The trip you plan and the trip you take

Romero

Storyteller Kevin Kling says, “whenever you take a trip there’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take. You get out your maps, you pack just right, but at some point you just have to give it up to the ride. You got to give in to the journey.” Then he says, “the only place that looks like the map is Nebraska.”

There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take.

I grew up in a single parent home. We didn’t have much. We collected furniture that people threw away. The apartment complex dumpster was the original Craigslist, except there was no bargaining over the price of things. We were poor. We didn’t have much.

And yet we had a roof over our heads, food to eat, education, health care, clean water, television, a car, and access to the apartment’s swimming pool. I got to go to college, even a good one, where I had opportunity to study, travel, and gain a better life.

But I never shook the feeling of being poor.

But then, during my senior year of college, I went to Central Mexico, where I saw poverty for the first time. I met a woman named Claudia who taught me what true faith was: utter reliance on God. I met a priest who told me what the world looked like: more poor than not, and certainly more poor than I could ever imagine with 30,000 people who die each day due to hunger and poverty. … I learned that the price of goods in Mexico, while cheap to us, were really expensive for the people who were making pennies to our dollars.

The world was bigger and more complex than I previously imagined. There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take. The journey of my life took a new path. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew it would. The world was a new place, not only for me, but in the larger sense. That year, September 11th happened. We were at war in Afghanistan. And on the brink of another.

I didn’t want our country to go to war in Iraq, but the evidence was compelling. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and we would be freeing a country under the thumb of a tyrant. Then there was Colin Powell at the UN with the yellowcake enriched uranium. The long debate in the country wore me out. I went to a protest or two, but I had given up hope that war would be averted. I remember thinking, let’s just get it over with, thinking that it would be a 2-week, low casualty thing, like Desert Storm.

We thought we would be greeted as liberators. 10 years later, hundreds of thousands lives lost, and the same terroristic threat is still out there.

There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take.

On my journey to Mexico and beyond, I learned about Oscar Romero, a successful priest from El Salvador. Coming from humble means, he went to seminary in El Salvador and then Rome, getting ordained and then seeking a doctoral degree. He returned home to El Salvador and quickly climbed the church hierarchy. He was a priest who was not interested in politics, but in maintaining tradition.

The conservative Romero fit in with the establishment of the Church, the church that supported the government. But Romero was not popular with the growing number of progressive priests who had become aware of the happenings in El Salvador. At that time, 3.5 million people lived there, with 13 families owning 40% of the land.

Poverty was everywhere and the poor were starting to organize resistance to it and to the government. But people were being disappeared. People were being tortured. People were being forced to accept a way of life that split the small number of haves from the many have nots.

In this time, Romero became bishop and then archbishop, all with the approval of the government who did not see him as a threat.

Then, on March 12, 1977, one of his priests, Rutilio Grande was assassinated by the government and Romero’s journey changed forever.

There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take.

Romero went to the church where Rutilio, along with three other bullet-ridden bodies, lay. He held a mass and then stayed to listen to the stories of suffering told by the peasant farmers, and then stayed for hours to pray.

Of the event he said, later: “If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.” Romero began to speak out against the torture, assassinations, social injustice and poverty enforced by the government.

And so on March 24, 1980 — this day, 33 years ago — Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated, shot to death, while celebrating Mass, while holding up the bread and wine of communion, God’s grace to us. The assassin? Trained and funded by the United States Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning Georgia. Killed in the name of our greatest exports: democracy and freedom.

There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take.

Today we embark on a different trip, Holy Week, the most important time in the church year. Once again we plan our trip to follow Jesus into Jerusalem, knowing what awaits him: his last supper, his cross, his resurrection. Today we gather palm branches to re-enact the celebration. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna is a word of praise, it praises the one who will save. Jesus was thought to be the one to rescue the people from the Pharaoh of Rome, the occupier of Jerusalem. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the cusp of the Passover, that time when people remembered that they were once slaves in the land of Egypt but God delivered them with might through Moses, through the blood of the lamb on the posts of their doors, through the Red Sea.

Maybe this Jesus would do the same. Maybe this Jesus would use his God-given power to overthrow the rulers of the day with signs of power and might; a new king, a new leader, a new Moses, a new Exodus.

So they followed him into town, rising up in protest against the government that had hindered them for so long. They were there with Jesus on the Mount of Olives at Bethphage, down, down, down through the Kidron Valley, and back up, up, up and into the Golden Gate, the one the Messiah, the Christ, was to go through.

Jesus came in like the lion of Judah, with the roars of the crowd carrying him: Hosanna in the highest. He went into Jerusalem like a lion, but he went out like a lamb. Jesus would save them, but not in the way they expected.

There’s the trip you plan and then there’s the trip you take.

It didn’t take long, just a few days, really, for the shouts of “Hosanna” to turn to cries of “Crucify Him.”

Jesus was supposed to come in power, but he insists that his power is made perfect in weakness.  The people wanted a lion. They got a lamb.

Maybe we aren’t too different from those people surrounding Jesus thousands of years ago. The same DNA. The same blood in our veins. The same flesh and blood and bone. The same wants and needs. The same hopes and fears. It’s not at all hard to imagine ourselves in this story with our own hopes and our own expectations…broken.

We know too well from our own lives the ways Jesus has let us down. Failed to cure us. Failed to protect us. Failed to fix our brokenness. Failed to be our king, at least in the way we were hoping. Like the people then, we want a king with a crown, and we get our king on his cross. We want a lion, and we get a lamb.

But then again, St. Mick and St. Keith remind us “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

The brokenness and pain and suffering of the world are so great that Christ had to enter deep within it. Might wouldn’t make right. Another war wouldn’t change the world. The suffering is such that a lion wouldn’t do. Only a lamb. Only a lamb who would take on the brokenness of the world in order to heal it, transform it, turn it upside down through his own pain, in his own suffering. Only a lamb who would die to defeat death, become sin to destroy sin, be abandoned on the cross to bring us back home.

Of this week Oscar Romero said, a day before his own death: “Easter is itself now the cry of victory. No one can quench the life that Christ has resurrected. Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred raised against him and against his church can prevail. He is the victorious one! …

“[Holy Week], thus, is a call to celebrate our redemption in that difficult combination of cross and victory. …all that surrounds us proclaims the cross. But those who have Christian faith and hope know that behind this calvary … lies our Easter, our resurrection. That is the Christian people’s hope.” (Violence of Love, 204-205)

Our hope isn’t found in the lion who will roar with all his might and change our reality in an instant. Our hope is in the lamb who saves us through our pain, through our brokenness, through our suffering, making it and us his own. Our hope is in the lion laying down with the lamb, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The lamb whose blood is painted on the doorposts of our lives, calling us to enter into the exodus of his death so that we may enter into the promised land of his life, his love: for the least, the last, the lost, the lame, the limping, the leprous, and everyone in between. Let this be the trip that we take this week. Amen.

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2 thoughts on “The trip you plan and the trip you take

  1. Janelle Bussert says:

    Jeni, Thanks so much for sending this! Its just great! I’m so honored to have been a part of your journey, and to know you’re doing incredible work! Take care!

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