Monday morning in the Preacher's Study
First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon (Passion Year C)
Do you know the Curtis Mayfield song, People Get Ready? It goes: People get ready there’s a train a comim', don’t need no baggage, you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’. Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
The Salvation train.
In my mind there are many positive images of the train. Many of them from gospel music. In this week's playlist I have the song, “I Want to Ride that Glory Train.” The train rides rails to glory.
But there is also one intensely negative image. It gathers up all the other negative images of derailed trains, exploded trains. It is the image of a train - jammed full of people - steaming its way through a gated opening in a high brick wall. The wall surrounds a very large area, big enough for the entire train to stop inside. The gate is closed and the doors to the boxcars open. Out pour bewildered men, women, and children. It is Auschwitz. The train rides rails to death.
With these two different train images in mind, now picture Jesus. Entering the city of Jerusalem, through a gate in the wall. Palm branches being waved, hosannas being sung. Jesus riding on a colt. To what? What will become of this man, this life, this people? You know the answers, according to the story, but what if you didn’t? Where is this Jesus-train going? After gathering steam from three years of healing and teaching and miracle, with a crowd following him full of disciples and family, friends and enemies, they enter the city.
Is this a train to glory, this parade into Jerusalem? Or is it simply a train to death? Or is it somehow .... both?
If you decide to take the whole ride through Holy Week this year, there will be several stops along the way... places to slow down and look around. This is the week that we re-play the Passion story at its original speed. There will be the opportunity, especially over The Great Three Days, to hear the whole thing freshly - as if for the first time - and to again make it your own. Through it, may Christ again offer us the key to learning how to live, and even how to die.
Todd Townshend is Canon Theologian for the Diocese of Huron, a member of the Faculty of Theology, Huron University College, London, ON., and editor of OPEN.