[Photo Palm Sunday cross ELCA Our Savior's Lutheran Church,
As I thought about the bombings in Brussels, Belgium yesterday, right at the beginning of Holy Week, all the great sorrow in the world becomes like a heavy weight trying to push humanity into the dust. Jesus, carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgatha, reminds us of the crosses we each carry throughout our lives. There are crosses of great tribulation, of sorrow, of pain, of death, but there are also crosses which are bathed in the glow of personal sacrifice and answering in a positive way the call to discipleship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyr to Nazi persecution, talked often of personal and social discipleship as responses to God’s many gifts of grace and mercy. Albert Schweitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, wrote a piece on his personal search for Jesus: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
I think no matter what your religious creed, there is an innate call to a discipleship, to serving something much larger than our individual self. Perhaps that is what jihadists feel through their constant use of terror. Perhaps they believe they are serving some much larger truth. Of course others feel the call to serve power and money and self-absorption. We see that all around us.
But in spite of the hopelessness, horror and death that seem to bedevil us, filling our vision each day, the call of the Cross of Jesus, is one that goes beyond ourselves. There is nothing self-serving in taking up the call of the Suffering Servant, as Jesus is called in Isaiah 53. Maundy Thursday of this Holy Week we are reminded that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, calling them to the servanthood he himself was living.
As I noted, this is Holy Week 2016. We are called to look beyond our narrow view of what this life is and instead think of what it could be for those suffering in this world. What about the hungry, the homeless, the refugee families struggling to escape war, trying to find a life. Every generation has faced that desire for something better. In my family we hear the story of a great uncle who immigrated from Norway to America because, “There has to be some place where a man doesn’t have to pull a plow like an animal.” Our call as Christians, but also as Americans is to give some substance to the dream of a better life, the life we take for granted. We are to be a voice for the voiceless and to point out a different way of seeing the world then blood and terror and smoke and then begin working to make it happen.