During Lent the focus should not be on Kings and Lords but on ourselves. We are the common thread in these stories. See the crowd. Keep your eye on the crowd right through Lent and onto Easter. The crowd that gathered to cheer Jesus on Palm Sunday? The crowd that screamed for his crucifixion five days later? We are in both crowds.
I once read an interesting story about crowd mentality and the way it is influenced by context. In January of 2007, The Washington Post videotaped the reactions of commuters to the music of a violinist playing and asking for donations at a District of Columbia subway stop. The overwhelming majority of the hundreds of passing commuters were too busy to stop. A few did, briefly, and some of those threw a couple of crumpled dollar bills into the violin case of the street performer. Those who paid heed often had scowls on their face, apparently disapproving of his way of earning meal money.
No big deal, just an ordinary day on the Metro. Except it wasn't an ordinary day and this violinist wasn't just another street performer. And by no means was his violin ordinary. The “beggar” was Joshua Bell, one of the world's finest concert violinists. The instrument he played would have caused people to line up at the Smithsonian just for a chance to see it. Bell was playing his multi-million dollar Stradivarius. Just three days earlier he had filled Boston's Symphony Hall with people paying $100 or more per seat to hear him play similar pieces.
But that morning, people saw only what they expected to see at that place, at that moment. A down and out fellow, trying to scrape together a few bucks by begging for their hard earned money. Imagine how much more they’d have given if they had only been told who he was. Imagine how much more of their time they’d have taken to listen…if only they had known.
The question this poses is not so much whether we can recognize beauty when we see it but whether we are even looking for it in the unexpected places. When we are in a church, we expect to see and feel God, but what about when we are in a different crowd, one where the view toward others is less spiritual, where opinions are more worldly?
If we can’t hear great music outside a concert hall, can we hear God in unexpected places, extraordinary ways? The Lenten Season is a good time to try.
Rev. Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne.
This is an excerpt from his sermon on March 13th, the First Sunday of Lent.