Today’s passages again invite us to a blended vision: the struggle and agony of Psalm 31 and the exultation of Philippians. How can both be true? The God we see through scripture is a God of polarities but not of polarization. The apparent opposites are held together in God’s heart.
Jesus also holds the opposites together in his heart. During his desperate praying in Gethsemane, he feels the anguish Psalm 31 describes: the brokenness, the lash of scorn, the desolation of desertion, “the whispering of many—terror all around.” At the same time Jesus feels, as did the psalmist, the face of God shining steadily on him and the strength of God forever upholding him. Certainly he is thinking of that psalm as he prays one of its early verses at the moment of his death: “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”
Out of this union of suffering and trust in Jesus’ heart rise such Christian hymns as that of Philippians. I do not sense a scenario of a manipulative God first smiting and crushing Jesus and then raising and exalting him. Rather I see the exaltation of Jesus in the very moment of his humility. He can be humbled because he is already exalted.
Humility involves being open to full humanness. The most truly great and gifted persons I have known are the most human and approachable; they are not ashamed of laughing, crying, grieving, being angry, loving—all expressions of the human condition. Likewise Jesus, with his immense God-given powers, is not ashamed of “being born in human likeness” or of “being found in human form” (Phil. 2:7). In this mingling of giftedness and humanness, we see the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. We see deeper into God’s heart.
O God, show me more fully the mystery of your love that enters our pain and transforms us in your power. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. What situations have called you to move forward in vulnerability, “knowing that God promises not safety but limitless strength”?
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. When have you claimed God’s strength to see you through “the gates of righteousness”?
• Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. In a trying time in your life, when have you turned to the love and care of friends? How have you experienced God’s entering your life calmly and gently?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this early Christian hymn of the church speak to you as you enter Holy Week?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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