Palm Sunday and the question of shouting stones reminds we why I don’t like parades. On the surface they are fun and celebratory. Yet, there is something fleeting and sad underneath. I feel the same way about carnival midways. The surface is fun and exciting with lots of people gathering around. Yet, it’s fleeting and carries an air of sadness. Parades, like the midways, are temporary. They gather folx for a few moments of fun and let them go home unchanged. Not only that, parades are not so different than protest marches or funeral processions. And when is the last time something so amazing happened that we could imagine the very stones shouting out?
So many supposed celebratory events don’t go very deep. I think of that first Palm Sunday and I wonder if people recognized that Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt was a parade, a protest, and a funeral procession all in one. The parade was dusty and poor and homemade in comparison with the parade on the other side of town that was glamorous and rich and shiny. Who noticed? The protest march was a bit more subtle with one man’s humility at the center. I’m not sure anyone noticed the power of the moment. It was also the funeral procession that Jesus wouldn’t get later. I doubt anyone new that in the moment. Maybe the stones did.
I’m not sure we notice now. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. The most sacred week of the Christian year. Many folx will attend worship on Sunday and wave palm branches and sing Hosanna and they won’t bear witness to the betrayal and death that will come before next Sunday; they will skip from celebration to celebration. They have their reasons, some of them are even valid. Yet, just because we know how the story ends, doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in listening again, witnessing again.
Christianity has lost much of its power because we’ve been distracted and misled by the parade on the other side of town and missed the protest march. We’ve been fooled into thinking that it’s all about personal salvation and rules meant to keep us in God’s good graces. Jesus risked everything to remind us that life is about more than any individual and we have a responsibility to love our neighbors into liberation. This means that faith is not passive, nor is it fear-based pressure to be “saved.”
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to face the fear, the anger, and the hatred. He knew that he wasn’t like to leave Jerusalem again. He knew that people bound by fear are capable of great acts of betrayal and violence. He knew that they would likely give in to fear long before they would embrace love. He entered Jerusalem, trusting that God would make it right in the end.
And that happened. Yet, we have lost our way. Palm branches and Hosannas won’t get us there. We need to bear witness to all that is to come. We need to ask ourselves if we have taken up the mantle of service Jesus demonstrated when he washed his disciples’ feet. Do we live as if we believe all are equal before God?
Then what is our response to Peter’s denial? We can pretend that we won’t and don’t betray Jesus, yet we do. How many times have we turned away someone in need or responded to a neighbor in fear? Are we really strong enough to admit that we would be part of the fear-filled, anger-filled crowd that called for Jesus’ crucifixion?
Palm Sunday. A simple parade that we replay year after year. Maybe this year is the year we notice all that this day entails. Maybe this year is the year we will commit to accompanying Jesus through the whole week and recognize ourselves in the crowds that will gather. Then, maybe, we’ll be ready to ask ourselves what being a Christian really means in this world that has not changed so very much in more than 2000 years. I think the stones might actually be shouting out for us to respond. Can you hear them?
RCL – Palm Sunday – April 10, 2022 – Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 • Luke 19:28-40