Mercia McMahon

I am an author of fiction, and non-fiction, who publishes my books through my single author publishing business MMMporium. This author site is focused on all my writings. I am also a key worker and used to work as a priest, so this front page will be taken over the next week with a series of sermons linking the story of Jesus' final week to the COVID-19 crisis.

Easter Day Sermon

Matthew 28:16-20

This project was born as a replication of the Church of Ireland practice of the same preacher preaching five integrated sermons for the five weekdays of Holy Week. Preaching on Easter Day is not part of the tradition, but I always planned to do so. This sermon is a week late, but deliberately so. I have been focusing on Matthew's telling of the Holy week story as one of conflict between the Galilean prophetic tradition and the Temple and law-based forms of Judaism that predominated in Jerusalem and more widely in Judea. Easter Day is about the story of the resurrection and in Matthew there are two brief resurrection stories. First we have the angels tell the women at the tomb to pass on a message to the senior male disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee and then as they walk away Jesus appears to them and repeats the request. The second briefly described resurrection appearance is the response to that message as the eleven senior male disciples meet Jesus on a Galilean hill.

Both of these brief scenes involve the disciples, first the women and then some of the men, falling at Jesus' feet in adoration. That is probably a necessary clarification as Matthew's concluding scene on the Galilean hill does not depict Jesus as God. It is that resurrection appearance in the final scene of Matthew that I want to focus on and the sermon is deliberately a week late as it would have take a week for the disciples to walk from Jerusalem to Galilee and possibly longer if they chose to hide their presence among the thousands of pilgrims returning from Passover in Jerusalem.

The final resurrection appearance is notable for what it does not include. Despite the climactic events of a week earlier there is no mention of the crucifixion, the empty tomb, or the resurrection. Nor is there a focus on the forgiveness of sins, as there is in Luke and John. Instead Jesus declares that he has been given all authority on heaven and on earth and that his followers are to go out to all nations and teach new converts all that Jesus had taught them. In other words it is as if the conflict in Jerusalem and the death it resulted in had not happened. Jesus is turning back the clock to his time teaching in Galilee rather than making his death in Jerusalem a new beginning. Instead of the disciples being on the sidelines as Jesus did all the hard work, now the disciples would take the lead but the risen Jesus would be with them while they carried out this ministry.

That appearance to his senior disciples a week after his resurrection can provide a useful metaphor for what we will eventually face as this COVID-19 epidemic winds down. We can take an apocalyptic view that all has changed because of the epidemic and that nothing can be the same as before, but we have to be aware that plagues have beset humanity before with only limited consequences. Instead we could look to Jesus' example on that Galilean hill and point back to the way things were before. To pick up the tasks we were moving forward with then and carry through with the plans that were disrupted rather than destroyed by the epidemic.

We can also learn from the change in roles for Jesus' followers. Just as they had to accept that the burden of responsibility had transferred from Jesus to them, so we will all have to move on from a dependence on scientists and economists and begin to rebuild our lives, our communities, and our hopes. Just as there are four gospels in the New Testament so there will be many ways in which this story ends, because we came into this story with many different beginnings. Maybe for some all will be changed utterly, but probably for most of us it will be about picking up lives that were put on hold and carrying the hope of our past into the promise of our future.

Good Friday Sermon

Matthew 27:32-66

I indulged today in a regular Good Friday spiritual exercise that the lockdown has not changed: I watched Ben Hur. I especially noticed the scene where Judah Ben Hur's love interest Esther visits the Valley of the Lepers and leaves a food basket down and then steps away for the intended recipients to come forward and pick it up. I was struck by this because when I was self-isolating with suspected COVID-19 I had food parcels left at my door. I was also struck by the scenes of stigma against the leprosy sufferers as people quickly moved away, which can happen at present if someone coughs.

But mostly as I watched Ben Hur I was focused on which gospel account seems to have influenced different parts of the movie. There is definitely a strong influence from Matthew in the scenes linked to Jesus' crucifixion. In particular we had rumblings suggestive of a minor earthquake, which is something that happens only in Matthew. There is also a link between the movie idea that people are healed at the point in time when Jesus died. There is no such healing in Matthew, but in what I have always found one of the most unusual aspects of any of the gospel narratives, there are multiple resurrections at the time of Jesus' death. Many of God's holy ones rise from the dead when Jesus dies, but do not visit the city until after Jesus' own resurrection two days later. With the earthquake and the extra resurrections Matthew's account is by far the most dramatic of the four gospel writers. Yet amidst that high drama Matthew continues with his conflict theme that has run through his account from Palm Sunday up until the crucifixion on Good Friday. As Jesus hangs on the cross the general public and the religious leadership harangue him. Then after his burial the religious leadership persuade the Roman authorities to place a guard on the tomb.

