Last Sunday I was a donkey

My knees are still sore from circling our auditorium on all fours with a Jesus-like little girl on my back. Yes, for our Palm Sunday I was the one Jesus had chosen to ride as he came back to Jerusalem. [Complete with a tail, and white/pink ears…seems it is harder to shop for the ears of a donkey than those of a bunny this time of year].

Louise and I started the children’s story by reminding the little ones that the people were hoping for their King’s return on a war horse, but that Jesus declined the speed and power of a war horse, in favour of the slow and lowly donkey. “Jesus”, we told them, “knew there were people back in Jerusalem that wanted to harm him…and still he chose to walk toward them on a defenceless donkey.”

With the story over I was back at my seat and supposed to be singing another verse of “Hosanna”, but my mind wandered to the Peter Mansbridge article about the Vimy Ridge centennial I had read that morning. I had almost wept as I read how his grandfather was one of the “lucky ones”; unlike over 3,500 other soldiers, Henry Mansbridge recovered from his sniper wounds, going on to marry his nurse and found the Mansbridge family in Canada. The article was, like much Canadian celebration of military victory, subdued; focussed more on remembering sacrificial deaths than gloating over a great conquest.

Our cautious Vimy centennial stands in some contrast to the near global glee over last week’s US cruise missile attack on the Syrian airfield. Yes Canada applauded too, but many Canadians genuinely want to believe that violence is neither redemptive, nor peacebuilding. We generally “get” that lasting peace is hammered out at the negotiation table, not on the battlefield. But we Canadians still cannot quite choose the donkey over the war horse.

So even here in peaceable Canada, someone has to keep showing up on the donkey. Some voice, even if still and small, needs to keep calling for non-violence in the face of all the world’s sabres and lances. That is our job as Anabaptist Christians and as MCC. One of our gifts to society is to keep calling for non-violent responses to conflict.

Yes we will be labelled impractical, idealistic, and even irresponsible. So was Jesus. You can be sure lots of those people in the crowd were chastising him for not leading an army into Jerusalem to throw off the oppressive yoke of the Romans. And certainly it was not immediately obvious that what Jesus brought was far stronger than any mounted battalion.

Of course we cannot pretend that we have a neat, non-violent recipe for peace in Syria. Yet humbly we call for the donkey not the steed. And it is not as though MCC and its partners are unengaged there! We are active in grass roots peacebuilding from popular theatre groups enacting new ways to live together without violence, to school-based peace trainings making it less likely that this generation will choose violence as the route to resolution of conflict. So our voice is neither still, nor terribly small.

As Anabaptist Christians we have a real and present opportunity to follow the Jesus who chose a donkey, to follow even as he rides that unarmed donkey down the main street.  Like Jesus, we know that at the end of the street is the cross.  And beyond that the resurrection; the holy pronouncement that life conquers crucifixion. That is our Easter hope. That is why we can and must, choose the donkey.

Our prayer at MCC is that as your ministry we can help provide the tools of peace that our hope needs.

Rick Cober Bauman
Executive Director
MCC Ontario

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