Love One Another

07-05-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend includes our civic holiday July 4th, which is a celebration of our Independence Day. Although the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor came much later, this magnificent statue has inscribed on it these words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me …” We must wonder: Did these words find inspiration in the Gospel of this weekend? It appears that this quote echoes the words of Jesus. The similar words welcome the humble.

We know from reading the Gospel stories that the folks who lived in the time of Jesus viewed their leaders as a few steps above the regular people. They also thought military leaders to be vastly superior because they wore impressive uniforms with jewels and medals of precious value, rode the best horses, and drove the fastest and shiniest chariots. We know from hearing the Gospel stories about Jesus and his life and ministry that he always used opposites or also contradictory or contrasting words or actions to convey or deliver a message. And so of course Jesus would ride a humble colt of a donkey. This contradiction said something big about the kingdom he wished to establish. His kingdom would be a kingdom of peace and not violence. His message about the kingdom contradicted everything the people of then, and perhaps now, believed or experienced. Indeed the reign of God which Jesus promised was nothing like what we experience on earth.

It is always very hard for us to change how and what we think. It always becomes even more difficult when people prefer to spend excessive time in and among “the weeds.” When you get down so low to the “weeds,” your view is off and your knowledge becomes way too limited or even wrong. All you can see is just the weeds, and not the good things that are growing or all the good and beautiful that is far up above. In the time of Jesus, people refused to change their thinking when they heard him. They did not want to see or think differently. They did not want to know about a kingdom that was not viewable from the weeds. They had closed their minds because they had already decided they knew what they needed to know. Seeing truth differently was a strange and alien concept to them. They did not understand that they needed to see through the eyes of Christ, not just their own limited eyes.

In the passage, Jesus tells of people who have not learned so much because, unlike a young child, their minds are not open and not able to be shaped by the truth. It is people who have open minds who easily accept the teachings of Jesus. People need to be open-minded and intellectually welcoming enough to understand the good news.

Bear in mind that in this kingdom Jesus himself promises us rest from our burdens for indeed his yoke is easy and his burden light. In many ways we know the more we have, the more we are owned by and a slave to our “stuff.” Cars are a good example. If you have an old car, you just spend enough time and money to keep it running. You spend less on insurance and upkeep. If you have a new car, the cost for all of its insurance and upkeep and special care is enormous. Easier to ride a donkey colt like Jesus than maintain a fancy chariot like a rich person! The prophet Zechariah tells all of us that the king will come victoriously in peace, riding humbly on a donkey colt. This king has no need to flaunt his greatness. This great king will do away with all that the world has come to know as “greatness.” So what does it mean for us as followers of this king? He demands one thing of us: love. It is clear that we must love God, our neighbors, and our enemies. This is our burden: to love everyone. Not easily done by us, but this is our mission.