Eh Jesus? Yes Peter? They’re going to kill you for that Jesus!

IMG_0164After the flags and the palm branches and the manic crowd laying their cloaks in the road, the so called triumphal entry looks a little different the morning after.  It’s a bit like a party at which something unwelcome has happened half way through, or someone uninvited turns up late and a little too drunk.  The mood turns sour.  Of course the unwelcome guest was Judas and his message was betrayal. We’ll finish that story later today with our dramatic reading of the passion.  But I want to draw your minds back to the end of last year, our celebration of Christ the King because John Davies (strangely, not a welsh bishop) preached on exactly this point.  Jesus arrives at one gate of Jerusalem on a donkey.  No royal clothes, no band of soldiers just a crowd summoned up from those who followed him there and a few curious onlookers.  Perhaps the families he was with at Bethany came with him.  If I wanted to be bold I might suggest he even planned this at Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s house.  It has the hallmark of a planned event.  A covert operation.  Even the Donkey and Colt were pre arranged with what might seem to be a code word ‘The Lord has need of them’.   At another gate, and perhaps even at the same time arrives the Roman ruler to ‘keep the peace’ during the Jewish festival.  he arrives expecting full patronage, with an armed guard and courtiers.  Jesus’ entry is mocking the Roman rule.  He is setting himself against Pilate, against the system that dominated their lives and he is suggesting that God is on the side of the poor and the marginalised, not the rich and the mighty.  To say that this annoyed the Roman rulers is an understatement.  They had no choice, their system demands the death of those who disrupt their power, for how else are you to keep peace, and yet here stands the embodiment of a different way.  And even the Roman ruler Pilate seems to suggest there is no guilt in this man.  And the centurion at the foot of the cross confesses his understanding.  And finally it is accomplished.  The prayer out of the tradition of Iona reads:

Jesus, the master carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails accomplished our whole salvation.  Wield well the tools in the workshop of this world, that we who come rough hewn to your bench may be fashioned to a truer beauty of your hand.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves  It is only Palm Sunday.  I’m sure Jesus and Peter had a conversation or two after this event – I wonder what that might have been after that little stunt at the gates of Jerusalem.

Eh, Jesus?
Yes Peter?
Did you really ride to Jerusalem on that Donkey?
Well, Yes Peter, you were there.
Sort of Jesus, I was er, taking in the mood of the crowd.
Were you scared Peter?
Yes Jesus.
So, How was the mood?
The mood Jesus?
Of the crowd Peter, you know, the ones shouting a lot.
Oh that, well they seemed to think you were some sort of King.
Anything else?
They shouted Hosannah a lot!
Yes, I heard that one!
They seem to think you are going to overthrow the Roman Rulers.
Oh.  What do you think Peter?
Well…  You have been talking a lot about your Kingdom and the hour being
Been listening Peter, Iʼm impressed.
So, are you Jesus?
What Peter?
Going to overthrow the Roman Rulers?
Yes Peter, but not in the way they think!!
Theyʼre going to kill you for that Jesus.
I know Peter.     (pause)       Peter, are you hungry?
Iʼm always hungry Jesus, you know that!
Well go on and find the others, theyʼll be setting up for the Passover meal.

Eh Jesus?
Yes Peter?
What is it about you and food?

Epiphany: offerings that cost us nothing?

“We will not offer to God, offerings that cost us nothing”
An opening verse and response from the morning prayer of Iona Abbey.

Offerings for a newborn:  The top ten required gift items maybe?  Cloth nappies wraps & pins, changing mat, grow-suit, (Though it seems you can spend your life in one of these now moving from cute rabbit baby versions through to the so called onsie in all shapes and sizes.) Blanket, blue fluffy rabbit, cot mobile, baby monitor, car-seat, Bottles Breast pump and sterilising equipment, sling of random construction.

Contrast this to the gift offerings the ‘Wise Men’ chose.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  Close.  I wonder what would have been offered if it were wise women…  Of course these were offerings with a different purpose – to set apart this birth to mark it in particular ways.

“We will not offer to God, offerings that cost us nothing”

As a student full of righteous anger at the many injustices of the world I sat in Iona abbey and responded to this verse with indignation that many in the world offer only what they can easily afford.  Welcoming the outlet of mistrust and scorn at bankers, governments and corporate financiers, regimes of hate and violence, terrorists and generally anyone else.  The liturgy was a place where anger was moved and motivated, exercised; and put to rest.

In later years taking students along to a week on Iona the phrase became familiar, something within the liturgy, something to challenge others with a question within the phrase itself, what does it cost us to answer this question.  Very little.  Words come cheap.  There was no understanding that this meant action – even though the whole place spoke about such things.

However, things change.  Wind forward a number of years, as an early member of the Iona community trying to make sense of the rule of life especially the economic discipline and accounting to fellow members for time, money and other worldly resources it became a yardstick of giving, what is enough?  How much should it hurt?  At what cost the offering? Could this be seen as bargaining and bartering offerings and gifts in an effort to make them seem costly when in fact they don’t cost at all?  Are we in the business of competitive giving?  Surely this phrase was not meant in this way?

We will not offer to God, offerings that cost us nothing.

This phrase haunts me now because I’m not entirely sure I ever understood it in the past.  Not sat as a student in Iona Abbey, nor as a new member of the community.  Turn the phrase around and ask, What are the offerings that cost us nothing?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the book “The Cost of Discipleship” and I wonder if this line in the liturgy is taken with that book in mind.  At what cost to ourselves what we offer.  Not necessarily in financial terms – forget about the church quota for a moment.  I’m not talking about bricks and mortar.  Being a follower of Christ is more than about church on a Sunday.  And this is where Bonhoeffer’s book is central for the line that comes to mind is, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”

Discipleship is costly.  What is it going to cost me personally this year to chalk on the door or the gatepost or the wall 20+C.M.B+14 the cost of this might be minimal at the outset, but what are the ‘costs’ of this action?  To have this as an invitation over the door can be costly indeed.  It is an invitation of hospitality to those in the know, an invitation to question by those who do not.  It invites us to ask ourselves how much of our life we are willing to give over to God.  Jesus asks not for Gold, Frankincense or the latest in tablet computers, but simply for the offering of ourselves.

no lightening bolts…

I was jumped upon to lead a little prayer time and impromptu Eucharist last night,  fortunately I had my phoneand therefore access to this meditation which I used as a prayer of blessing with a few on the spot changes to include the wine.  No lightening bolts as yet – so I’m guessing I’m safe!!