Are we really open to be taught? Are we ready to leave behind what we believe to be true and accept something entirely different? Take me for instance, I read the commentaries, the instructions for the various days of the year and I try and sift through the dust of a dozen generations to find the important things, the things that build up.
I was reading the Manual on Liturgy, a pretty darned dry little read, about what we might do on Passion Sunday, what has communicated the faith over the centuries and what might seem a little dated.
It gave the advice that since the Bible readings, so ably performed here by the Faith Lutheran Ensemble Players are so long, that the sermon might be reduced to a reflection, perhaps even skipped entirely. I assume that the purpose of this suggestion was to allow people to spend no more than an hour in church.
I have little inclination toward learning that lesson.
I was curious that the manual on liturgy, a book written for the purpose of helping the church lead people toward Christ and the cross would place a higher value on getting everyone home on time than they did on making sure that the Word of God got its due time.
Its due time.
How much time is that? How are we to judge? Are we to be like Tevye in Fiddler on the roof? Discuss the holy book with the learned men seven hours every day. Doesn’t sound too bad to me but then again, that is what I do and from time to time, depending on the room, I am the learned man, so there that is.
Or are we more like the common Christian who read the Bible for Confirmation but outside of that, hasn’t cracked the book in a decade?
Somewhere in the middle is the path.
For today, while we are in this place and while we have these scriptures to look at, to listen to and to enact for the benefit of all, let us take this time, make it the time due to the Word of God and let ourselves be open, our ears awake to listen as those who are taught so that we might be changed forever.
Maybe that’s what we are to take away from this morning’s Gospel, long though it was I hope nobody tuned it out. Every character in this morning’s reading knows what is coming. They’re all wrong, but they are convinced that they have a handle on things, that they know what words like Messiah and King and God mean, who those characters are in their lives.
Jesus knows what is happening as well, all of it. Not just what to expect but what is actually going to happen, how the expectations of every single person on earth are about to be confounded and the whole of reality altered and changed, redeemed forever.
And nobody, not even the disciples, are giving the Word, the living word of God his due time.
Their ears are asleep, they do not listen and when they listen they do not hear because they already know what is going to happen, they have known their whole lives, the Messiah is coming and it will change everything and they know exactly how that will take place.
And they are wrong.
The screaming crowds, Herod the King, the soldiers, the disciples, the Jews the travelers along the side of the road where Jesus walked from place to place, everyone; they all knew how the scene would play out if this was the messiah. At some point the fiery sword would come out. At some point the glory of God would strike those who would thwart the people of God. At some point, all of their dreams would come true.
What does it say about us that the book that attempts to give sage advice seems to know what will happen if I talk too long, or what will happen if I forget to light that candle, or light it on a day that is inappropriate to the season or forget what color the altar should be draped in, what does it say that this book seems to care more about how long it takes me to get to the “Go in Peace” part than it does about making sure that the word is spoken?
I think that it might say that we have become just as sure about what things mean and what will happen and have tried just as hard or perhaps even harder to manage what things mean and what will happen, shaping things to suit ourselves, our schedules, our priorities.
We like being in control and knowing what will happen. We lay our palm branches down at the feet of the King this morning because we know that as He rises, so do we, He will sweep us all along in His wake and we will be with God and it will be glorious.
If ever I wished that we still had crucifixes in Lutheran Churches, it is now.
Because in this morning’s reading, only Jesus knows what will actually happen and while it will be glorious for us and for our children, His children, it will not look like what they all expect.
It will also not look like what we all expect.
Unless of course we waken our ears to listen as those who are taught; then we stand a chance of the wisdom of God becoming ours and the salvation of God becoming ours and the power of God to shape and to create the future becoming ours as we give the Word of God its due time, when we surrender such a small slice of our time for the chance of being changed, of being made better, whole.
The play being enacted in front of our very eyes is the story of how allowing ourselves to be confounded, shocked, scandalized from time to time by the workings of God’s kingdom is the only way we will ever be changed, the only way God’s salvation can have any effect on us. We have to give it its fair shot at changing us if we ever expect to be changed.
It isn’t a gimme. We are a people who know what to expect and how things work and we like it like that because it gives us all a sense that we are the subjects of every sentence, the crown of creation, the masters of our own destiny.
But God sneaks up on your from time to time and when challenges arise, when we are surprised by the weirdness of the world, when we are rocked to our socks by the way our expectations and understanding conflict with someone else’s expectations and understanding, it is good to have a sense that we are, from time to time, the object of the sentence.
We are the object of God’s love and grace. Don’t know why, don’t really care. I simply allow that fact to settle into my life and see the world from where that thought takes me. When someone I did not vote for is elected president and I am the object of a regime I would not have picked, it is nice to be familiar with not being in charge so that it is not so onerous and I can cope. That is where that thought takes you. To a place of peace where you come to realize that all of this, all of our expectations and our glories and the tremendous accomplishments are never going to be enough to save us and that it is solely by believing ourselves the object of God’s love that we can see the world for what it is.
Our home, custom made for us, suited uniquely to us and our lives and yet not all that there is. We are given a glimpse of a world beyond the scope of our understanding, beyond the reach of our hands, the limits of our senses. We are given the gift of knowing that everything within our reach is a gift to us from God and that everything outside of that is our future with God.
So for a day let us set aside our own understanding and embrace the Lord’s. Give the readings their due time, and the preaching its due time and the feeding of the people its due time and see ourselves as actors in the play that is unfolding before us this Holy Week. We are not the authors but our parts are there for us if only we will listen as those who are taught.