing, and utilizing this journey, during this time of lockdown to deepen our faith and trust in our Saviour Christ. This week, the holiest of holies is calling us to be enlightened by the Passion and Resurrection, calling us to be empowered by the Gospel and march forward carrying the knowledge and understanding of God’s deep abiding love for us with all our faults and frailties. We must be present to the call to journey forward holding with us the gift of compassion and forgiveness, for beloveds, each of our struggle in the birthing of our ressurected life will be different. By taking on the way of Christ, journeying with him aspire to be in His likeness and humbling ourselves to His service becoming vessels of His love and mercy. Jesus poured out His love for us by suffering death on the cross. He died for the good of all people from each end of the earth to the next.
Hosanna, save us, Hosanna, save us now!
No, Jesus didn’t appear as one would imagine a king. He appeared as a healer, a lover, a voice for the people, a sacrificial lamb. He humbled himself, and all this time later, still, we remember, we reflect, and we recall the hope, the light, and the life that transformed the world.
We may each struggle to birth forth from our cocoons, especially as we grieve what communal life once was, but remember beloveds, we are an Easter People, full of hope, eyes set on the light of the world given to all nations. The Risen Lord is before us.
Remember, reflect, be still, abide in your faith, journey along, and trust in the almighty healer of the world, our Saviour Christ Jesus.
May God’s good blessing, be upon you.
In Christ, Mo. Allison+
It is my instinct to get up and go when someone calls. It is my instinct to be by the side of the sick, the suffering, or those in need. When I was in school in NYC, I’d stop and pray with those living on the street, never afraid to hold hands or bless a forehead or even give a hug. It is my instinct to be present, to love, to break bread with a stranger. I naturally presumed that is what I was called to do, but the truth is not in and of itself the action but in the revelation of the glory of God that comes from the action.
Today I’m called to obey, to listen, and wait.
Waiting is hard. I want to fix everything. I want to ease the pain, to be by my loved ones who are secluded, alone or even hospitalized, yet I’m called to be still, to pray, to love from afar, to wait for the Glory of God to be revealed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is called. He is called by Mary and Martha to be by the side of his ailing friend, but does he drop everything and run? No, for he is also called by God. He continues his ministry from where he is and waits two days, loving from afar. Some may say, but how O’Lord can you do this? Why are you allowing the suffering of the ones you love? Many of us may be asking that question now?
“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice”
The answer is both simple and complex.
If Jesus jumps and goes to Lazarus too soon how then how would the Glory of God be revealed for all to see? Jesus must wait, still, and set his sight on God, having faith and abiding in His steadfast love.
So too must we… Abide, have faith and obey.
On Wednesday Christians all around the world stopped what they were doing at noon and called upon the Lord through prayer. All eyes on our Sovereign God.
On Friday Pope Francis held the special Urbi et Orbi from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica. As the rain fell steadily, the Pope offered his prayers, his blessing and sat in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. My heart stopped for a moment as I watched him stand and receive the Monstrance. I could feel both the almighty power of God and the deep sadness of the world. With his feeble body and all his might the Pope turned to the Square and the world; he lifted the monstrance holding the Body of Christ high making the sign of the cross from the east to the west. As he then returned the Blessed Sacrament to the priest, I can feel the gasp of my Breath. “Oh Lord out of the depths, I cry to you.” With the rain falling on a dark and empty St. Peter’s square, I cried.
And I remembered, Jesus wept too!
Jesus, returned to the village where Mary and Martha were with Lazarus, and although he knew the Glory of God was about to be revealed, he recognized their suffering, and he wept. There is no greater two words in our Gospel, “Jesus wept.” He shared in their suffering, he shared in their love, he shared in their grief, and he shares in ours as well.
Jesus shares in our grief, in our suffering and in our world. Stillness does not mean nothing is happening or that God is ignoring our calls but rather that God’s Glory is about to be revealed in ways we never could have imagined. Just as we could never imagine that a man dead for four days could rise and live.
“Lazarus, come out!”
Just when you imagine all hope to be gone, all life to be dead, hope rises and a new life begins, to and for the Glory of God!
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe in me?”
