The Things That Make for Peace
Historically the reading for Palm Sunday has ended with verse 40. “If these people were silent, the stones would shout out.” And we think it’s all good until Jesus passes the Pharisees with some measure of bravado, and then looks out over a city divided in its loyalty, bent on conflict – and he weeps. Always and still we human creatures tend to answer violence with violence as a means to peace. Has that ever worked? Ever? Never – and yet we continue to fight violence with violence. We even continue to fight attempts at sharing power, at true democracy with violence. Or, pretend our hands are clean, by simply selling the tools and technology for war to other countries because it’s such a lucrative business.
Today, in our world, because we still do not understand the things that make for peace, there are over 60 million refugees.
6-0! We have a few of them in Salmon Arm. Not many yet, but a few. A couple weeks ago, Jim and I were at the Salmar Theatre to watch a few documentaries about the plight of Syrian refugees, and learn more about what the community is doing to welcome them. One video was about a 19 year old Palestinian Syrian refugee whose biggest dream is to have a passport. He is one of the 3.5 million people considered `stateless.’ He has never belonged anywhere. He told of the only place of peace and safety for him was a shelter run by a German Catholic nun, where they sang songs over and over. He loved music. For him this was so precious and life-giving. He began to sing his favourite song:
Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Solo Dios basta.
Please sing it with me… VU 290 (Nothing can trouble)
We know of the Palm Sunday parade. There must have been a moment of giddiness and joy and just a little poke at Rome’s army who would be coming in from the other gate, with their parade of power, daring the citizens of Jerusalem to step out of line during the Passover celebration.
Then– spoiler alert – it’s all downhill from there. We know the stories of a Passover meal to remember; Jesus adding another layer of meaning, in order that his disciples might have something to lift them up, when their world is broken apart.
Less re-enacted, but very important, during the meal Jesus’ showed a way of power that was incomprehensible, scandalous even – he showed it by washing his disciples’ feet. `This is what true leadership is’, he told them. `This is what it means to be a part of who I am.’
He went from there to the garden of Gethsemane – where he prayed for strength to face the journey ahead of him – to face it in a way that defied the practice of violence in response to violence. There in the garden, even in his grief, and fear, Jesus was plotting resurrection.
The wise and lovely Parker Palmer says, “Violence arises when we do not know what else to do with our suffering.” Mardi Tindal, former moderator of the United Church of Canada wrote an article in this month’s UC Observer, and says the corollary of that is “Non-violence arises when we learn how to transform our suffering.” In Jesus’ forgiveness of those who arrest him, beat him, crucify him, deny and betray him, he carries suffering differently. Mardi says, “If he hadn’t, I’d doubt that we’d know his story.” And I say, `See – plotting resurrection!’
Which brings me to the art table at the back of the church…
For years I’ve resisted liturgies about bunnies and butterflies when it comes to the Easter story. It just seems too `light and fluffy’ for me – the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection is far too important to be reduced to these cutesy images. However…I spent some time on Tuesday morning – mucking around with paint and water and food colouring and – you guessed it – butterflies. `Why?’ you may ask. I invite you to think of the imagery.
If you are fortunate enough to have a butterfly land on you, you might go – Oh, that’s so beautiful! But if such a creature landed on you – without those beautiful luminous wings – you’d probably quickly brush it off, or maybe even squash it! Think of how we regard the lowly stink-bugs who love to seek refuge in our sanctuary.
When I think of how Jesus faced his suffering not resorting to violence, not seeking revenge – to me, he gave wings to what would otherwise be a stink-bug! He plotted resurrection. So, I’m going to invite you to plot resurrection with me this morning.
I’ve brought some butterflies and I’m going to invite you to paint them. As you paint these luminous wings – let it be an act of prayer. The Greeks saw butterflies as the symbol of the soul. So let this be soul work – giving wings of light and freedom and joy where they are needed.
Is there something that has been weighing you down – that you need to hold more lightly?
Is there someone you know who seems stuck in an unhappy or unhealthy situation? Let the painting of these wings be a prayer for the courage and freedom of new beginnings.
Is there a world situation that seems so in need of healing – let these wings be that prayer for peace, for healing, for justice.
Let’s go plot resurrection together!
We went to the back of the sanctuary and painted butterflies – come and see them on Easter Sunday 🙂