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Changing Shape But Never Losing Being

It’s Palm Sunday 2020

A Palm Sunday like no other.  No Palm Sunday processions. No collective worship. It’s all very strange. Ruth and Heather (our vicar and curate) have sent us through some material on an email to se in Holy Week – for which much thanks.

I think we’re (my wife Bev and I), are going to take a walk later, maybe up to the top of Robinswood Hill, and do our own procession.

Meanwhile, I have made a Palm Cross out of a strip of wrapping paper to put on our front door (One of the ideas we were given)

Latr on, I might also make a poster to say ‘This is Holy Week’

But for now I’m thinking about the Gospel reading Matthew 21 verses 1 to 11.  It tells of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Hundreds of years before Jesus, the prophet Zechariah had written:

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

And now, here is Jesus, entering Jerusalem in that exact same way. It’s not a coincidence – Jesus knew the prophets, and had clearly understood that the prophecy matched the nature of his mission.

A victorious king would normally have ridden in on a war horse.  A donkey doesn’t have the same effect.  So why a donkey ?  Because this victory parade calls for the king to be humble and lowly.

And the crowds are cheering and putting down their cloaks (here in Matthew’s Gospel it’s cloaks, not palms – maybe we should call it ‘Cloak Sunday’ ?)

They are recognising that the quailities that Jesus possesses are just what they are looking for in a leader.  I’m guessing that the people cheering Jesus are mostly drawn from his followers and they know him.

And the quality mentioned here is described as meek or humble or gentle.  How to undestand that word ?

Eugene Peterson in his tranlation of Matthew 21 uses this phrase to translate the word humble as ‘Poised and ready’.

And in the poem ‘Lucky Meek’ by Peterson there is this line – “Each cloud is meek, buffeted by winds it changes shape, but never loses being.”

(From his book of poems ‘Holy Luck)

I love that – changing shape, but never losing being.  There is a strength to this meekness. It’s not describing someone who will let you walk all over them. This meekness, this humility, is strong but always non-violent.

So how to see these few verses today in April 2020 in the midst of lock down ?

The image that comes to my mind is the neighbours on our street and across the country who on thursday at 8 o’clock in the evening were clapping and cheering our NHS workers.  NHS workers who are buffeted by what is going on, but somehow holding fast.

And not just the NHS, but others who in different ways have had to ‘change their shape’, but are still providing the services that we rely on – the ones who take away our bins, bus and train drivers, supermarket workers, farmers, food distributors, and others too many to mention.

I have just been watching Keir Starmer, the new leader of the Labout party, being interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show, and talking about the changes that must come after coronavirus – we cannot go back to ‘business as usual’.  We now know who the key workers are.  They have been ‘the last’ and now must be ‘the first’

We applaud you – we pray for you. Especially when you are argued with, shouted at, spit upon, cursed – as I know many of you are.

You may have to change your shape, the way you are working, but we pray that you will not lose your being.  Poised and ready for whatever comes next.

Amen

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