An interesting accusation made against Jesus is that he had claimed to be the King of Israel. Nowhere else in Matthew's gospel is there any indication of Jesus making such a claim. It may be Matthew's way of referencing the conflict between Galilee and Judea, as the Kingdom of Israel existed after King Solomon as a separate kingdom to Judah, and Galilee had been part of that separate Kingdom of Israel. It could suggest that the Judean authorities were depicting Jesus as a threat to Roman rule, but now is probably a good time to point out that Jesus would be unfamiliar with Roman rule as Galilee was technically outside the empire and Roman soldiers would not have been a common sight in Galilee. That is a historical detail that movies usually get wrong, especially Ben Hur, which appears to think that Nazareth is in Judea. That is not a detail that Matthew would have got wrong as the conflict between Galilee and Judea is central to his account of the last week of Jesus' life.

That detail about the political status of Jesus' Galilee, which runs counter to how many Christians understand the gospel story, has resonances with the reports that we are hearing from around the world about COVID-19. We may be learning new things about geography (I previously thought that Lombardy bordered Austria, not Switzerland), health systems in other nations, and even the internal structures of other countries, e.g., the way in which state governments determine health policy in the United States. It is a reminder that the world we see in the movies does not equate with the world as it actually is. Nor is the world and health systems we know a good guide to how it is experienced in other countries. This crisis is a good time to reflect that if we want to think about and pray for other countries we need to improve our knowledge of life in those countries.

At heart the Good Friday story is about a death that opened up a way to people of all nations to live their lives differently. With COVID-19 we are dealing with a virus that brings death around the world, but when the crisis is over we will hopefully continue to want to understand and appreciate the difference in people's lives in other countries. It may seem odd to think of something good coming out of this pandemic, but then many find it odd that the day of Jesus' death is called Good Friday as it is was not a good day for Jesus. Actually the good in Good Friday is Anglo-Saxon and means God Friday. Another detail that we often miss if we do not seek to learn more about other cultures. We can hope that once the current crisis is over that we realise that we can more easily help those we share our world with when we better appreciate how they experience the world differently to us.

Maundy Thursday Sermon

Matthew 26: 36-56

I sit writing this sermon nearly two hours into what by modern reckoning is Good Friday, but the topic remains Maundy Thursday. It is appropriate, if not deliberate, that I write these words in the wee small hours of darkness. For my topic is not the last supper that became the first eucharist, but what happens afterwards as Jesus leads his disciples out into the night. I want to focus on that time when Jesus and disciples are both together and apart and when for the disciples everything seems to be falling apart, but Jesus appears calm about the turn of events. We are dealing with the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, which begins with Jesus going off for solitary prayer and being disappointed that his disciples did not support him with their nearby prayers and the scene ends with Jesus betrayed by Judas, Jesus arrested, and the other eleven disciples fleeing from the garden.

The image of Jesus is of someone with very human frailties, yet who was determined to follow the path set by God. In his solitary prayer Jesus asks God to let there be another way the resolve the conflict between his Galilean prophetic tradition and the ruling religious elite in Jerusalem. Yet immediately Jesus adds, "Not my will, but yours." Jesus displays that understandable human attribute of wanting to avoid suffering, but accepts that if suffering is how to emerge the victor from this conflict then that will have to be the way of it. Then when the armed mob arrest Jesus one of his disciples attacks them with a sword and Jesus tells them to stop fighting. Instead Jesus tells his disciples, "This is what must happen."

Now we see that not only has Matthew set up his Holy Week drama to be dominated by two different ways of being Jewish, but Jesus is faithfully following God in allowing this conflict to result in his death. Yet Jesus prefers another way, a path that does not lead to crucifixion, but he accepts that result if it is how God wishes it to all work out. Jesus is both fighting to stay alive and willing to stop his disciples fighting to protect him. That stands as a metaphor for how many key workers are acting in this COVID-19 crisis. The natural human tendency is to want to preserve your own life, not only for your own sake, but for all who depend on you for their care, such as children, for those you love, and to prevent others suffering grief that might have been avoidable. Yet despite all those factors pulling towards self-preservation key workers go out and do the jobs that help to save others or help people to survive lockdown, such as supermarket workers. And sadly some of those key workers have paid with their lives, including several London bus drivers.

