Prepare for a bumpy ride! This week’s readings are doozies. It is amazing how quickly the Hosannas of Palm Sunday end. Loneliness and mournfulness fills Lamentations today with a series of five poems representing building grief over the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon. It captures the thoughts of Holy Week: rejection, suffering.
This year has been exciting Lenten offerings at FPCOKC. There was the Journey with Jesus Stations of the Cross a while back that got a lot of press coverage, and gave us an opportunity to walk the Via Dolorosa in a colorful, vibrant way with our windows. Last night was the Seder meal. The Labyrinth has been used creatively, with me leading a midnight walk for the youth along the theme of darkness and light. Through these experiences, many of you have experienced the depth of emotion Jesus must have felt going to the cross.
In Mark, the shouts of Hosannas die away quickly and the darkness of Holy Week creeps in with Jesus cursing a fig tree and cleansing the temple.
The cursing of the fig tree has been one of the more troubling actions of Jesus for me. Later the disciples find the tree withered, and remember him cursing it earlier. Jesus launches into a speech about having faith. It is hard to put two and two together here without a little context.
First, why does he curse a tree that is not producing fruit? This is part of God’s good creation! This tree isn’t producing because perhaps it is dormant, or it is old. Is that reason enough to curse it? As if Jesus was angry with it. Because of the tie in with faith, I have to assume that Jesus is meaning for the disciples to produce fruit, through faith and forgiveness. Jesus even makes the allusion that the Romans have more faith than the Jews. It is gutsy and edgy talk.
I also believe, that paired with the cleansing of the temple, Jesus shows that anger and isolation can be used to the glory of God when channeled properly. And if one knows the Old Testament, these two stories clearly work together. The abundance of disillusionment with the establishment rings forth! The fruitless fig trees of the Old Testament prophets comes to mind: Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and others. The temple represents the old guard as well.
Jesus is announcing a withering and destruction of the old ways. He is inciting and shaking up the order. Holy week is in full swing and it is only Monday!
May this week be one that rattles your foundation, brings a new vision of Christ at work in you, and restores in you a vision of new life and hope for the future.