We are God’s Prize – a Holy Week reflection

As we enter Holy Week, I am preparing a series of meditations which you will receive beginning Tuesday, writes Bishop Dorsey. They address a question that was posed at Synod, Who Are We?, and are based on six images used by Saint Paul to describe the Church in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 For. 2:14-5:21). Each is linked to a particular moment in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, beginning with the Triumphal Entry, and ending with the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene. Each concludes with an appropriate collect.

I invite you to use these for your own devotions as we move day-by-day more deeply into the Mystery of Mysteries. Please also consider the daily reflections and resources in our Lent Course already posted on our website.

I hope these may provide you with sustenance and encouragement as we together walk the Way of the Cross.

Tuesday 26 March – We are God’s Prize

Jesus was coming to Jerusalem…. [He] found a young donkey and sat upon it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”  His disciples did not understand this at first.  (John 12:12,14-16).

They brought the donkey to Jesus, threw their garments upon it, and he sat upon it…and he entered Jerusalem. (Mark 11:7,11)

Thanks be to God, who in Christ is always leading us in a triumphal procession, and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of our knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

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We follow a King who doesn’t look like a king.  He rides a donkey.  His saddle is a few items of borrowed clothing He has no need of bit or bridle. The gentle animal follows his will.  And we follow him

We complain about it all, of course.  Along with the disciples, we hope it will eventually pay dividends, that we’ll get what we want from this King.  We hope he will so bless us, grant us such prosperity, such approval, that it will drown out all our griefs, quiet our jealousy, and satisfy our insatiable need to be noticed.

But what if he won’t do any of that?  What if he has something else in mind?

Saint Paul says that Jesus leads us in a triumphal procession, spreading the “aroma” of our knowing him.  In Paul’s time, kings returning from victory dragged their captives through the streets.  These were the conqueror’s royal prize, the leaders in cages, the rest of them in chains, a parade of the exhausted, bleeding, filthy.  The “aroma” must have been horrendous. It wafted up from the narrow ways. The folk watching from their windows above covered their noses.

This procession, says Paul, is you.

Christ came to us offering grace, mercy, reconciliation.  He offered us a home in his heart, a room in his Father’s house, filled with love.  We fought him tooth and nail.  He won anyway.

And now he brings us in his victory train, but he is different from any other king.  Caesar’s glory goes well ahead of his captives to avoid their “aroma,” to emphasize the difference between Caesar’s power and their weakness.  But our King leads from among us. He rides humbly. We are close enough to touch him. He dresses like us, even smells like us. Our “aroma” does not offend him because it is the odor of his mercy.  All our sin is merely a reminder of his power to forgive.  We reach out our hands to him, and as we do, we find the offer he made of a room in his Father’s house, the offer we fought so hard, that offer still holds.  We taste the mercy.  We smell the promise of our healing.  We’re not sure we trust it, yet.  But it’s enough for us at least to pause in our grumbling and walk with him.

So, because at the moment, we can’t think of a better idea, we follow this King.  He has warned us it will not be easy. We follow him anyway.

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.