While the torment within Jesus is a good illustration of the internal judgements that key workers have to make, the conflict at the heart of Matthew's Holy Week drama is not a good metaphor for this health crisis. We are not in a war with a dastardly foe who has come with a cunning plan to take over the world. The virus that causes COVID-19 is simply an unfortunate coming together of different elements that are very harmful to us. Many have evoked World War Two imagery, but usually the wrong ones. While our individual bodies might seek to fight off the virus, sometimes with the help of intensive care units in hospitals and sometimes while we lie ill in self-isolation, overall our response is not one of conflict. The more appropriate war imagery is of civilians huddled together on London Underground platforms to hide from the worst impacts of the bombs that are destroying the streets of London and other cities. Okay huddling together would not conform to government guidelines on social distancing, but hiding in an Underground station reflects the request that we hide in our homes. Most of us are not taking the fight to the virus, rather we are seeking shelter in the hope that better days will come.

That is what Jesus persuades his disciples to do. He tells them not to fight, but to flee to live another day. It is difficult for Christians not to be out of their homes at this time of year. In my Anglican tradition on any other year churches would have been full for the one Holy Communion service held during Holy Week, held in honour of that Last Supper that Jesus made the first eucharist. Tomorrow, or today in modern calculation, Anglican churches would be filled with the devout sitting in prayer for three hours in advance of the hour of Jesus' crucifixion, and on Sunday instead of a televised eucharist from Canterbury Cathedral, there will be a communion service filmed from the Archbishop of Canterbury's kitchen. Instead we flee to fill our churches another year. We stay at home to survive to love another day.

Holy Wednesday Sermon

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus renewed his past rivalry and conflict with the Pharisees in Jerusalem, but as the Holy Week drama takes a turn towards its conclusion the conflict is one predicted for the future and taking place at a heavenly level. Matthew turns to predictions of the end of the world, but couples that with the contradictory warnings to be ready for this apocalyptic end and to beware of false predictions that it is upon us.

From early in the COVID-19 pandemic the media have been telling us of impending doom and referencing movies that deal with biological disasters. The media has also been contradictory in that it has warned of doom and then complained that their warnings prompted panic buying. Unlike Matthew the media have not been prepared to match their warnings of be ready with warnings of bewaring those who predict that the end is upon us. Presumably because it was the media that were foretelling that end and then acted all surprised when people actually paid attention what they said. Such warnings of doom are much more dangerous in a rolling news programme than they are in a book where you can read the next chapter. And Matthew does something quite different with his warnings of doom.

Those predictions of the end are also there in the Holy Week dramas set out in Mark and Luke, but a key difference in Matthew is that he ends with a prophecy of what happens after the apocalyptic events have taken place. He has Jesus foretell of an eschatological day of judgement when the nations of the world will be gathered in front of the Son of Man (who may or may not be Jesus, that bit is unclear). The righteous will enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven, while the rest will be cursed to eternal punishment. That distinction between the righteous and the cursed will not be on the basis of who declared their faith in God or committed themselves to follow Jesus. Instead the righteous are those who cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, those without clothes, and prisoners. The cursed are those who did not put love into action.

We may have begun this COVID-19 process with tales of panic buying, but we have also heard stories of how people have looked out for the vulnerable, helped neighbours get food and medicine, or given others their place in the socially distanced supermarket queue. One journalist wrote about how the disaster movies got it wrong and when there was a pandemic people helped each other. Yet the media also have to admit that they got it wrong. If you tell people seeking information about what on earth is going on that everything on Earth is about to go wrong then it is no surprise if selfish panic buying is the result. If community spirit, acts of human kindness, and respect for others are promoted then people respond, literally, in kind. When you tell people good news, then good things can happen.

Matthew's focus on this end of the world encouragement to be kind is in sharp contrast to Jesus' sharp words to the Pharisees. Here we have not a concern with who is doing religion properly, but who is treating their neighbour and the stranger appropriately. Matthew is giving us a glimpse into the ultimate end to the story. There is a lot of religious conflict in his story of the last week of Jesus' life, but the end point is setting aside conflict and doing good deeds to help others enjoy a better life. Conflict is fleeting, but in the end it is kindness that is rewarded.

