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Steadfast Love

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, Luke 19:28-40 and For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing by John O’Donohue

Sunday April 10th, 2022

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

Thank you for being here this morning. It’s another gorgeous spring day and it feels good to be together. And as we arrive to this time, I invite you to let your body, mind and spirit settle in a bit, to tune into your breath and your heartbeat so we can hear whatever word God has for us today.

Gracious God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

The stories we recall together this week are the defining ones of our faith, the core stories, the ones we tell again and again with ritual and song with palms waved today. And while it is less popular perhaps, less known or lived out among Christians and in our wider culture, I think the story we tell today, the story of Palm Sunday, the one that begins Holy Week is just as important as the Easter story, the one we tell at the end.

Because in this story, Jesus enters Jerusalem, knowing at the very least that it’s not likely to end well, that it won’t be pretty, that not everyone will be willing to go the whole path with him, but he enters anyway. And in this story, he is on a donkey, riding parallel to the war horses of the Empire, but he rides anyway. And in this story, they order Jesus to stop what he is doing and they ask him to tell the disciples to stop singing and praying out loud, and he says you can try, but if you do, even the stones will cry out, so they all keep on with their shouts anyway.

And I love this story because I think it is one of our most important. It’s about being steadfast, being committed, not stopping when it gets hard or even more uncertain, it’s about being unwavering and remaining on the way of Jesus, even when the are odds against us, even when we know the journey will make us cry and break out hearts, even when we are uncomfortable and aren’t sure how Love will rise, we go anyway, we ride anyway, we shout anyway, we go on the procession with Jesus anyway. Steadfast.

It turns out that the word and the concept of the steadfast love of God appears over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible alone and the English translation of the Hebrew word is hesed. The best translation is loving kindness. As Paul Miller writes, “Hesed is a word unique to Hebrew that combines “love” and “loyalty” (Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 24) and has often been translated as “loving-kindness” or “mercy.” It is difficult to capture the full meaning, but the essence of it as one scholar wrote is this, “unwavering, unchanging, sympathetic, forbearing, devoted affection, worked out in deeds.” Being all in on love over the long haul.

Today we finish up our series on Journeying Into New Stories with this Palm Sunday story. And upon reading it this year, I find myself wondering if part of how we get to new stories, part of how we find ourselves living into new stories individually and collectively is by being steadfast. I know that sounds oversimplified, in a way, but in a moment on planet earth, when some are saying there is little that can be done, what if one of our most important commitments right now is being willing to keep going, to not give up, even knowing that it won’t be pretty, even knowing what we are up against, even knowing that not everyone will be willing, still we process along with Jesus anyway!?

Marcus Borg wrote that, “For Passover that year, two very different processions entered Jerusalem. They proclaimed two very different and contrasting visions of how this world can and should be: the kingdom of God versus the kingdoms, the powers, of this world. The former is about justice and the end of violence. The latter are about domination and exploitation.”

So as Borg and John Dominic Crosson wrote in their book, The Last Week, this conflict Jesus had to face, this “protest was against a domination system legitimated in the name of God”

But even knowing some of what was to come, even knowing how radical he seemed, even knowing how big his dreams were, even knowing how exhausted he was, he showed up anyway. And I wonder if this a truth for us now too?

The words of the poet John O’Donohue describe how some of us have moved through the world when he wrote, “You have traveled too fast over false ground…” And the pandemic showed us our false ground and forced us to stop. And we saw the world more clearly.

But now many of us are exhausted, bodies aching from shifting and shaping, minds stretched from pivoting and possibility searching, hearts cracked from the loss and weariness from our worries. And into all of this, I wonder if Jesus shows us how to find hope, how to live into that new story that awaits us beyond weariness? And I wonder if the answer is steadfast love?

As the NCAR fire of two weeks ago grew and the flames became visible on our street, our family was out of the country for Spring Break. Our neighbor was housesitting but when I alerted him of what I learned on social media, he had no idea. I told him to go outside. So he did. And he frantically texted back that he could see the flames. With my heart racing and anxiety and fear increasing, I felt helpless. We have two cats and two dogs and of course had not prepared for the possibility of a fire taking it all, while we were away. As the fire grew, our neighbor agreed to find the cat carriers and take the cats, but with his own animals and his elderly mother I knew it was too much to ask him to take our cats and our dogs. Not long/ soon after, a text from Jackie arrived … Would you like me to come from Lyons and get your dogs? I waited.

One of the stories I have lived with that served me, until it didn’t, was the idea that asking for help is a sign of failing, of not figuring it out on our own. So often it has been a struggle for me, I guess like women and maybe others to ask for what is needed. But I pondered, even as flames are coming down the mountain? But I said yes, and Jackie and Jai came. But it felt like a vulnerable thing to say yes. And she did. She came. She and Jai came and saved us.

What if the answer to all of us living into new stories is steadfast love for ourselves and for one another?! Continuing to show up with kindness, continuing to lavish one another with love, even as we march in a procession that some call ridiculous and useless, as we let go of needing to go fast or knowing the right way and instead remaining on the Way of Jesus?

What if this Palm Sunday story is about our call, to keep showing up for a Greater Love and for whoever is journeying with us, even knowing that it won’t be pretty, even not knowing what we are up against?

John O’Donohue invites us “to open up to all the small miracles we rushed through…” and I love that, that was a small miracle for me and my family and I think part of how we live into new stories is by being all in for one another.

Lynne Twist writes that “genuine commitment comes from the heart…and it is an inner yes in service to something that fuels us rather than depletes us, it’s sourced from our heart’s desire to offer our life to something larger than ourselves.”

So what if this story and part of how we live into new stories together is being all in, even when it gets hard or uncertain, what if our call is to be unwavering, even when the odds are against us and in spite of the optics? What if the way to new stories is commitment to steadfast love? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you!”

And I found myself last week outside of Home Depot, putting bags of rocks into my trunk and a gentleman walked by and asked me if I needed help. Okay God, I get it! So I said yes. And a random guy put rocks in my trunk.

So beloved of God, let us keep going, even while knowing the journey will make us cry and break our hearts, even when we are uncomfortable, let us go anyway, let us show up for one another anyway, let us ride anyway, let us shout anyway, let us keep on in the procession with Jesus anyway, the entire Universe will help make a way. This is part of our story. Not fast, but steadfast, for God and one another. May it be so. Amen.

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