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If These Were Silent

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A crowd gathered. In response to the rally out on the streets, people “… from the crowd (shouted out) to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” (Jesus) answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.” (Luke 19:39-40, CEB).

THIS is the Good News for us today. This is a living, breathing, moving story, filled with rejoicing and hope. This is an ancient narrative… and a “today story.” This is a “grab what you have nearby” and show up story, and the growth of an understanding. An understanding that when the world around you, around us, tells us to “be quiet,” “follow the rules,” “don’t upset the status quo,” that in that silence somebody, somebodies… some… bodies… some thing… some… where… WILL shout out. The world will not be, cannot be, silent in response to dominant powers. Powers that weld economic privilege and spew forth hate that demonizes and divides.

Thus, I invite you today into this, a “…day of fortune reversal. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to a cheering crowd (which) soon gives way to a tragic trial and a jeering mob. The blessings of a sacred last meal, (which) ends with a series of tragic prophecies. A quiet night of prayer is overcome by a violent crowd, ending in an arrest. And so begins our Holy Week, a week of sorrow, but a week when we also prepare for another reversal of fortune on Easter Sunday.”

Hear these stories: At the U.S./Mexico border in 2006, I found myself pulled into this living, breathing, moving story out on the dusty, unpaved street of Juarez, Mexico. It was Holy Week, and a retelling of the Passion story was embodied through the throng of the thousands of people gathered that day – men, women, children, strollers, and stray dogs. I do not know Spanish, but I fully understood the story unfolding before me as we walked along the dirt streets of the city. There, I was a witness as Pontius Pilate, standing on the steps of the Catholic Church in that Juarez neighborhood, presented Jesus before the crowd. In one voice the mass shouted, “Crucify him.” We cringed as one body as Jesus was flogged, over and over. Each blow struck something deep inside us. We watched as the thorn crown was pressed onto Jesus’ head. 

“If they were silent, the stones would shout.”

Years later, I got an even deeper understanding of this living, breathing story as I stood on the Mount of Olives with teachers and friends, and looked across the valley to the east wall of Jerusalem. The thinness of time and place became embodied in the reality of timelessness of the human story. Our relational story. With God. Earth. Each other. This is an ancient narrative… and a “today story.” This is a “grab what you have nearby” and show up story, and the growth of an understanding.

And a story in which a man… with a donkey… showed up.

“If they were silent, the stones would shout.”

In our world today, if these were silent… who would… who will… shout out?

  • When historically black churches burn, who will shout out? This week, we have been learning more details about the fires which were intentionally set in Louisiana March 26 through April 4. Over the past 3 years, the FBI has reported a rise in hate crimes across the country. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/us/hate-crimes-fbi-2017.html)
  • This week, as parents fleeing violence and poverty with their children, in particular the despair and hopelessness parents from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are enduring, our country was declared “full.” Yesterday, faith and community leaders gathered at Plymouth UCC in Madison to share their experiences during recent trips to the US/Mexico border. Stories were also told regarding the realities into which those who are immigrants and refugees to our own community are encountering racism.

In their stories, Jesus declares even the stones will shout out.

  • Again this week, as I gathered with People of Faith United for Justice, a block from the Capitol in Madison, I listened to issues around the current proposed state budget concerning clean water, as reports regarding lead were shared. We know that there is no save level of lead. Yet a 2015 report by the Wisconsin Department of Human Services found that “… 4.6% of tested children under 6-years-old statewide had elevated blood lead levels. This is higher than the national average and nearly as high as Flint’s rate of 4.9% in 2015.” Nearly as high as Flint, Michigan’s lead rates in children. A nonresponse poisons our children (http://kidsforward.net/assets/WCCF-Lead-Report.pdf) People responded by going to the Capitol, talking with state representatives and legislators. They shared their personal stories of private wells that are contaminated, and the prohibitive cost of replacing lead pipes in older homes. This was a moment of “shouting out.”

At Memorial UCC throughout Lent, our project has been rooted in rocks. On Ash Wednesday and the following Sundays, we handed out prayer stones one which a single word was written. We used these words in worship, our homes, our cars, schools and places of work to guide our living into our faith story throughout Lent. We have gotten together to paint Kindness rocks with joyous images (and you will have another opportunity to do so after worship today!). In this sanctuary space, the stone wall before us should continually remind us that these narratives, these rocks, are embedded in the stories of our lives. They are solid reminders of the great abundance and hope in our living, breathing, moving story. The ancient rocks remind us of God’s continual Holy Love and Grace in the midst of our own stories of brokenness, anxiety, depression, loneliness, pain, cancer, caring for family members who are sick. Dealing with dementia. Mourning the death of a loved one. Working. Looking for work. Helping our kids with school. Responses to bullying. Powers that demonize and divide.

This is both an ancient narrative… and our “today story.” And there are ways for us each to “shout out” in ways big… and small.

So come. Come this day into that ongoing Holy Reversal:

The joy of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The all too common reality of tragic trials and jeering mobs which we see all too often in the media. The blessings of the sacred last meal which is the eternal, never ending story, our Alpha and Omega and ongoing invitation to the Table to which Jesus invites us all.

Hear the prophecies.

Take time for moments of prayer.

Be a witness.

Name the existence of unholy evil in our world today.

Do not be silent. Shout out.

And so begins our Holy Week. A week of sorrow, but a week when we also prepare for another Holy Reversal of fortune on Easter Sunday.

So come!

~Pastor Kris

Reflection on Luke 19:28-40 and Luke 22:14-23 offered Sunday, April 14, 2019.