Tomorrow we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Tomorrow commemorates Jesus' ride into Jerusalem accompanied by people waving palms and laying them on the roadway for the colt he was riding to walk on. It was meant to be a celebration similar to a conquering hero arriving in the city, and there were crowds there to observe it, cheering and yelling "Hosanna!" It must have been quite a day.
After thinking about it a bit, I wondered what would it be like today if Jesus came into town, maybe driving a white convertible. Probably people would be so busy taking selfies and videos that wouldn't matter who this person was. There would be a lot of people looking and a lot of people recording the event for their walls and webpages, but I wonder if they were would stop to hear what he had to say, or would they be just so busy looking for a photo op or maybe a selfie with the celebrity himself, it wouldn't matter what he said. The important thing was that they got the image and used it to impress their own followers.
The world has changed a lot, I don't think anybody is denying that. Mobile generation, mobile civilization, we have instant communications so that if war breaks out, we know instantly. We don't have to wait a week for a message to get to our town from some central place where they knew what was going on. Oh no, we are connected. We check the number of friends we have on Facebook, the number of connections we have on LinkedIn, and the number of responses that we get to blog posts and whatever. Oh yes, we're connected. But if we stop and think about it, do we know our next-door neighbor's name? What about people two houses down? Do we know who they are?
No matter how much we are connected on instant media, we are still disconnected from our fellow human beings. Walking through a store or down the street, waiting in line at the post office -- everybody is so busy paying attention to their cell phone and who is texting what that there is none of the free conversation that used to be possible in those situations. Now, if someone says something to someone in line at the grocery store, or in passing, or even sitting on a park bench feeding the ducks, it's very unusual for people to strike up a conversation. We have become disconnected, no matter how much we say we are connected.
Lent is a time that we usually think about connection. We may pray more, go to church more, participate in church activities, take on Lenten duties like helping at a food bank or doing volunteer work for some organization or other as a way of taking up Jesus' cross and maybe making it a little lighter for him. Now that connects us with other people and hopefully it connects us with God a little more. We find ourselves so busy these days that it's really difficult to connect with God as easily as we can our best friend across the country on Twitter, Instant Messenger, Facebook, or texting. And , there's usually a fairly instantaneous reply. With God, though, there may be quite a wait, and an answer may never come in a way we can easily identify. So what we do is say "Okay ," and go on to the next thing, like if we called someone and only got a busy signal.
Of course, that's not the way it's supposed to be. Yes, we may have an increase in pious activities during Lent, but what about when Easter comes? Palm Sunday is the run-up, but Easter is the big event. On Easter Sunday at church, the place is jammed to the rafters and you see a lot of people that you haven't seen since last Christmas for even last Easter. It's a kind of reconnection but it's a temporary reconnection. We were told and taught to go to church on those days, even if our families were particularly religious, and that's the way we do it. Then we off the hook until next Christmas or Easter. We can disconnect again and return to our other "connected" lives.
What of the connection between us and God? And also between us and our neighbors? Of course, we're supposed to be doing this all year, but it doesn't always work that way, not in our busy lives when we barely have time to say hello to the kids, get dinner ready before it's time to go to bed. Maybe we need to do is disconnect from our connections and reconnect with one that really matters.
I've been having Internet problems with connection for the last two months. Connected, disconnected, and then the cycle repeating itself over and over again. It's frustrating, I have things I need to do online, it's important that I get these things done, but how can I do it if I keep getting disconnected? The answer is go on to the next thing to which I can and at some point in time I'll be reconnected and get as much done as I can.
With God it's a little different. With God, this connection is always on our end. God doesn't disconnect from us, we disconnect from God, and many times this God dis-connection is our perception rather than actuality. It's like taking pictures of Jesus in a white car driving over palm fronds, and being in the crowd standing there with cell phones in camera mode and taking it all in and then posting it to prove that I was there. But what was I actually there for? Am I there to actually connect with this man in the white car being treated like the greatest rock star that ever hit the planet? Am I there to hear some words of wisdom, some reassurances, some things that I need to know and encouragement to do things I need to do? When am I going to disconnect and reconnect with my priorities in order?
It's time to connect with God, and connect with my neighbor, not just on a cell phone, or chat, or a tweet, but in face-to-face, hand-to-hand, eye-to-eye ways. Time to reconnect with God, because that's the most important connection of all.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, April 8, 2017.