In my mid-forties, when I was brimming with confidence, and, yes, hubris, I contemplated a career as a chaplain; specifically a workplace/industrial chaplain. With this aim in my mind, I enrolled in a few courses to learn some basic counseling and communication skills.
The outcome of one such course, Basic Preaching Skills, was the opportunity to deliver a Reflection at our church at our first Palm Sunday service of the 21st Century. I was very touched by the love and support of the congregation for my endeavours, but I am thankful that, later on, the employers of chaplains were less supportive, and sensibly turned me away.
With Palm Sunday, tomorrow, I have been remembering my brief stand at the pulpit, so many years ago, and thinking how my faith has changed. In my own Palm Sunday terms, I suspect I have fallen off the untamed colt/donkey.
Here’s an extract from my Reflection, which, as some of you may surmise, is based on a poor understanding of theology and an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible. The Reflection is titled Wild Rides.
“From babyhood in Bethlehem, onward to manhood in Jerusalem, God has given his people a leader, a healer, a companion in humanity, doubt and faith. This man has gathered, ON THE WAY, fame, friends and followers, and the requisite enemies, too. He is Jesus in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Elijah… he’s the Son of Man who could be King. But on Palm Sunday, there is a pause, a change of pace, between the restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight and the whirlwind that follows the triumphal entry to Jerusalem; ……. Jesus, the man of humility, outspoken critic of pomp and ceremony, pauses, lifts his feet off the ground, and takes a ride. He IS the WAY.
In Mark’s description of Palm Sunday, we see a Jesus who momentarily stops directing and healing and preaching, who allows himself to be; to be adulated, to be carried forward, to be King. This creates a challenge….but the challenge is not so much to the owner of the colt, or to the Roman and religious authorities. It’s a challenge to us.
The challenge, I believe, is to be; to be like Jesus and accept God’s gracious offer of a ride into a faith that will move mountains. God loves us for the faith of our comfort zone, a faith that is scheduled and timetabled, that will take us through the week, through 40 days, or 40 years, if necessary; but on Palm Sunday we see God offering a deeper faith of infinite implications and dimensions, and unbounded journeys.
Jesus is the Way. Through him, through Palm Sunday, we know we can accept God’s offer of a faith that moves mountains. God doesn’t offer crowd control, or silent, unchurned stomachs, or freedom from screaming. But, if we accept what, undoubtedly, will be the wildest ride of our lives, God’s underpinning hand of steadfast love will not let us fall. …….”
Hmmm….well, as I said, I do seem to have come unseated from my ride in recent years but I haven’t been trampled, yet. Which means that, despite my doubts, I still find great comfort in prayers offered by friends, by our Minister, and members of our church. And, in various past crises related to hospitalization, I have valued, beyond measure, the support and calm guidance/prayer of hospital chaplains.
And I value beyond measure all the loving thoughts and good wishes that have come my way in response to my previous post. I am happy to report I am starting to feel almost as perky as these beautiful pansies, given to me on my birthday. 🙂 ( I am also happy my path led to blogging not chaplaincy, even though I have the utmost admiration for chaplains and the wonderful work they do . 😉 )