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Hallo again to all.

Holy Week has begun. Millennia ago, it began for the first time with Jesus riding on a donkey, triumphantly through the gate into Jerusalem. The Gospels tell us that a great crowd welcomed him and waved palm branches. 'The whole city was stirred.'

A purple-clad hero on a white horseSince very few of those welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem had any way of knowing the whole incredible truth about who he was, most of them may well have been cheering for a reason other than his being the Messiah. The consensus of history seems to be that many of the citizens of Jerusalem saw Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth, as someone who would free them from oppressive Roman rule. Jesus probably knew that they were expecting their rescuer to ride through the gates on a white horse; instead he arrived on a carefully-chosen donkey.

Ah, the white horse. Universal metaphor for simple solutions to complex problems. When life gets tough and we don't see an easy way forward, or even know which way is forward, we imagine a prince (or princess) riding in on a white horse to carry us away to a place having no such problems. Revelation 19:14 describes 'The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.' That is how we might imagine being rescued!

How easy it would be if those armies of heaven would come in on their white horses to help us solve our problems! We'd be swept up, cleaned up, and carried off to a better place. So strong is the mystique of the white horse that, according to legend, the wall near the Jaffa gate was removed so that Kaiser Wilhelm, insisting on entering the city astride a white horse, could do it without passing through a gate.†

We find Jesus' donkey to be one of the more powerful symbols of the Passion. He knew that a white horse was not the answer, and (we presume) wanted to make sure that no one mistook him for such a rider. He would save the people of Jerusalem, but only by their making changes to their lives and beliefs, by doing the hard work. Much more real work is done with donkeys than with white horses.

As we continue to reflect on the conflict in the Anglican world, we can't help but think that many of the more vocal combatants are longing for someone to gallop in on a white horse and rescue the Church. Indeed, several of them would appear to have bought white horses and are practising their seat in front of a mirror, waiting for their moment to swoop down on the Church and save it from itself.

A donkey carrying a loadA variant of the principle of the white horse is that of the black horse. Rather than a saviour, it involves a villain. All that is needed to save the Church, the thinking goes, is to put someone on a black horse and run him out of town, after which the Church will be cleansed of bad influences and will be whole again. Perhaps a small herd of black horses would be needed to effect a total cure, but the principle is the same: run the bad people out of town, and we'll be saved. Oh, would that the world were that simple. We can't think of a single major crisis in church history that was solved using a horse of either colour.

The latest column by Bishop Pierre Whalon, a long-time Anglicans Online correspondent, revisits the ghost of Bishop Pike at the recent meeting of the US House of Bishops. James Pike was, now long ago, run out of town on a black horse, solving and saving nothing.

The Bible is quite clear on how individuals are to be saved, but we haven't been able to find any scripture on the salvation of the church itself. The best that we seem to be able to accomplish is to keep talking to one another, to remain 'in communion' whilst we discuss our differences. Silence is rarely golden.

And darkness is never as dark as it seems, although as we enter the solemnity of Holy Week, there are times when it will seem very dark. Keep your eye on the light...

See you next week, dear friends, on the other side, in the sun of Easter joy.

Cynthia's signature
Brian's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 20 March 2005

Consensus on this myth-misted topic seems to be that it was widened to let the Kaiser's carriage pass through.

A thin blue line
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