Holy Tuesday Sermon

Matthew 23:1-39

Matthew has been building up the conflict between the Galilean prophetic tradition and the Temple focused chief priests and experts in Jewish law. The conflict then turns to religious rivals that Jesus is more familiar with: the Pharisees. They were very powerful in Jerusalem and although of lesser number in Galilee they are a major source of tension with Jesus during his Galilean ministry. Anyone who retains a notion of gentle Jesus meek and mild should read Matthew chapter 23 and be reminded of just how verbally aggressive Jesus can be. Jesus compares the Pharisees to a whitewashed tomb full of corpses at the end of a chapter in which he has cited one complaint after another to establish that they are proud hypocrites.

Many Christian preachers take fully on board what Jesus says and use the term Pharisaic as an insult. To do so is a major mistake. The New Testament might proclaim Jesus as the saviour of the world, but a hundred years after his death the Pharisees saved Judaism. About 35 years after Jesus' death there was a rebellion that led to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. A much more calamitous revolt happened almost exactly a century after Jesus' death. Simon Bar Kochba led an uprising about which we know very little, but it appears that Simon was from a similar strand of Judaism to Jesus. We know much more about the aftermath of the failed revolt. Jerusalem was renamed and Jews were banned from the surrounding region. It was in Galilee that the Pharisees rebuilt what would become rabbinic Judaism. The ending of Matthew depicts a risen Jesus who promises to be with his disciples as they head out into the world to teach Jesus' brand of Judaism. Instead Jewish Christianity of the sort that Matthew thought would conquer the world disappeared from history. It was squeezed out between a Judaism that was saved by the Pharisees and a Christianity that, probably out of political expediency, forgot about Jesus' Jewish roots.

None of that future would have been apparent to Matthew as he weaved his drama of the last week of Jesus' life around a conflict between the primarily Galilean prophetic tradition and the primarily Judean traditions of Temple, law, and Pharisees. The descendants of the Pharisees that Jesus is so critical of in Matthew chapter 23 would enable the survival of the religion that Jesus practised, while the religion that Jesus inspired would three centuries after his death win the allegiance of a Roman Emperor. We cannot tell how history will work out and so we should be careful how we deal with those who seem to have radically different ideas to ourselves.

In the midst of the early months of this COVID-19 pandemic it is easy to lose ourselves in what we see as the answer and to demand that everyone else follow suit. This was the case during the early stages of the meltdown of the health services in Lombardy, when journalists and medics confidently predicted that what they were suffering would be the fate of other nations a couple of weeks later. Even as the crisis still works itself out it is clear that the prophets in Lombardy were wrong. Switzerland shares a border with Lombardy and they have not become the new Italy. In fact Italy did not become the new Lombardy, with even the neighbouring region of Veneto doing much better that the Italian epicentre for the epidemic. It is hard to predict a few weeks ahead and so we cannot tell whose views and actions will be the most telling for the years to come.

The worst thing for our future would be if everyone tackled COVID-19 in exactly the same way. That means that there is no compare and contrast to judge which were the most effective responses to help us when the next crisis hits, possibly as soon as COVID-20 or COVID-21. We need to remember the way that Matthew frames his story of Jesus and the Pharisees. It is likely that had Matthew lived to see the day that he would have thanked the Pharisees for saving Judaism. Be careful in your rivalries because even if you worship a prophet you still cannot predict the twists and turns of history. Love your enemy, for your enemy might end up saving the planet for centuries to come.

Holy Monday Sermon

Yesterday on Palm Sunday I spoke about the two crowds when Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of two donkeys, but the most important pair for Matthew's setting the scene for his Holy Week drama is the two-fold answer of the crowd of Galilean pilgrims to the question of the Jerusalem crowd, "Who is he?" They answer that Jesus is a prophet and that he comes from Nazareth in Galilee. Traditionally it is just that story of the triumphant entry that is celebrated in churches that honour the Sunday before Holy Week as Palm Sunday. Many churches now honour it instead as, or as well as, Passion Sunday. That means a reading of the entire Holy Week story from one of the gospels, but for the tradition I knew back in the Church of Ireland it was Palm Sunday focused on Jesus on a donkey. The Holy Week theme of conflict rather than triumph begins in Matthew with Jesus going into the Temple, which happens immediately after the triumphant entry. Jesus then goes out to Bethany to spend the night and returns to the Temple the next day. The visit on Palm Sunday to the Temple involves the best known story of Jesus driving out the traders from the Temple, but also the ill come to him in the Temple and Jesus heals them there. The people praise Jesus for what he does, but the chief priests and experts in Jewish law begin their conflict with Jesus in response to Jesus' healing and the people's positive response. That conflict is expanded on the next day when Jesus is back in the Temple and the topic comes back to Galilean prophets.

