And What of the Donkey?

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, March 25, 2018

Text: Mark 11:1-11

[NB. Today’s reflection on the word is more of a “poetry reading” than a traditional sermon. It was inspired by the discovery of one poem about the donkey that led to another that led to another. Hoepfully, the reflection will help to move us from the Triumphal Entry to the foot of the Cross – and beyond!]

He came riding on a donkey,
he came riding into town;
slow and easy, kind of lowly,
he came riding with the dawn.

And what of the Donkey? Maren Tirabassi plays with the fact that the donkey must first be untied to be ridden. She wonders if the untying isn’t a liberation to serve and speculates on the freedom we might experience if were untied from the things that bind us.

Maren Tirabassi

First untie the donkey
the one that’s standing at the gate
waiting to be untied —
from some sorrow
or some guilt,
from someone else’s judgment —
too young for the ride, or too old,
too much ink on the skin,
Parkinson’s in the hands,
pregnant in the belly.

First untie the donkey,
the one that’s standing at the gate
waiting to be untied –
from some abusive relationship
or really intricate self-made knots.

This is the donkey God wants for the ride –
a burro with no documents,
or some other not-yet-ridden,
gender-outside or recovery-thin.

So first untie the donkey –
the one who wants a parade,
willing to carry joyand a premonition of cross
at the same time,
longing for a day of song and danger
fetlock deep in palms,
and a life that will always echo,
His disciples walked beside him,
staying close, a little shy;
not too sure where he would guide them
on to live or on to die.

And what of the donkey? Bruce Prewer watches the donkey and wonders how much the donkey knew or understood of who its rider was and what was happening that day.

B. D, Prewer

This donkey did not know;
but did he comprehend
who the rider was
who nudged him down the road
among the shouting mob
waving palm branches
through the city gates
with praise that was too brief?

This donkey did not know;
but did he comprehend
these gentle hands
that guided him on a journey
which pilgrims would recall
for thousands of years
with gratitude and praise
mixed with adoring grief?

This donkey did not know;
but did he comprehend
that angels and archangels
held their breath with awe
as the source of galaxies
rode on in humble majesty
to a holy mystery
that beggars all belief?

But all the morning sang his praises;
waking birds and dancing wind;
here he is, the Son of David;
riding on to take his throne.

And what of the donkey? The British writer G. K. Chesterton tries to get inside the ridiculed donkey’s head and tell the tale of mystery and wonder from the lowly donkey’s point of view.

The Donkey
G. K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

And what of the donkey? A rider is helpless without his mount. Pilate had his magnificent warhorse; his purpose to keep the Pax Romana, no matter who had to die to maintain order. Jesus had a very different message to carry. He was reduced to borrowing someone’s young, unbroken donkey to bring the good news of the peace of God which passes all understanding. Years ago my sister, Charlotte, wrote a little poem that I have carried in my memory all this time. The Blessed One must have his mount in order to pass through the great walls of the city

Love came riding into [human hearts]
Tearing apart walls
Walls built up over infinite time
Walls high and sturdy
That nothing could crack
Nothing except the rider
Who came gallantly in
Tearing apart.

And what of the donkey? And what of its rider? And what of our own witness?

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hear all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Savior meek, pursue Your road
with palms and scattered garments stroked.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Your triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The hosts of angels in the sky
look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
to see th’approaching Sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Your last and fiercest strife is nigh.The Father on His sapphire throne
awaits His own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die,
bow Your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O Christ, Your pow’r and reign. Amen.



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