Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reflection on the Passion: Sunday, March 28, 2010 : “How Glory Goes”

There’s a wonderful song from a rather obscure musical called “How Glory Goes.” It’s a reflection on what heaven will be like, and how little bits of our life on earth give us an insight into what might await us there. The hero, dreaming in rural Kentucky of a more hopeful future than he has in his life on earth, sings,

Do we hear a trumpet call us an' we're by your side?
Will I want,
Will I wish for all the things I should have done,
Longing to finish what I only just begun?

Or has a shinin' truth been waitin' there
for all the questions ev'ry where?
In a word a' wond'rin' suddenly you know;
An' you will always know...

Will my mama be there waitin' for me,
Smilin' like the way she does,
an' holdin' out her arms, and she calls my name?
She will hold me just the same...

Only heaven knows how glory goes,
what each of us was meant to be.”

We wonder what heaven will be like when our lives seem so limited, so broken. And we try to wrap our minds around a world that would take someone like Jesus and put him to death. And then we try to understand why Jesus would allow this to happen.

Today’s gospel readings certainly raise these questions once again.

I mean, after all, if you knew your work was going to be dismissed and you were going to die, would you still climb on that colt and take what looks like a victory lap going into Jerusalem?

That’s the big question for me as I participate in this Palm Sunday service of Holy Eucharist…we’ve re-enacted Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem with all the people laying palms down on the road and praising him. We hear about the glory, about all the people waving those palms. But no sooner do we get back into our seats here in the auditorium than we start to hear about how short-lived this glory moment really is.

Today, as we hold our palms in our hands, we cannot sense the irony of the triumph unless we are reminded of what is to come. When we feel the stiff sharp-edged palm frond in our hand, we need to be reminded that is not simply an instrument of honor, it is also the reed that will be used to beat Jesus. And we are the ones who will use that reed as a weapon. We take the glory and crush it.

When we deny Jesus, as Peter does on Friday, as the elders do in Jesus’ kangaroo court trial, we are causing him as much pain as if we were beating him with the reed. We get that. If there was any doubt in our minds, it was banished when we cried out “Crucify him, Crucify him!” as we read the Passion just now. Our sins are the reason that Jesus dies, and his death is what redeems us from our sins. He suffers for us, because of us, and he goes through the journey to Jerusalem knowing that this is what waits for him at the end of that journey. But although we take the glory and crush it, glory will not remain crushed.

But why does Jesus go through what seems like a charade, riding on the colt as if he is a king welcomed home into the city? Is it merely a dance that he participates in, knowing that it is all artifice?

No, something different is going on.

It is an ironic moment, to be sure, but it is also a preview of a time beyond time when the glory that seems to accompany this first ride turns into a new reality. Jesus is showing us how glory goes. It is a new, uncrushable glory.

We cannot fully understand the enormity of Jesus’ gift to us. We cannot know what heaven will be like, or how the experience of that glorious second coming will transform us all, but in hearing the story once again of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the hard work that he took on to be our salvation. We see a glimpse of the place we hope to go to eventually, after we, too, do the hard work of being worthy of our salvation. That is how glory goes. Not without pain, not without sacrifice, but ultimately triumphant. As we go through the story this week, as we remember the cost, we know that this is the necessary path to how glory goes.


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