I will never take another hug, another handshake, or kiss for granted. When the oil of my hand touches another, their imprint, their bond, will live on.
Yes, Lord, I believe! I believe the Glory of God is at hand. I believe that Easter is coming and you, O’Lord will rise and conquer the hearts and lives of all your people.
Yes, Lord, I believe, I believe you are the light and life and with you, in you through you, life is eternal.
May the Blessing and love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be revealed in his Glory and abide in you always.
In Christ, Mo. Allison+
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On Thursday evening I received a call from my son. I barely said hello as in his excitement he exclaimed, “God humbled me Ma’! God wanted to humble me. I swear.” I could tell that something big happened to him, something special, something memorable. “Slow down, breathe. What happened?” I said. “God was active in my life, God was active.” I could hear the tenderness in his voice as he began his story. I could tell he was moved more deeply as if he was spooked but at the same time at peace, a deep peace, that kind of peace you feel when you are brought to tears by an exuberant joy. “I missed the 5:06, and had to catch the next train when it came I jumped on, but it was an Express to New York. I had to get off in Woodbridge so I waited for the next train. I was cold, really cold, and just as the train was supposed to come, I heard the voice on the loudspeaker, the train was canceled. My phone was dead and I didn’t know what to do. Then out of nowhere, this old black man began to talk to me. I asked if he could call me a cab, so he dialed the number and the station no longer exists, so he offered me a ride to Linden.” He was excited, he had to share. As a mom I wanted to say, “Are you mad! What if something happened to you?” but as I priest, I took a deep breath, stayed still and I could hear something did happen to him, something big.
“I got into his car and we talked the whole time. He told me that when he was in college all of his friends had cars. They would pass him by with a beep and a wave. He took the bus to get to school from one end of New York to another. It was far. Well, one day he missed the bus. His friends drove by, beeped and waved like they always did and then there was this guy in a pick-up truck with a big dog. He stopped, waved him on in and gave him a ride to class. Mom, he said, “From that day on son, I promised to never let any one man go stranded. If ever there was someone stranded, I would pick them up and give them a ride.” Ma’ he knew me. He knew that’s what I do for all my friends, that’s what we should do and he did it for me. God was active in my life today. He wanted to humble me Ma’, humble me. I’ll never let anyone go stranded.”
In a world where we are building walls, social distancing and shutting out the other, Jesus engages the other in the story of the woman at the well. It’s not about quenching his physical thirst as a man or asking for a favor. The story is deeper, more lovely and beautiful as Jesus expresses his knowledge of her for all that she is, even as a Samaritan woman, he loved her without shame, without pretense, without expectation.
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.
Excited about her encounter with Jesus, she rushed to the city to tell everyone she knew. God was active in her life, humbled her and she was known and to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.
In a world that at times, seems to lose its sanity, engulfed in fear, and stockpiling silly amounts of toilet paper, are we still enough to trust and know our encounters with our active God? Are we brave enough, to engage in a relationship with those who are seemingly unlike ourselves? Do we allow ourselves to be nourished, not by tap, well or bottle, but by the spirit of God that lives among us? The spirit that truly knows who we are, faults and all.
I keep wondering, what if I had a mom reaction and instilled my fears in my son, would I become an obstacle to his grace, or would I miss the blessing of his shared grace? He evangelized his mother. He trusted, had the courage and felt the call of God who nourished him and in turn nourished me. That’s evangelism, that’s God.
To be known is to be loved and to be loved ist to be known.
In this time of “social distancing” be intentional, be in a relationship, reach out and let another know how deeply they are loved and proclaim the Grace that God has given to you, to everyone. Engage, lovingly engage.
I am so very grateful to the man and to the God who loved my son.
Blessings, Mo. Allison+
I had the opportunity to preach and serve at St. Barnabus Episcopal Church in Monmouth Junction over the Advent season and for Christmas services. I am grateful for their presence and witness. My heart is full! It was simply wonderful.
A Blessed Christmas to one and all and a very Happy New Year!
After a very long and frustrating week, especially this day, I find great comfort in this production by Word Live (Psalm 42 and 43) I hope it brings you comfort as well.