There’s a difference between thinking life in the USA is meaningful versus life in the USA being the meaning of life. Christian nationalists have it all twisted up and it is a death-dealing ideology more reflective of the reign of sin and death than of the reign of Christ.
Palm Sunday, in its biblical context, speaks to this.
Today we trekked to Moab Utah for The Canyonlands to hike the Mesa Arch and Aztec Butte. Although it was a gift to be together, my mind and body was wearied, more than I realized, with the news of the tragic recent loss of a beautiful young man. It was a day filled with all sorts of unexpected emotions and contradictions. One one hand I was compelled to cling tighter to my family as I marveled at God’s beauty. On the other hand, as I marveled at God’s ability to create such beauty I could not help but wonder why this same creative-power would not intervene in such a tragedy. Yet in it all, I remembered the tension and paradox of a world given over to the reign of sin and death being turned upside down—or should I say, right side up—by the reign of Christ.
Stepping into Holy Week I’m drawn to the passion of the Christ who arrives triumphant on a donkey of peace in the midst of mad and violent world filled with men on horses of war. In a day filled with contradiction I was able to see, and even feel in my body, so poignantly, that the Creator of these mountains stooped down to the lowest low atop a different mount called Golgotha, so that the cross of Christ would become a crown of victory for all who would trust and believe—just like Wusu trusted and believed.
Yes, death has given way to resurrection life. And even though it feels like a Holy Saturday, I trust and believe that Easter Sunday is coming.
This is a word from John Henry Newman that I cannot stop reading today. I hope it encourages you.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”
I grow nostalgic as each year’s 3e Restoration Celebration comes around. I think about all who make 3e possible. I remember God’s faithfulness extended through WCC, without whom there would be no 3e. I remember the neighbors living through social displacement I’ve had the joy knowing and loving prior to moving here—they taught me so much. I remember all who welcomed them as if they were welcoming Christ himself, people like Mama Lily.
This season I’ve been thinking a lot about David Benedict. Maybe it’s because his birthday is in March. Or maybe it’s because I keep seeing him in the same spaces where hospitality and justice are valued and enacted. Regardless, he remains one of my greatest local heroes—a prophetic presence and tireless lover of the marginalized among us.
With DB our city is a better place. He doesn’t receive accolades, although he deserves them. He doesn’t want them. He knows Who holds his reward. But I cannot help but remember that without his advocacy, much in Williamsburg would be different, including 3e. Some other organizations would not even exist. DB’s prophetic leadership, faithful presence, and good-trouble-making ways opened up conversations and connections that led to movements of hope and justice, especially for our marginalized neighbors. His commitment to peacemaking over peacekeeping organized some, and confronted others, and was always carried out in genuine love for all. He’s never wanted to build an empire. He’s only wanted to build a beloved community.
My life is better because of him. I’ve learned more from him than he will ever know. He stands in the company of a small few who have shown me what prophetic witness looks like. He models grace in the face of dismissal and disregard. He relentlessly and fearlessly speaks truth to power and puts his hands and feet to his words, even in his 80’s. He has also shown me what it looks like to love someone faithfully in this life and into the next. He’s one of the better men I’ve ever known.
There’s so much more I could say, but I won’t. All I wanted to do was “take delight in honoring” a faithful man of God and leader among us (Roman’s 12:10).