>The True President of our Souls

>This past week I got into a bit of a tiff with a friend on Twitter. She was tweeting about how President Obama was saying America is not a Christian nation, and she was really upset about it. While I understood her concern, my tweet-back to her was about how Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world, that if it was, his servants would be fighting, and therefore our hope is not based on our nation being Christian. Her reply was just as strong as her original statement: “Of course Jesus’ Kingdom is not USA, but any Nation that wants to have God’s blessing must have leadership that recognizes Him.”

I thought long and hard about her words. I thought about Sodom and Gomorrah. And I began to worry that God might abandon us if our nation abandons its Christian roots… if we actually had Christian roots to begin with. Every day I pray for our leaders, for our country, but even as I ask God to bless them, and us, it’s always with a measure of trust that He holds us in a safer place—in His Kingdom.

A few days ago my copy of “The Burning Bush” arrived in the mail. It’s the monastic journal published by the Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, where I have been on many pilgrimages over the past fifteen or more years. (There’s no link to the journal yet, but they’re working on it. You can get on their mailing list to have the journal sent electronically here. ) I always read the articles with eagerness, knowing the beautiful souls of the nuns and priest-monk from whom they spring.

Archimandrite Roman Braga, the priest-monk at the monastery, wrote an article for this issue of “The Burning Bush” called, simply, “Palm Sunday.” To understand more of where Father Roman is coming from, you might want to read this excellent article about him, or this one, and also watch this amazing video. Father Roman has also authored several books, my favorite of which is Exploring the Inner Universe, which you can get here, and you can read an excerpt here.
All that to set up my comments on Father Roman’s article about Palm Sunday! He opens by saying:

The earth, the moon, the stars, the galaxies, and the entire universe is made by god, and God is the true king. He is the Emperor and He is the Creator…. It is at this time that we proclaim Jesus the King. Until now Jesus spoke only in parables because He did not want to be revealed…. It is at this time that He reveals Himself to us…. The people of Israel were waiting for Jesus to be an earthly leader. But Jesus did not come to be the King of Israel. Jesus is the King, but no the King of this world: “My kingdom is not of this world….” He tells Pilate….

In a book I read in 1946 when I was a student in Bucharest, the author, a Rabbi, talked about Jesus and why the Jews had to kill him. They recognized Jesus as one of the prophets, but they did not like His philosophy. He explained that the Jews were slaves at that time and they needed the young people to become heroes, to be educated, good soldiers and to fight against the Roman Empire. They did not like the preachings of Jesus Who was teaching: “…love your enemies, do good to him who strikes you….” This kind of philosophy was dangerous for our young generation. And if we look at this from a historical point of view and judge only with our logical mind, we probably can say that the man was right; they did not need that kind of philosophy.

I think my Twitter friend is still anxious for Jesus to be “King of Israel,” which is for her, the U.S. But, as Father Roman goes on to say:

Jesus did not come to be King of Israel or Palestine, He was not a revolutionary, a reformer, a philosopher or a superstar…. According to the existing tradition of the Orient, when a King entered a city riding a horse he was coming as a warrior. Jesus, however, entered Jerusalem riding on a colt of a donkey, He came in the name of peace, not of war; He came humbly…

The same people who on Palm Sunday greeted Him shouting: “Hosanna, Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord”are the same people who Friday sit at the foot of the cross and shout: “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (Lk. 23:21). Why did they do that? Because they were frustrated. Jesus frustrated their expectations. He did not want to be their warrior-king.

And I believe He doesn’t want to be the warrior-King for America, either. As Father Roman explains:

It is important for us to understand that we are citizens of the kingdom of Christ. The kingdom of Christ is the Church, and our emperor is Christ. The President of our nation is in the White House, but our Emperor, the true President of our souls, under whose rule we should be, is in heaven. And as He said to us on the day of His Ascension that He will be with us to the end of our lives, He is with us. And we must feel Him in our hearts, not the physical heart, the flesh, but in our soul. We must feel that He rules there.

As Jesus travels to Golgotha this week, follow Him, be together with Him, suffer with Him because He is with us. God is in us…. During this week, Passion Week, we do not commemorate Christ’s passions and crucifixion, we actually live it. He is in us and we are in Him. He is crucified and we are crucified with Him….

As Orthodox Christians we prepare to travel with Him on that donkey into Jerusalem tomorrow morning, and then to join him, in whatever small way we are each able to, on His journey of suffering during Holy Week, which begins for us Sunday night. (My blog post from last year’s Palm Sunday is here. It has photos, reflections on the Feast, and a poem.)

May God, the “true President of our souls,” bless our journey this week.

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