Yesterday afternoon I took a nice Sunday drive….around my neighborhood. Let’s be real here. I haven’t really left my corner of the world in about three weeks given the condition of our surroundings. After church livestream in pajamas, couch communion, washing pollen covered cars, and soaking up sunshine-y vitamin D, my car needed a drive. It had been just sitting for over a week…oops. Luckily there are plenty long roads in my neighborhood. As I took off down the one with the white wooden fence, none other but the friendly neighborhood donkey came right up to the fence line! So naturally, I rolled down my window and waved. (And took his picture!) It was Palm Sunday after all! In a Lenten season like no other, it felt extra fitting for a donkey to greet me as if to say, “Hosanna in the highest!” himself.
These past going-on-forty days have brought a donkey sized dose of humility. In Matthew 21 we read Jesus rode into the city humbly on a donkey's colt, and I feel like we’ve found ourselves riding through Lent the same way. This season has not come this year with family celebrations, church gatherings, and Easter egg hunts. Plans and pace have changed, with some adjustments harder than others. Instead, our days look like “quarantining” and “working from home.” Some days feel more like a bumpy ride on the back of a donkey than a stroll through the tulip field. We’ve hit a humble reality: We are not as much in control of our surroundings as we’d like to be. Obedience is one of the biggest acts of humility. Obedience even when times are hard or scary or unknown. We see this example lived out in Jesus’ life — especially from Palm Sunday riding on a donkey to Good Friday carrying the cross. His humility illuminates His obedience to God and trust in His greater plan — not only for Himself, but for His people, forever. Even today — For you and for me! Jesus’ humility still radically impacts our lives here and now.
Ash Wednesday this year came just before city lockdowns and quarantines due to COVID-19 flooded our country. I had planned on approaching Lent with 40 days of giving — cleaning out closets in my home and heart. If I learned anything, the first was this: Giving is a humbling experience when our everyday normal lives have been taken away for now. Our sense of normalcy feels lost. We hold onto whatever we have that makes life seem, well, a little more normal. When it came to cleaning out my closet, nostalgic me often got involved. Remember when you wore this to fill in the blank?! Maybe you could wear it again, you know! Better keep it, just in case. The story of Mary in John 12 when she poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet changed my perspective. Though it was costly (a whole year’s worth of wages!), she knew it was worth giving because she knew Jesus. She didn’t know though, that the perfume would serve as preparation for His burial soon after. That’s what giving does. In the moment, we can’t see the full scope of the gift. It might seem like just perfume at face value. But once it’s out of our hands, God can take it and use it for His glory and our good.
My donation pile started growing. Yes, we are giving up much during this time — businesses are closed, jobs are impacted, health is at risk — but then I hear the words from Esther 4:14, “perhaps you have come to your position for such a time as this.” Perhaps, this is our time — our time for generosity, humility, obedience, and remembrance.
Our generation, young and old, needs to remember. To remember what truly matters in life. Trials have a way of helping us look up when we’re forced into situations out of our control. Times we have never seen or known in our lifetime create disruption of mind and soul. We need to remember God, not out of punishment, but out of His grace for us. Out of awakening for redemption. A call out for rescue. An outstretched hand for us to grasp. Lent helps us in our sinful and forgetful nature to remember — Remember Jesus — remember the cross at Calvary. He is our Healer who came to save us from our sin. And He is still here with us, saving and protecting, today.
We were made to remember. By the gift of Jesus, may we remember — generously, humbly, obediently. Our King is coming. Hosanna in the highest, indeed!
"Let these branches be for us signs of His victory, and grant that we who bear them in His name may ever hail Him as our King, and follow Him in the way that leads to eternal life." -The Book of Common Prayer