Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Disruptive Divine Presence

Devotional for Palm Sunday 

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you ... you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” ... Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
 who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Luke 19:29-39 

As a child there was one treat that I always wanted, but I never needed: a McDonald’s Happy Meal complete with the featured toy of the season. I was an all-out McDonald’s enthusiast, with a rather impressive collection of Happy Meal toys considering the response I would get most often when asking for McDonalds was, “Do you have McDonald’s money?” Often followed by the offhand comment, “You don’t need it anyway, there’s food at home.” It was during these tense negotiations with my mother where I learned the difference between needing and wanting, and where I got a glimpse of the economic system that undergirded my mother’s ability to secure our needs and occasionally to satisfy our wants.

It is in recalling these memories that Jesus’ instructions to his disciples come into focus. “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is rich and textured. But it’s Luke’s decision to depart from Matthew and Mark’s account, and to designate Christ as king that opens this story to the wider implications it poses for us, the land, and the systems of production we’ve created that break bodies and abuse Creation.

Perhaps Luke’s retelling of the story casts Christ as king because of the disruptive role Jesus plays in this scene. Jesus has need of a young donkey, disrupting its ability to labor in the fields of an occupied Israel. Jesus is disruptive, causing workers to abandon their posts. It’s interesting that Luke’s account has no mention of Palm branches, but rather it centers cloaks. Jesus is disruptive, causing people to rethink their needs and their wants, displacing the capitalistic focus on materialism and production with another more powerful force, relationship.

This disruptive divine presence will not be easily displaced; in fact it will bring about a reordering of nature that causes the Earth to cry out. A reordering that clarifies what is truly needed. A new relationship not only between life and death but between bodies and consumption and between animals and production. A new relationship that helps us to listen to Creation, for it is speaking. A relationship that brings us closer to the new Heaven and new Earth that is stored up for us in eternity. And that is what we need, and for each Believer, that must be what we want.

Everlasting God, we confess that we have often given in to our desire to have and do more. We confess that we’ve loved what our eyes have seen and what our hands have accomplished more than we have loved you. May you grant us the spirit of disruption, that it may come into our lives and reorder us toward what we most need and what you require. Disrupt us with a holy disruption, and help us to be drawn into you and closer to one another.

In Jesus name, Amen.

A graduate of Howard University and Yale Divinity School, Joshua Narcisse serves as the inaugural Faith & Health Pastoral Resident at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and Church Health in Memphis, TN, where he leads digital and young adult ministries and develops spiritual care programming for medical professionals. He is an ordained ruling elder and candidate for ordination under care of New York City Presbytery.

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