As we approach Easter, the Lenten anticipation of a new creation rises to a new pitch. We hope for the healing of all the injustices we see around us—including those smaller things we’ve tried to leave behind for Lent. Sometimes those hopes hinge on what we expect to be a grand and mighty act, but Easter offers something different: the shame of the cross and the quiet, publicly unheralded resurrection. Easter, in other words, teaches us to look for redemption in the small things–the servant who, instead of crushing the nations, will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax. Jesus, rather than shedding the blood of others, spilled his own—once for all. On the side of this redemption are not the mighty, but the meek.
Being meek usually isn’t the pragmatic thing to do. When Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfume, Judas thought the money would have better been used for the poor. Jesus response—“You always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me”—shows the importance of attending to what’s near at hand. To be sure, we shouldn’t neglect the great injustices of the world, but for most of us, our capacity to make a real difference is primarily small, local, and unlikely to garner much publicity. And so it is that Ammon, rather than claim the privileges of a Nephite prince, chose to become a servant. As with Jesus, the end was magnificent; the beginning was anything but.
The path of a servant tends to be cruciform, crowned with thorns rather than laurels. The Lord praised those Jackson County saints who were “truly humble and … diligently seeking to learn wisdom and to find truth,” reaffirming the divine promise to “show mercy unto all the meek,” all while addressing their present experience of persecution. Of course, gloating about how holy all this persecution makes us look hardly qualifies as meekness, and the path of the cross (via dolorosa) doesn’t always entail persecution in any normal sense. Given the pull of ego, that the path tends to lead through back alleys rather than the usual parade routes is often punishment enough. The stations of the cross can be found in the talk with a home teachee that doesn’t really count for the monthly statistics, in leaving a loaf of bread on the doorstep of the new young parents, or in having a kind word for the clerk at the cashier—any act that brings another human being to find refuge under God’s wings.
As we reflect this week on the path Jesus walked during his last week, may we let his footsteps guide our own, in meekness and in service.
Monday in Holy Week
The Collect: Almighty God, whose Son chose not to exploit his equality with you, but emptied himself and took the form of a slave: send the quiet power of your Spirit to guide us in the road that led your Son to the cross, until we, kneeling before him, learn what it is to love the people around us; that we may become one people as you are one God. Amen.
Today’s music, “My servant shall be healed,” comes from the gifted young composer Philip Stopford. Although the scriptural text used for this piece does not come from today’s readings, the theme of meekness is most fitting: