April 2, 2023 Reflection and Worship Link

Picture of Rev. Carla Wilks

Rev. Carla Wilks

Associate Minister

Looking for love

“Look for the Unexpected”

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21: 1-11

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Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was certainly not an expected entrance. At that time, Jerusalem was a city that had been conquered and resisted and conquered again in recent history, so they were not strangers to the conquering general or governor parading into town. This was normal. But – the entry would be on a horse – not a donkey?! A donkey wasn’t a sign of power and authority – it was a sign of peace. Jesus asked for a donkey. So his arrival was not one of conquering power. It was an arrival in peace and humility.

The townspeople laid down whatever they had on the ground to cover the path as he entered. Again this was a normal practice – but for someone with power and prestige, like a king or ruler – so for them to do this for Jesus, showed that he was someone worthy of honour in their eyes.

When he entered Jerusalem he brought no army and no edict or scroll to proclaim the end of Roman rule. The kind of power that Jesus had – was a power from God. It was the power of love in action. It was an unexpected power that did not come with the backing of a military force, but it was the kind of power that starts revolutions that can change the course of human history.

The crowds surrounded him to greet him and cry out “hosanna” which was a cry of praise, but also literally means “save us now!”

Jesus’ undermining of power can remind us to not fall prey to the temptations of gaining power that we might experience all around us these days. We see corrupted examples of power in our world today: governments, militaries, corporations, even churches are not immune to unholy power-grabbing. A love of power can replace the Love to which God is constantly calling us! A love of power misses the point of God’s intention for power as we see in the life of Jesus. Power is meant to be used to lift people up and then be given away. When we hang on to power for the sake of keeping it, we fall into a state of even deeper weakness: addicted to the feeling of having power and constantly fearful of losing it. This, in fact, leads to more anxiety, more fear, more hoarding, and less love.

We don’t Love as God loves in order to grow in power. But power does grow in us as we Love one another–recognizing that real power isn’t something any one possesses but rather is a force that is unstoppable when shared in community. Organizers know this when they create grassroots movements that fundamentally change the status quo. And we know this too. I know that many of you have experienced the power of the love of community and some of you, specifically the power of love of this community.

Over the last several weeks during Lent, we have been talking about looking for love in many different places, and often unexpected places. The resistor, the helper, the thirst quencher, the liberator. Each of these lessons were unexpected teachings.

They encouraged us to reframe and examine our expectations to find God already at work, already present in our lives. And today we are told to expect the unexpected.

We often find love in unexpected places, and I know I have heard some of your experiences of finding love when you were not expecting it or in a place where you didn’t expect it. Even me, when I met Billy – I was actually looking. I was doing the online dating thing, as many of us do these days, but I had met so many duds – or I mean, people who were not a good match for me – that I just expected another one. But the plan was that we were going to go for a walk, so at least it wouldn’t be wasted time – I’d get my daily walk out of it! And then we ended up walking for 3 hours and meeting again the next day and the next… and the rest is history.

Love comes in many forms and we don’t just mean the love of a partner. I have witnessed love around here all the time in this community. This week I saw it when someone shared their grief with a friend. I saw it when another person encouraged their friend in something that was going to be challenging for them. I witnessed it when two people had a difficult conversation to try to resolve a conflict. Their commitment to working at righting their relationship – that was love.

In our Book study during Lent we have been reading Brene Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart. It gives name to 87 different emotions that we experience and defines them and explains them with examples. It has led to some really meaningful conversations. Last week one of the chapters we were discussing was talking about Belonging – and it compared belonging versus fitting in. In our conversation, we were talking about whether or not we felt that we belonged in different places in our lives, or if we just fit in. So the difference is – belonging is being accepted for who you are, whereas fitting in is changing who you are in order to be accepted.

This conversation about belonging led to a conversation about feeling welcome and how can we move from feeling welcome in a place to feeling like we belong. I tell you, that book study was on a roll. It felt like the most productive committee meeting I’ve been part of! We thought of some great ideas. I experienced so much love in that group that night – love for this community, and love for creating a place of belonging. We talked about what we would need in order to feel that we belong somewhere. How we go from feeling welcomed to feeling we belong. And it centred around feeling like we were seen and really known. Having people who know you deeply – who cut through the small talk to know what makes you tick.

So I wanted to share a challenge with you that came from that book study – something that might increase the sense of belonging here at Mount Seymour. I am sure that many of us already feel like we belong, like we are truly seen and known. And for others – really – regardless of how long you have been here, some of you may not feel that sense of belonging. One of our ideas was to find someone that you don’t know too well, or you want to know better, or you’ve never seen before, or someone you sit beside every Sunday but really don’t know much about – and invite them to join you at the café here at the church for lunch one day. (We are open Thursday Friday and Saturday from 11 to 3. But not this Friday because it is Good Friday.) You could share with each other something that you think they might not know about you, and it might spark some interesting conversation.

You could find things that you have in common that are unexpected. It really is amazing the connections that you can find with people if you talk long enough.

So here we are on Palm Sunday, waving palms and talking about Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem. We have so many traditions around this day. But remember that Jesus’ parade was unexpected in its day. Picture the week of Passover, and a city packed with people. The occupying Roman force is sending extra soldiers into the city to keep the peace. The soldiers paraded in on the north side of the city. Their parade was a show of force. A show of power. This is something the people had come to expect after so many years of Roman occupation.

But then… then on the east side of the city… this homeless, Galilean Rabbi with his motley crew of disciples and women and lepers and beggars and tax collectors comes into town… Not with a show of power or force… but humility. Love rides a donkey. And the people respond! Hosanna! Save us!

Could it be that the long-awaited Messiah is here?! Surely not. Now?! In my lifetime?!

Yes. Yes indeed. Love comes to us in such unexpected places and in such unexpected ways. I found love walking around Central Park with Billy. I found love here at Mount Seymour with all of you. I found love in a deep friendship, while running by the river at Foreshore park on Sunday mornings during Covid. I did not expect these things, but my life is better for them happening. If my life unfolded as I had planned, it would be a whole lot different than it is now! As the famous quote says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

It takes true faith to believe that God put on skin and moved into our neighborhood and offered the soul-quenching Living Water, starting with the LEAST of society; the outcast, the marginalized, the poor… and even to us. We. You and me. But it’s not going to be done for us. Our cries of “Save Us!” will be unanswered. We are already beloved children of God. There is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. The hardest part of this faith is accepting that you’re accepted. Nothing can separate you. No disease, no distance, not even death can separate you because you find that love saturates everything in your life.

God-in-Christ wants more life, more abundance, less restriction on our lives. We are often bound by our attitudes, culture, assumptions, and more. But Jesus says, “Come out! Walk! Live! Love!” And that is our mission as Christians.

And that is true power that can’t be denied, erased, or killed. So expect the unexpected. Are you looking for love? Keep your eyes out for it in unexpected places. Maybe in the café this week with a new friend! And certainly even… as we’ll see next week… Even in a tomb. Thanks be to God.