Last night my daughter and I rode to a local playground. I was on my bicycle and she on her scooter. As I rode along the dusty street, I was delighted to see that the snow was almost gone from many of the yards. Patches of ice still lingered here and there on the sidewalk where residents had not shoveled, or in the shadowed areas where the sunlight had not been able to penetrate.
What really caught my eye were our shadows. We were riding east, and so the setting sun on my back cast a very long and thin shadow. It got me thinking about the shadow of the cross.
It is a few days before Palm Sunday. This is the day in which the gospels tell us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a deliberate act of resistance against the powers of death. It was a kind of street theatre, a flash mob of sorts, but not orchestrated.
It was a kind of spontaneous parade in my mind’s eye. One of those instant “maybe it’s a mob and maybe it’s a demonstration” Middle-East kind of things that we have seen happening on TV these past few months as people protest against repressive governments. It’s a “maybe he’s our Messiah and maybe not but let’s show those **** Romans that they do not have total control and we want our freedom.”
And from Golgotha, from the hill where Rome punished thieves and criminals; that hill from which Rome exerted its authority with public torture and brutality; the shadow of the cross cuts across Jesus path.
The sun’s rays are brutal in Jerusalem. Women cover up in the Middle East for more than religious reasons. The sun beats against the dry earth.
The “Holy Land” is a violent, repressive place in which people struggle for freedom. It is also a place of deep joy, of promise, and of life lived in the midst of the shadow of death.
In 2004 I spent a few months there as a part of a peacemaking program called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel. I learned about the numbing, rage producing, conflict creating power of violence on people’s psyche and their lives. I also witnessed the power of boundary breaking, risk taking, life affirming intentional acts of non-violence in the struggle for peace and freedom between Palestinians and Israeli’s; and within each of those communities themselves.
I believe that one of Jesus’ life-gifts to us was the power of intentional non-violent resistance as he saw his ministry through to the end.
The cross cast a long shadow on Jesus’ life path that Palm Sunday, and it casts a long shadow ours.
Will we join the resistance and struggle for freedom from the powers of death and oppression? Will we make space for the Divine power of life-giving, risk-taking, freeing love in our lives?
Where is the cross casting its long shadow in your life or in the world? How does it make you feel? What is your response?
Wednesday April 13, 2011