Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day that the kingdom of God clashed with the kingdoms of this world in one of the most simple and yet jarring statements, when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was simple in his understatement of power and jarring in that he simply refused to play the game. Jesus, a master of the third way of power, doing what he did best, what he would spend that week in Jerusalem doing, not answering the question, but rather finding a better question for us all to ask ourselves. Jesus refused to side with the Romans, the Zealots, Herrod, or the Pharisees. Jesus instead chose to display a lack of power and therefore show what it truly means to be chosen by God. I think that Holy Week is a perfect time to look at that one special question, as we are led up to the cross, a cross which Jesus says we should take up daily, what does it mean to be chosen by God to carry that cross?
In an Open Secret Lesslie Newbigin says, in reference to what it means to be chosen by God, “Again and again it had to be said that election is for responsibility, not for privilege.”
I have never seen Jesus’ metaphorical donkey ridden by anyone as well as it was ridden by Mama Zach. Mama Zach, an amazingly strong woman, was the eighth wife of her husband, and has children that were born from 1957 – 1987. Mama Zach is also a strong Christian who would wake her children up to go for prayer at 5:30 am. If her husband happen to be up when they all returned from prayers he would beat her for trying to indoctrinate his children, he wasn’t a Christian. This never did stop Mama Zach though. She continued waking her children up, taking them to prayers, and getting beat upon her return. This continued for years, and while I do not advocate staying in an abusive relationship or intentionally marrying someone with the goal of converting them, Mama Zach is a testimony to what it means to be chosen by God to change someone’s life. After years of this treatment, before he died, her husband was saved and helped her to build a church on the family’s land. He also completely changed how he treated her, the rest of his wives, and all 52 of his children. She bore her cross, and understood that to be chosen by God was a responsibility to continue to live as a Christian, faithful in any situation, and the truth that makes many of us, in many different contexts uncomfortable, that to be chosen by God does not always many an over abundance of blessings for us, but to be a blessing to others. It is a difficult thing for many of us to accept and learn, and almost no one I know has ever mastered what one of my friends calls smiling through the tears.
Ezekiel 14:9-11 “As for the prophet who was seduced into speaking a word, even though it was I, the Lord, who seduced that prophet, I will use my power against him and cut him off completely from my people Israel. The prophet and the enquirer alike will bear their guilt, so that the house of Israel won’t stray away from me again or make themselves impure with any of their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God. This is what the Lord God says!”
This picture in Ezekiel, of the chosen of God being chosen for suffering and being given over as a sacrifice so that not everyone is lost, is not the picture of God’s chosen ones that we normally have in mind. The Prosperity Gospel is on the rise with a pastor recently asking for $65 million from his church for a private jet. The elitism of the US claims that the blessing of God is synonymous with wealth, affluence, and power. Yet this week, this Holy Week that starts with our Lord riding in on a donkey and ends with his crucifixion as a common, political traitor is a good week to pay attention to what we as Christians are truly being chosen for, and it is not always the comfortable path of blessings that we make it out to be.