The Road to Peace

Reading 1:


Mark 11:1-11

1When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna!
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 
10   Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ 

 

Reading 2:


Wendell Berry

To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust
Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin
 
Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,
 
for I know that you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know
 
there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.
 
But remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he give a light, divine
 
though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.
 
You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light.  It will be
 
the light of those who have suffered
for peace.  It will be
your light.

 

Sermon


We were so very tired.  It had been three long days of travel – walking the hot, dusty roads from our village to the holy city.  When we began, our little group talked non-stop. Even with the weight of the food and other supplies we carried, I felt as though I could make the whole journey in a single day.  As we shared memories of the festivals of prior years – recalling the sight of tens of thousands of Jews streaming toward Jerusalem from all directions as they came together to celebrate the Passover.  The buzz of the city packed with pilgrims, camped anywhere and everywhere they could to satisfy the requirement of celebrating Passover within the city’s gates.

Despite the presence of the occupiers – the hated Roman soldiers – this was a time of celebration. Each year, the celebration of Passover reminded us of how our God has saved us time and time again – how he delivered us from slavery in Egypt.  We might even dare now to hope for deliverance from the Roman tyranny that made us prisoners in our own land.

We walked on, meeting up with other knots of pilgrims, all with the same destination. Small groups condensing into larger ones, all journeying in the same direction, all with the same purpose and the same thrill to be returning to Jerusalem.

As we drew closer to Jerusalem, the air was thick with dust and the acrid smoke of thousands of cooking fires.  It was harder to sleep now, as the noise of this great pilgrim multitude only dwindled but never stopped completely during the night.

Amidst all the animated reunions and the sharing of news between long-separated friends and family members, something different was happening this year.  Rumours passed from person to person.  They spoke of a man called Jesus who came from the town of Nazareth – a four-day walk from Jerusalem.  This Jesus travelled from town to town teaching and preaching with a group of his followers.  Some called him as a great rabbi.  Others went further...  With eyes full of hope, they whispered the word ‘messiah’ – the anointed king of David’s line who will someday arise to reunite the people – the great hope who will free us from oppression.

The word messiah – the dream it represented – caught at my heart and dared me to feel the hope I had locked away for so long. But we’d seen others rise up against the Romans, only to be crushed bringing greater oppression, more soldiers, and more suffering. What would this Jesus of Nazareth do?  Would he appear with men at arms ready to make trouble? 

At last, we were close to Jerusalem.  There were thousands and thousands of people now, streaming, pouring toward the gates. Most were dirty and hungry. They arrived riding and walking…  old and young people… the rich and the poor now side by side…  I could no longer make out distinct voices – just the sound of humanity’s laughter and tears merging into a insistent living hum. Onward we thousands flowed, streams combining into a great river surging toward Jerusalem.

All at once, I became aware of something happening behind me.  Others must have felt it too because many of us were looking back and a hush spread quickly over the multitudes. “Hosanna! Save us!” I heard. “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Jesus, Messiah! Hosanna!” I strained to see where these shouts were coming from.  At the back of the crowd, someone was coming. “Hosanna! Hosanna!” I heard the name Jesus being called out again and again, louder now, but I could not see through the throng to the object of the cries. I moved closer to where I thought this Jesus might come through the crowd.  I looked for swords and pikes, for the glint of sharpened blades. I looked for horses, ready for battle.  Where was the warrior king who was to save us?

The excited sounds drew nearer. Hopeful shouts filled the air. Worried faces – eyes darting here and there to monitor the reaction of the Roman soldiers. Hopeful faces, their eyes dark with the longing of people who lived without freedom.

At last, the crowds began to part to allow a small group of people surrounding a mounted rider to pass through. Could this be him?  The Jesus they spoke of?

The man they surrounded – the man they looked upon with faces full of such hope and adoration – was no king.  Dirty and tired looking, he rode slowly on the foal of a donkey.  As the rider slowly moved forward, his followers ran stumbling forward holding branches and cloaks to throw ahead of him. Others began to join in. Leaves and fronds appeared as if from nowhere to form a path, welcoming this man Jesus to the holy city in a manner more fitting of a great victorious king than the bedraggled figure he appeared!

I walked closer toward him.  The singing and shouting became louder.  Some of the women were crying, but not in sorrow.  Some sang through their tears. 

I lost sight of my companions, and turned to move back toward where I last saw them but the swell of the crowd propelled me like a cork on the sea. When I turned back again,  I found myself next to the man on the colt.  I could see his face clearly now.  He bore the dust and weariness of the journey as we all did, but in his face there was a hint of more than that somehow. 

I didn’t make a sound, but he turned slowly to look at me.  I was suddenly dizzy – not sure I was still standing at all…  I was falling into the depths behind his eyes and the deep, bottomless sorrow there. I saw the destruction of the temple, slavery in Egypt, the exile in Babylon… All the persecutions of the past and others yet to come.  Among thousands, I was naked and alone in a still place.  Calm and peace spread through my entire body. I felt at that moment that I had been seen, known, and accepted just as I am for the very first time. With the sorrow and joy of the ages, this sad peaceful king smiled at me. 

Freedom would come, I knew then.  It would come not through war, but through love. 


We close with words from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.