This week I completed the first draft of a reprint of The Life of Raymond Raynes by Nicholas Mosley. I have been immersed in Father Raynes’s love and Father Raynes’s suffering, as he allowed God to work through his life to feed others with God himself, to help others know God.
He lived this life until he died a painful death at the age of fifty-five and entered the gates of his new life, his Jerusalem.
Raymond Raynes was a tall thin man, increasingly gaunt in his last years, a monk who ate little and slept little, but who loved a great deal, loved through his prayers and his time spent caring for others. He changed lives in the countryside of England and in the slums of South Africa, and he changed lives in Denver, Dallas, and San Francisco when he came to speak on his American missions. He wanted to stir up the Church, to wake up the Body of Christ. Why? So that they could see and know God.
Today, Palm Sunday, we re-member Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. He rides a lowly donkey, yet the people greet him as a king. Hosanna, they cry. Hosanna to the Son of David. Jesus will be their new king, they think. They learn differently in the following week. We tell this story, act it out even as we process, holding our palm fronds, around the nave and sing, All glory laud and honor… By telling the story we draw closer so that we may know God better.
It is a dramatic moment when the Lord of All Creation so humbly enters this city of man. Born in a stable to humble parents, Jesus of Nazareth lived among a persecuted people, a poor people. After his time in the desert, after his baptism by John, he gathered his followers and spoke the truth to the crowds. Often the truth was too harsh and they fled, and often the truth today is too harsh, and we flee. But, as our preacher said this morning, those who knew him stayed, and those who know him today, stay too. When he said that we must eat his body and drink his blood, many left. Just so, many leave today. But those who knew him recognized him as the Messiah, the long awaited one, the Lord of All Creation. Those who know him today, those who worship faithfully with sacrament and scripture week after week – those folks understand who he is, the long promised savior.
I have an icon on my wall that shows this scene at the gates of Jerusalem. The colors are vivid – golds and greens and reds. We re-member and re-fashion, re-creating the true glory of this humble scene, this moment in history. Our preacher today spoke of those palm branches. He said that in this arid land only the rich would have palm trees. The palm branch, with its green fronds, meant water was near. So it is particularly poignant and meaningful that children waved their branches of life-giving water and royal privilege, before this humble man riding on a donkey.
In church, as I gazed upon the purple-draped chancel – so much purple! – the giant green palm branches that rose twenty plus feet on either side of the altar filled me with joy, the hope of Easter. They arced gently, nearly reaching the purple cloths over the crucifix. They said, soon, soon, it will be finished. Soon, soon, all will be renewed, reborn. Soon, soon, we shall be resurrected.
How do I know this? Because I have tried to be faithful in Sacrament and Scripture. I have worshiped regularly, have received the Body and Blood into my own body. I have listened to the sermons and the lessons that help me know God. I have listened for God’s voice in prayer. There is no magic involved in any of this. No luck. Maybe some grace and a little blessing and some angels urging me along the way. But through simple faithfulness we can know him. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.
My novel, The Magdalene Mystery, is to be released in mid-May. It is the story of a quest to find the real Mary Magdalene, the woman who was the first to see the resurrected Christ. She came to the tomb out of faithfulness, doing what needed to be done. She didn’t expect to find the stone rolled away or the the man she thought was the gardener speak to her. But when he called her name, Mary, she knew him. Because she was faithful.
Father Raynes was faithful, and he taught us how to be faithful, how to know God. Like Christ Jesus, he tells the truth and not everyone wants to hear it. Some of his demands are difficult, some are inconvenient. But truth is the only way to life. As part of the Body of Christ, the Church, I shall be ever grateful for his stirring up, for his call to be faithful. For in being faithful, we know God, and in knowing God, we live.