Reflection for Sunday – April 2, 2023
Readings: Matthew 21: 1-11; 89;Isaiah 50: 4-7; Philippians 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-27: 66
Preacher: Brigit Hurley
Today’s first reading presents the happy image of Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem by crowds calling out exclamations of praise and honor. Yet within days the same crowds call for his execution.
What happened? Why did he fall out of favor so quickly? Perhaps it’s because he didn’t act like the King they expected. They wanted freedom from the Roman oppressors, and the Jesus who was arrested and tortured didn’t appear to be the revolutionary they had in mind. Even his disciples denied him.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus asked his followers to heal and feed people, not lead a violent uprising. He resisted the Roman occupation through truth-telling, by exposing their weakness and meeting their violence with enduring strength and quiet dignity. His resurrection was the ultimate proof of the Romans’ misplaced belief in the power of violence.
Yet, here we are in 2023 living in a country whose tolerance of violence and guns was exposed once again by the recent school shooting in Nashville. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond?
As James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
In 2020, the CDC reported that firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, surpassing car accidents for the first time. In 2022, a record number of children in the United States were injured or killed by guns.
Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, CEO of the national Children’s Defense Fund, challenged people of faith to wake up to this reality after the Uvalde, Texas, massacre last year: “We have reached the point where the sheer relevance of the church is on the line.”
He compared the lack of outrage to the way that Israelite priests tolerated child sacrifices made to the pagan god Molech. “Molech called for child sacrifice, and as the sacrifices were being made, the priests beat the drums loudly so that no one could hear the child dying inside. I’m concerned that there may be priests [today] who are beating loud drums so that they drown out the cries of the children.“
Have we lost the courage to resist the violence that is affecting our children? Are we allowing the drumbeat of despair to distract us from facing it? What can we do? We can speak the truth, even in uncomfortable situations. We can work against conditions that lead to violence. We can vote, we can volunteer, we can donate and we can pray. If we believe in the power of the resurrected Christ, we will place our hope in the power of nonviolent resistance and truth-telling.