St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

Whoever has God in Mind

 

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, April 12, 2020

"Whoever has God in mind, simply and solely God, in all things, such a man carries God with him into all his works and into all places, and God alone does all his works. He seeks nothing but God, nothing seems good to him but God. He becomes one with God in every thought. Just as no multiplicity can dissipate God, so nothing can dissipate this man or make him multiple."

This is a quote from the great Meister Eckhart. It explicates one of the multitude of messages Palm Sunday holds for us.

Jesus predicted his death and resurrection in Mark’s Gospel three times in chapters 8-9. He knew what was coming and he did not waver. The winds that blew on Palm Sunday were from many different directions.

The crowds saw him as the one who raised Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish Zealots as the one who would bring down the Roman occupation of Palestine, the disciples as their master who finally was receiving the adulation he was due, the priests and elders of Zion as a threat to their power, and the Romans as a nuisance.

And what of the donkey? How did she see him?

Mary Oliver attempts to speak from this lowly creature’s perspective in her little poem, “The Poet Thinks of the Donkey.”

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

Of all the actors in today’s bitter sweet drama, it was God’s little friend the donkey who was most like the Savior, “small, dark, obedient.”

Jesus paid no attention to the winds that swirled around him. His eyes were fixed on the reason for his coming. His mind was undivided and single. He cared for his world and for all of humanity. Today we see the utter selflessness of the Lord Jesus. And In this we see the very heart of God himself, for the one whose heart burns at the suffering of the world is the one who is united to God. All lovers of God have “bleeding hearts.”

He who had rejected the temptation to selfishness, offered him by the adversary in the desert. He headed to the Temple to metaphorically dive off its pinnacle, raised like the bronze serpent in the wilderness upon the tree of the Cross. He refused to call legions of angels to assist him although, in his own words, he could have,

In this selflessness, he points the way to eternal life, for “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life,” as St. Francis of Assisi discovered in his singular path to self-denial and resurrection. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

We know true Christianity when we see it dying for others, not concerned about money, or power, or anything earthly, not competing, not condemning, not judging, demanding nothing, tearing down all defenses, barriers, and walls and riding into the thick of the world’s anguish, in true devotion to the Selfless God, embracing the Cross with utter abandon. “Let all mortal flesh keep silent and with fear and trembling stand, ponder nothing earthly minded…,” we will sing on Holy Saturday morning.

We will never be the light of the world until we become single-minded and selfless and die to ourselves, individually and corporately, that others may live. “Let us leave ignorance behind and proclaim this single, unique, and awesome mystery.” (The Gallican Liturgy of St. Germanus of Paris) He rides to death to conquer it. He rides to the Tomb to empty it. He rides to the Resurrection to grant life to all.