Riding to Jerusalem on a donkey

Saturday, March 5, 2005

How would people react today if a king made a grand entrance on a donkey? Could our proud culture handle the lack of noble grandeur? "Say to daughter Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." Matthew 21:1-11

That particular Scripture passage jumped out at me recently as I sat reading the Bible. Why would anyone who hoped to invigorate people and gain followers choose such an unimpressive arrival?

I compared values today with those Jesus modeled. Some of the most glaring contrasts I found were what people look for when they move to a new location. Parents search for good schools. After talking to many parents, I found academic standing wasn't always the determining factor. Many considered the attractive building, how people dressed and acted, and the affluence of those attending.

I talked with a woman who drove all the way across the city so her children could participate in an Ivy League sports program. She related that the children dressed better than at one she previewed previously. There were no outcasts here. Her children would be exposed to the best influences. She believed she was a better parent for checking out those criteria.

Recently I conversed with a youngster enrolled in numerous after-school activities. He said he must participate in the events so he could fit in with others his age. After hearing of all his "must-do activities," it seemd that the boy had little time to be a child, to daydream, use his imagination and enjoy the play he chose. I saw a vicious cycle being created of parents, all trying to raise good and successful children, but wishing someone would summon the courage to say, "I've had enough! I'm stepping off the bandwagon; being the best person I can be by using my own gauge of what's important."

Some talked about how they seldom ate at home because they worked so much and were too tired to prepare meals. "Everybody's busy nowadays," they said, "and I must continue keeping up with what is expected."

When people saw Jesus riding on the donkey into Jerusalem they were shaken because they expected elegance in a king. The fulfillment of prophecy was an example of what was valuable. Rather than doing what was expected, Jesus came to teach humility. Love was to be man's goal. From what I derive from Scripture, I'm reasonably sure Jesus refrained from wearing fine clothes or caring about on which side of town a person lived. I doubt he strove to master all the latest games, and Jesus certainly avoided fitting into societal norms. He was simply concerned that one loved God and neighbor.

These days, people try to keep up appearances, travel with the right circles and participate in what everyone does in their social milieu. Many people try to live the way they perceive they "should," rather than living a simpler life they would prefer. There are those who would like to include more time for leisure, calm and contemplation -- but the world has changed. Yesteryear is gone, so people adjust and join the crowd.

Perhaps the world is different these days, but those of us who yearn for a quieter, more serene existence can still be in this world while simply being less a part of it. We can be new pioneers following our own paths rather than continuing down one dictated by others. Someone must gather the courage to say, "Accept me for whom I am."

I wonder: Can I summon the bravery to ride into town on a donkey -- setting my own standards rather than going along with the rest of the crowd?

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish in Cape Girardeau.

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