Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Palm Sunday is a day when traditionally in worship we wave palm branches and think how wonderful it is that people should have welcomed Jesus so enthusiastically. But it is also Passion Sunday, because less than a week later the crowd was shouting “Crucify him!”. It is a reminder that some things are not quite what they seem at first. The community at that time had their hopes and dreams, just as we do, but they were forced to submit to Roman rule on one hand and to a religious elite on the other.
Perhaps the first thing we need to do is to acknowledge that most of us bring a certain amount of “baggage” when it comes to concepts like submission and community. For example, submission can have significant negative connotations, especially for women, for completely understandable reasons. Part of the challenge here is to try to “clear the decks” of our minds and spirits so that we can hear what is being said, and for that matter, what is not being said.
We are all familiar with the picture of unity in diversity that Paul paints in 1st Corinthians 12, and it is significant that his immediate target audience was in Corinth, because as one scholar put it, this was truly “the Church of God in Vanity Square!”. If there were divisions to be found anywhere, they were to be found in Corinth! How does that compare with the world today? Recent events particularly in New Zealand and Australia highlight the difficulties we have. There is a tendency on the part of some to want to eliminate any who are “not like us” – whatever that means. But the encouraging sign is that so many have reached out to confront divisiveness, and to say “they are us!”.
Where do we as Church fit in this complex scenario? At one level we would have to admit that we have been part of the problem; even now, if there is a difference of opinion about a particular issue, there is a tendency for the Body of Christ to fracture. That’s very sad; but as the Apostle Paul would say, even if we are in effect “the Church of God in Vanity Square”, the fact remains that we are the Body of Christ, and as such we are called to set an example of what true community looks like. We are not all the same, and we should thank God for that.
An excessive individualism can be tempting, but the Christian Faith is about community, about being stronger together. As we submit to one another as part of our mutual submission to Christ, we will find that it isn’t always easy going. But we will find the true value of Christian community, and thus contribute to what Johnson calls “the grittiness of community”.
Food for thought: 1st Corinthians 12: 12-27
Rev. Dr. Clive W. Ayre