Written by: Rachael Keefe

Palm Sunday

RCL – April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16, Psalm 118:1-2,19-29 I am on vacation this week, so I am sharing this poem with you. It is …

Palm Sunday

RCL – April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16, Psalm 118:1-2,19-29

I am on vacation this week, so I am sharing this poem with you. It is from my book, Negotiating the Shadows: Daily Meditations for Lent, Eugene, OR: WIPF and Stock, 2010, pg 113-117.

Palm Sunday

Two parades cross town

giving onlookers a simple choice

between Pontius Pilate

and Jesus of Nazareth –

between power

and humility.

One rides into town

on a big white horse

with shouts of acclamation

and a full Roman guard –

breast plates shining,

spears gripped, at the ready (no offense) –

securing peace.

Who would not be tempted?

The Other rides quietly

on a young donkey

with little fanfare

and a few lowly disciples –

dusty clothes and dirty feet,

hands empty, accepting all (without defense) –

questioning security.

Where is the temptation here?

Roman rule is safe and sure

no risk

no change

no choice.

Jesus’ way breaks rules

risks everything

changes everything

challenges everything.

If I choose the big, fancy parade

just for today

will it shift the course of this week?

Not likely.

Jesus will ride to the temple if I am not looking

and turn toward Bethany with his friends.

He will gather for Passover in an upper room

wash feet

break bread

sing hymns

go to a garden to pray.

If I turn to Rome even for a moment

Jesus’ disciples will still fall asleep

leave him alone

until the soldiers come

and Judas betrays him with a kiss

and Peter follows his impulses…

If I fall for the glamour

Jesus will still be arrested

found guilty without trial

Pontius Pilate will wash his hands

(as if he could cleanse his own sins)

the whip will crack and blood will flow

the innocent condemned.

What difference will it make if I am not there

just this once?

No one will notice if I turn away

from the humble man who rides

with his toes dragging in the sand.

I do not need to see prophecy fulfilled

with branches and cloaks

tossed to the ground –

a poor pavement for the Son of God.

Will it matter if I don’t wonder

why he rides up and looks at the Temple

before heading off in another direction?

If I step away from the crowd before

brokenness and betrayal,

darkness and denial,

will any difference be made?

If I am not there today,

I don’t have to hear the cries for crucifixion

or see the tears of anguish in his mother’s eyes


One day, one parade, one person

One less Hosanna

One less cloak on the ground

One less face in the crowd.

On the other side of town,

cheers and shouts

instruments and song

proclaim power and presence.

The white horse and the Centurion stir up dust

and put on a show.

Echoes fade fast and the crowd stands lifeless,

waiting for more

in the oppressive heat.

Who would know if I went there?

One more to wave and sing

covered in dust

awed by power

blinded by the glare of empty promises,

marked by the shadows of Roman spears.

One more face in the crowd.

If I avoid the triumph of today,

the quiet cleansing of Thursday

the deep silence giving way to deeper darkness

in the garden and on the cross,

If I do not witness

the fickle crowd shouting “Save Us!” today

and “Crucify him!” tomorrow

the hope cracking wide open

into abysmal despair,

What else will I miss?

Rome changes nothing with its finery;

it always rules in falsity and illusion

securing obedience with fear

and peace with force.

Jesus rides through the city

asking for nothing

but for us to have courage

to bear witness

all the way through to the early morning

on the first day of the week

so our eyes will be opened


Ride on!

Take me with you (feet dragging and all)…

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

0 thoughts on “Palm Sunday”

  1. Rachel, Thank you for sharing your poem. You have brought this scene to life in a very meaningful way for me and certainly all who read it. I am convinced that I must order a copy of Negotiating the Shadows to have on hand for next year. Peace, and congratulations on your great work! Michael


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