On Jesus' return to the Temple he is immediately challenged by those chief priests and legal experts with a demand to know by what authority he did these things. Jesus gives a rather unusual answer in turning the question to what was the authority of John the Baptist to baptise people. The religious leaders refuse to answer because they are aware that the people revered John as a prophet. As the leaders will not answer his question Jesus refuses to answer their question and so the conflict is set in train that will lead within the week to Jesus' death. The reference to John the Baptist so soon after the Galilean crowd proclaim Jesus a prophet from their land brings us to another pair. This time it a pair of prophets, one of whom has already been killed by Herod the ruler of Galilee. Now Jesus the prophet from Galilee is in conflict with religious authorities in Jerusalem and soon that conflict will include the Roman secular authorities, because unlike during Jesus' childhood Judea is now part of the Roman Empire, while Galilee remains a vassal state that is ruled, as Judea once was, on behalf of Rome.

In the Temple Jesus was not forthcoming with an answer, although he will enter into debate while the conflict deepened during the Holy Week. Questions and answers are something that we are becoming very well used to at the moment with leaders, scientists, and medical advisors giving press conferences and taking questions from the media. There is none of that refusal to answer questions that Jesus showed in the Temple because thankfully these press conferences are not about setting up a conflict between rival views. Jesus' prophetic and Galilean style of Judaism is coming into conflict with the Temple-focused alternative that understandably dominated in Judea, which had the Temple in Jerusalem, which people throughout Judea could reach without the dangerous trek through Samaria that the Galilean Jews had to undertake. We now find ourselves in a different situation where regional tensions seem less important as politicians, scientists, and medics around the world seek to learn from each other as they fight a virus that has spread very quickly. Yet those tensions still exist. We hear of the poor sanitation and under-resourced health system in the Gaza Strip, an area that was just to the south of what Jesus knew as Judea. We may not hear much about other conflicts, but they have not gone away.

What happened that week in Jerusalem would led to the creation of a worldwide church of Jesus followers, but first there was a conflict to be gone through. One that sometimes saw Jesus engaging with his rivals and sometimes refusing to do so. We are now in a situation in our world where rivals are thankfully pulling together and we can hope that it is not long before a worldwide suppression of COVID-19 is achieved. Yet those tensions are still there and new tensions will arise as our world acts together and often in rivalry to tackle this virus. Sometimes when a rival is trying to stop you doing what you feel must be done you will respond with a refusal to engage, as Jesus did on the second, but not the first, day in the Temple. Many of us will have clear ideas of what the best thing to do in this present crisis is and hopefully we can learn to live with others whose idea of the best thing to do is different. And having accepted the different approaches hopefully we can engage with one another to work to fight this danger to people all around the globe. The Holy Week story is a drama to which we already know the resolution and so we can take the conflict as part of the narrative. We do not know the resolution to this pandemic nor how quickly the solution will be found. In a story that is still unfolding we need to be patient with each other and leave conflicts over how the narrative should progress until after the story has reached its happy ending.

Palm Sunday Sermon

It is over ten years since I last wrote a sermon. With churches all over Europe closed I have an excuse to write one without being invited to preach. Actually I planned to write five sermons for Monday to Friday of Holy Week. In 1992 I was ordained into the Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion. There is a tradition in the Church of Ireland, at least among the larger urban churches, to have a guest preacher preach five inter-connected sermons for evening services on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Saturday was a day off for the church and it might seem odd in a time of closed churches that some people were very concerned that the church was closed on one of the eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. The standard answer was that Jesus was dead and buried in a sealed tomb and the church would open again on Sunday when he rose from the dead.

