Dare to Care: Action on a Large Scale

Scripture for Sunday: Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Notes on the Text:

This is the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem according to the Gospel of Luke. Each Gospel focuses on certain aspects of the story as they fit their perspective and narrative. The author of Luke embeds several citations or allusions of other scriptures such as Zechariah 9:9 and 2 Samuel 6:1-5 to help us understand that Jesus was the Messiah/savior for whom the people were waiting. In Luke we do not hear about palms being used. Instead we hear about people using their cloaks/garments to make a welcome path for Jesus (referencing back to the entry of King Jehu in 2 Kings 9:4-13). Then the crowds shout a direct quote from Psalm 118 identifying Jesus as the king.

 

In Luke, Jesus entered Jerusalem with a band of his followers from Galilee. Jesus, a peasant from the countryside, who came into Jerusalem to challenge the status quo of society so that he may capture their hearts and release the people’s minds from the Roman and religious systems of domination and power. He came to help his people imagine a new possibility for their society, a possibility of compassion, justice and peace. His vision for the kingdom of God was an alternative to the vision of the kingdoms of the world as they knew them, but he needed to subvert their expectations. He needed to shock them so that they could allow a different vision to capture their imagination. Jesus, like many prophets before him, used street theater to get people’s attention. We get a clue about this when we see how he carefully orchestrated what kind of animal he would ride as he entered Jerusalem. Jesus was prepared for the parade. He didn’t just show up. Jesus had already set up what animal he would ride and had sent his disciples to the house of the person who owned the donkey. This was all previously set up by Jesus in order to get people’s attention and to spread Jesus’ message beyond the limits of his followers and Galilee.

 

Each year while the Jews were preparing to celebrate their festival of freedom (their 4th of July), their occupiers, the Romans paraded into Jerusalem to remind them that they were under their control. So Jesus could not have picked a more volatile time to enter into Jerusalem. He was going for the big stage. And the details of the story are rife with symbols of hope for his people such as the location of the parade, the animal he rode, the chants, and the crowd of his followers proclaimed that he was the new king of Israel.

This was Jesus’ large-scale action to help spread his message. He knew the cost of such action, but he also knew the importance of such an action. His message needed to challenge and transform the systems of the world into the ways of God’s compassion.

For Reflection:

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is all about the transformation of the whole of society into God’s vision of compassion. While it is important for us to be compassionate in our day-to-day interactions, we cannot forget about the importance of transforming the systems of our society. This kind of action is hard for us as we would prefer focusing on small-scale acts of compassion. It is hard to engage each other about compassion on a large scale without challenging the status quo where profit is often put above compassion and where violence is used to threaten and subdue people who threaten the status quo. The political divisions that exist in our society often mislead us into believing that compassion on a large scale is impossible. Most of our human systems are set up to always have winners and losers. In order to change that, we must change our assumptions and principles. Jesus offers compassion as the large-scale assumption for our social systems. Spending our energy on political divisions often shifts our focus from wrestling with the big issues and how we might imagine a world where compassion is the guiding principle.

Another challenge for us is that we also don’t see a lot of models in our culture for large-scale and systemic compassion. It is important to lift up the example of Jesus in his humility, nonviolence, and courage to invite others to join us in a movement for compassion. Jesus offers us a new vision for our world and for our lives; a vision that is alternative to the ways we normally see and do things. Jesus shows us a great example of how to work for compassion on a large scale.

I would like to highlight a movement that started in 2008 by someone who followed in the footsteps of Jesus. In 2008 writer and speaker Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize in the amount of 1 Million dollars and the expertise of a wide community to make a bold wish come true. Her wish was to help make compassion a reality in our world where people would live by the principle of the Golden Rule. Out of that wish, the Charter for Compassion was born. The amazing thing is that her wish and her vision created a movement in our world that is still going strong. People from all over the world submitted ideas on what the charter would include. Here is the website for the Charter for Compassion: https://charterforcompassion.org/. I recently connected with a couple of local chapters in our area where people are working together to make their cities compassionate cities. In February of this year one of the local chapters has succeeded in having their city adopt a resolution to designate their city as a Charter for Compassion city. This was in Olean, NY. I know that Brockport is going through a similar process. I have started exploring the Charter for Compassion project for our area. If you are interested in getting more information, please let me know. We have a meeting set up with one of their leaders on May 7th. In the meantime, I pray that you will consider how God is calling you and your community to transform the social systems of our world to be instruments of God’s compassion.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”

 

Prayer by Marian Wright Edelman:

Lord, I cannot preach like Martin Luther King, Jr.
or turn a poetic phrase like Maya Angelou
but I care and am willing to serve.

I do not have Fred Shuttlesworth’s and
Harriet Tubman’s courage
or Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt’s political skills
but I care and am willing to serve.

I cannot sing like Fannie Lou Hamer
or organize like Ella Baker and Bayard Rustin
but I care and am willing to serve.

I am not holy like Archbishop Tutu,
forgiving like Mandela, or disciplined like Gandhi
but I care and am willing to serve.

I am not brilliant like Dr. Du Bois or
Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
or as eloquent as Sojourner Truth and
Booker T. Washington
but I care and am willing to serve.

I have not Mother Teresa’s saintliness,
Dorothy Day’s love or
Cesar Chavez’s gentle tough spirit
but I care and am willing to serve.

God, it is not as easy as the 60s
to frame an issue and forge a solution
but I care and am willing to serve.

My mind and body are not so swift as in youth
and my energy comes in spurts
but I care and am willing to serve.

I’m so young
nobody will listen
I’m not sure what to say or do
but I care and am willing to serve.

I can’t see or hear well
speak good English, stutter sometimes
and get real scared standing up before others
but I care and am willing to serve.

Use me as Thou will to save Thy children today and tomorrow
and to build a nation and world where no
child is left behind and everyone feels welcome. Amen.

 

 

Boundless compassion526-275

Weekly Bible Devotionals

Written by Pastor Roula Alkhouri

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