Palm Sunday A Grateful Series
April 5, 2020
Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon
About three weeks ago, I had all of these great ideas buzzing through my mind – about the connections between Diana Butler Bass’s work on gratitude, table ethics, Palm Sunday and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I could see the connections! The ideas wove together how it is that Jesus, at the last supper upset the hierarchy – the pyramid, as Bass would say – of the Roman empire. He toppled the power structure over and laid it out on a table - the Passover table that also spoke of release from slavery, captivity.
But that was three weeks ago, and a lot has happened in three weeks. And now I find, it’s a struggle to find a moment of quiet – where either the world or my mind – isn’t burning with fires to put out. And everything feels urgent and nothing is moving quickly. And we’re being told to wait and yet the house is on fire – did I mention that?
In this heightened state of urgency and distraction, I was very heartened to read an essay this week written by a woman who pastored in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. She was quick to say that not every parallel is exact. But her point was that both events are catastrophically stressful and stress has affect. It changes how we feel, how we think, how we process our world. And we can expect that our brains are working – on a good day! – at about 50% capacity.
So if you start a sentence and can’t remember in the middle of it what you had wanted to say. If you misplace your phone or glasses or book too many times to count. If you find yourself in tears at the simplest of things. If you collapse on the couch in a vegetative state after dinner and have the energy to – well, stare at the wall maybe. Well, let me remind you, that’s stress. And it’s okay. You aren’t a bad person or a lazy person or a damaged person. You are just living in a state of emergency – inside and out.
And the crazy thing is, there are many days that perhaps feel quite normal in many ways. The sun rises. Family greet you. Coffee brews. You read the news, a book, write an email – or 26! – take a walk. You look at the content of your day and perhaps you feel guilty for feeling this layer of stress. And yet it is there.
It’s okay. Drop the guilt. Take a deep breath.
And come to the table. To this table. Jesus lived and worked with a people who were also in a constant state of stress. They were impoverished and oppressed by a system that overwhelmingly gave them no agency. And Jesus said, come here. Sit at this table. Sit with me. Take this bread. Drink this cup.
Look at one another and find healing in a reality that is truer than what is out there. The reality of God’s table is that political and economic and pandemic forces at play do not get to determine our ultimate reality. We are not children of Pharaoh, or the Roman Empire, or of COVID, we are children of God.
And God has set this table with gifts that were not ours in the creating. We did not make the wheat to grow or the grape to ripen. It is all gift. God has set this table so that we might come to it, however we are feeling and thinking, so that we might come to the table and be renewed. Renewed in body and soul – as we are re-grounded in the truth that all of life belongs to God. And that especially and definitely includes each of us, in this moment, time and space.
All of life belongs to God.
This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on April 5, 2020, via Zoom to the Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.