It was not having too much time on my hands that led me to want to write these five sermons. I no longer work as a priest and I am a key worker, so I lack the extra time to be filled experience of most people around the world where lockdowns are in place. Nor I am writing these sermons because I am getting nostalgic for my old job. Actually it was inspired by my time as a priest of the Church in Wales, which is a much more Catholic part of the Anglican World. Fellow priests were surprised when I told them of the practice of a Holy Week preaching festival and the closed churches on Saturday. Yet my grounding in a more Protestant and more preaching oriented church put me in a good stead. I was quite popular as a preacher and given what was the height of praise from a Church in Wales parishoner, "We've heard good things about you. Apparently you can say something good in a short period of time." The inspiration for a Holy Week series of sermons was something said to me in a church I helped out in while working as an academic. I only preached in that church once or twice a month and in two successive Sundays I had managed to squeeze a response to a natural disaster in a far away country into one of the scriptural readings of the day. A parishoner came up as soon as the service was over and said, "You can always say something to fit what's going on in the world." That has always struck me and came back to me as I find myself as one of the few people permitted to use public transport. The disaster is in far away countries, but also close to home, so much so that most are confined to their homes. Fifteen years after that praise was given and ten years since I last wrote a sermon do I still have the talent? So I decided to respond to praise given in a Catholic parish in the Church in Wales and apply it to a very Protestant tradition from the Church of Ireland to try to work out what is going in the light of the story of the passion and resurrection of Jesus. It was not originally my intention to include a Palm Sunday sermon, but it helps to set the scene by the contrast it offers to Holy Week.

One of the values of the Holy Week preaching tradition in the Church of Ireland is that it got over the problem that if you only attend Church on a Sunday you move from the celebration of Jesus being welcomed in triumph to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to Jesus triumphing over death on Easter Day. Of course everyone attending those services knows of the conflict, trial, and death of Jesus that happens in between, but the Holy Week sermons gave a way to reinforce that message. By the time it came to talking about how Jesus was sent to trial because the Roman governor caved in to the crowd many preachers would preach about the fickle nature of humanity. The crowd celebrated on Palm Sunday and a few days later bayed for Jesus' blood. I often preached instead on the two crowds.

In the Holy Week sermons I will focus on the story of Jesus' last week through the narrative recounted in the Gospel According to Matthew. The account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and being greeted by adoring crowds waving palm leaves has two major differences in Matthew to other New Testament versions of the story. Only Matthew has Jesus riding in on both a donkey and its colt. It brings up an amusing image of a circus star with one foot on the back of each donkey, but we'll assume that Jesus rode the donkey and the colt walked alongside its parent. The other and much more important difference is who the crowd is and it is from this that there is the idea of the two crowds. Matthew's version of the story ends with the people asking "Who is he?" to which the crowd answer "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee." So the indication is that the people represent the Jerusalem locals and the crowd consists of the Galilean pilgrims who have walked with Jesus to Jerusalem, as walking in a large group was important for Galileans who had to walk for a long time through hostile Samaria in order to reach Jerusalem.

In a time of COVID-19 the celebrations of Palm Sunday can be seen as a reminder of what we knew in the past and what we hope Christians will be able to return in 2021. But I prefer to focus again on those two crowds. We constantly have two crowds during this health crisis. Those who devour the news and ask "What is COVID-19?" and those who answer confidently about what COVID-19 is and prophesy what the future holds. By the middle of the events we celebrate in Holy Week it is clear that the Jerusalem people did not share the confidence of the Galilean crowd about who and what Jesus was. Of course if they and the religious authorities had accepted the opinion of the crowd there would be no crucifixion and resurrection. Instead Holy Week, especially in Matthew, is a week of conflict between the Galilean prophet and the religious elite in Jerusalem. The narrative only makes sense as a story if there is a conflict between the two crowds.

That is the sort of situation we find ourselves in now. We need the two crowds in the midst of a health crisis of a severity that most have never lived through before. Those who give confident and optimistic prophecies that the crisis will pass and churches will be open next Palm Sunday are necessary to give hope for the future. But we also need the other crowd to keep asking the difficult questions. They might begin with "What is COVID-19?" but will continue with "How does it spread?", "Can the lockdown end yet?" and "Why are neighbouring countries affected in very different ways?" Seeking to silence one crowd to unite in one voice spoils the story and risks the narrative being taken over by what some want to say rather than what we all need to hear.

"Praise to the questioning crowd. God bless those who ask questions in the name of all people."

Of course, stay off that donkey unless you have an essential reason to travel.



Preserving Eternity book cover


Make My Joy Complete book cover


Seattle in Shorts book cover


Forgiveness book cover


Reformations of Martin Luther book cover


Speaking of Men book cover

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