Walking Toward Jerusalem

—by Rev. Susie Hayward

Every year, it’s the same story. And every year, we are invited to go deeper into it. There is power in repetition. Like so many cultural traditions – ancient oral traditions and newer text-based ones, those indigenous to our land and those of our ancestors who grounded themselves on different lands, Christianity operates with the assumption that we don’t need new sacred stories to grow. Rather, we need to hear the same sacred story, over and over, so that it might work its way into us and through us, revealing new truths along the way. And so the story of a world-disrupting week will be told again later this month, opening with Jesus walking toward Jerusalem and toward confrontation with Empire, taking us through the broken bread and broken loyalties, garden weeping, swords and thorns, a sky spit open and glory poured out.

Since the last time we were pulled through this well-worn plotline, things have changed. We are new people coming to an old story, and we are a new church. How have you changed in the past year? How has Mayflower, and the world? What new insights does this ancient story have to offer you and us for this moment – a fresh, new moment this story has never before been held up against? How does it speak to this time in which we are seeking to understand and practice forms of deep spiritual discernment in preparation for what lies before us?

This year, I’m particularly conscious of the ongoing violence in the soil out of which this story first arose. In Gaza most egregiously, but also in Bethlehem and the West Bank and in the kibbutzim that butt up against the Gaza border wall, home to many members of the Israeli peace camp. What is our teaching telling us this year as he parades into Jerusalem with his retinue of peasants? Which worldly empire is God seeking to confront? Might it be our own, a global empire that funds the bombs currently falling on a stateless and trapped people? Who are the religious leaders who conspire with the imperial leaders to drive injustice? Is it our own, who preach an American Christian Zionism that is inherently antisemitic, white supremacist, and violent? Is it our own, those who remain silent or look away, afraid to say anything? Beloved, might Jesus be confronting us, we modern-day citizens of Rome, in this particular movement as blood flows anew into the same soil where his own did two millennia ago? I don’t know for certain, but I wonder. And that wondering is leading me to begin my march into Jerusalem the day before Palm Sunday, on March 23, as I join others in a Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage along the shore of the Mississippi. I hope some of you might join me. Read below for more.

I cannot know from here, at the threshold of the Lenten season, where the story will end this year, nor what exactly will happen along the way. But I pray that we skip over none of it in our grasping for a happy resolution, but rather sit in the darkness of the tomb. It’s only by so doing that when we reach Easter, we might all emerge from it different people, in a different church. Transformed anew by the story of what it means to be Love embodied, and what it costs, and all that is at stake. It is only in this way that we might be renewed on the path to Jerusalem.

So let us gather together, Beloved, to hear a story powerful enough to change the world. I’ll see you in Jerusalem; I’ll see you in church.