“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting;” John 12:12-13
What started as a momentary intrusion of a group singing in public for a celebrity and then spin offs with private parties for honoring individuals has now become a growing phenomenon all over the planet. “A flash mob (or flashmob) is a term coined in 2003 to denote a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire. Flash mobs are organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails. The term is generally not applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of politics (such as protests), commercial advertisement, publicity stunts that involve public relation firms, or paid professionals.” Bruce Rzengota
According to Wikipedia the first flash mobs were created in Manhattan in 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine. The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather.
If you were to do a search on YouTube for “flash mobs” the one-after-another video clips could go on for hours and the viewer could, for the most part, stay completely engaged, even enthralled. One scene begins in a Sabadell, Spain marketplace with a man in a tux setting up his string base and his top hat on the street for donations. One little girl comes up to drop in her coin and stands there waiting as he starts to play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. One by one, others join him- the string section, the brass, etc, to complete the orchestral rendition of this beautiful hymn. The crowd gathers with smiles, even jubilation at the unexpected gift to them on this ordinary day, in this ordinary place. The beautiful strains meant for a concert hall fills the air with its ethereal presence. Just watching it unfold on the screen instead of being there in the crowd makes you feel a part of it. There is a saying “Everything great in life is on the other side of ‘Go’!”
The word “flash” essentially describes the experience as quickly as the players have gathered and completed their task, they fade back in the crowd. I, personally, hope it never becomes commonplace. So much of our life is predictable, even mundane and routine, but we are elevated when the unexpected takes place. The homeless woman in the New York subway who sings arias for the commuters to stop and remember in a real way they are intimately a part of one another’s lives; the man who sits down to a piano in a mall and plays his moving rendition of Amazing Grace. The smart phones are seen throughout the crowd recording this moment as rare – something to share and post. Jesus Christ transformed the commonplace, sometimes firing up the masses with anger even rage when he struck a nerve with the truth in His words and actions. He had such a brief span of time to reach us that He had to use whatever would stir us in our everyday rhythm, no turning left or right just a straight ahead focus with a “to do list” in our hands, checking it off until we fall in bed at night, only to resume it all again in the morning. Today, He still flashes in and out of our lives through the interesting people we attract to us, the ones He actually sends. Each one is capable, even in a small way, of changing our life trajectories, putting us on a different path, recalculating the route to our destination always moving toward Him.
What distracts us, what holds our attention and fires new pathways in our brains? We are spiritual beings so there is much waiting for us in a different plane. There is a whole page on a website explaining the difference between plain and plane. Where it states: “A plain is very specifically an area of landscape – empty and flat, smooth, perhaps, but specifically a land formation. A plane is more abstract – a concept of a flat, empty expanse that is not necessarily a physical landscape.” Phil Williams, English Lessons site
How does God reach us with that plane when we are so self-preoccupied with the physical plain?
Pastor Bruce Rzengota in his sermon title raises the question: “Behold He Comes: So What Were You Expecting?” This question can be inserted into every part of our life experience here. What are we expecting? Unfortunately, we generally get what we expect.
When Christ entered Jerusalem on what we recognize as Palm Sunday the week before Easter, history records for us that there were enormous numbers of people in the city for Passover.
“Every religious Jewish male has journeyed to Jerusalem for the celebration of the highest Feast. Rome has increased the visibility of its garrison in hopes to avoid any violent demonstrations. Zealots and political activists are looking for a chance to stir up a protest against Rome’s ruling elite. Sellers of goods, line marketplaces anxious to do business and capitalize on the crowd’s presence. Others are merely traveling through on their way to Egypt and lands south, or Samaria, Lebanon and Asia Minor. Religious authorities and sects are on the guard, each seeking to limit the expression of any thoughts deemed heretical, nontraditional or blasphemous.” B.R.
The flash mob moment unfolds dramatically:
“The great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.” John 12:12-16
The disciples were, in many ways, becoming used to the public attention to the point it had become what they expected on a daily basis, until, it was elevated to something else – something that the prophets could see without being there, something they described in detail to even the unbroken colt.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9
The disciples who were taught to memorize the Scriptures were shaken by the fulfilling of it before their eyes, the hosannas and “shouts of triumph” ringing in their ears.
Later, Jesus tries to build on this moment and drive it home even deeper in their consciousness of what they had just experienced:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
Pastor Bruce Rzengota asked these questions of his congregation gathered before him: “Are you one of those who just happened to be here today? Did you come here with your predetermined prejudices of what this was all about? Are you a part of a judgmental negative group looking for a fight, an argument, a battle? Or did you come as one of the receptive people. One who is a big enough risk taker, a truth seeker who wants all God has for you, to discover fully what that means; are you one of the faith walkers that will follow him all the way to the cross and beyond?.”B.R.
How do we seek the unexpected? How do we raise our spiritual awareness to the point of being engaged in what’s going on around us – tuning in to one another; praying as we walk throughWalmart for the unfamiliar faces we see and some familiar. I tend to be a people-watcher, thinking about who they are in their lives. I started years ago, to always pray for the poor and the disabled when I encountered them and thank God for blessing me with his grace to not stand in their shoes – but at the same time taking more seriously what he would expect from me because of that blessing. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Proverbs 15:1 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matt 25:40
Jesus Christ provided the unexpected throughout his ministry, engaged in the lives of people around him, available to them, vulnerable. That’s why the religious leaders were able to plot against Him and in the end take His life, the very outcome God was anticipating. We can start early to prepare for the time of atonement observances – Palm Sunday, Holy Week with the Upper Room Service and the sacrament of communion instituted, Good Friday with His crucifixion and Sunday with His resurrection. These are flashes of Christ fully engaging us in a very public way to lean in and feel something unexpected personally. Pause and consider, even sing these beautiful lyrics of “Ode to Joy” written by Friedrich Schiller that lifts us heavenward:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!
Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.
Excerpts from “Ode to Joy”
Jesus asks us “But what about you. . . “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15
I pray you will be surprised at your answer as the Holy Spirit speaks for you and through you.
Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash