The Beginning of the End of the Beginning - Reflections 3-16-16

 Texts for Palm Sunday

 March 20, 2016

 Zechariah 9:9-10
 Philippians 2:5-11
 Luke 19:28-40

 Before I can focus on the story,  I share two things from my  readings this week.

First: How did I live to be this old without noticing that there are no palms in Luke’s version of “the triumphal entry into Jerusalem”? According to this version, we should just wave our coats.  And - brace yourself - no hosannas! Really, read it. No palms or hosannas? What was Luke thinking? And where have I been all these year?

This reminds me how much of the Gospels are glommed together for these holy days. I really try hard to hear and respect the individual message/voice of each Gospel, but I totally missed the mark this time; what else do I miss?

Second: Luke, who carefully wrote an “orderly account” of the Gospel (see Luke 1:3-4) ties this scene back to Jesus’ birth announcement via the heavenly host (see Luke 2:14). Note the multitude of disciples parallels the multitude of angels. And the message offered by the multitudes hold an interesting twist. Angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth; Disciples on Palm/Cloak Sunday: Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  In a couple more verses Jesus says the stones will shout out…. heaven calls to earth and earth calls to heaven. Luke is really an awesome author.

OK. Today’s story is a threshold to the story we hear and grieve and celebrate during Holy Week. While I wave my palms on Palm Sunday with the best of them, I actually find the day to be a little sad – ok, a lot sad. In its very telling, this story points to the events at the end of this week. I am sad how completely we and the people (they is us) just don’t get it. 

How God must grieve… How God must love…

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, in their book The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem, make the case that Jesus was killed as a political threat against Rome; remember he did die on a Roman cross. They start their book describing a Roman imperial power procession entering Jerusalem:  

…A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagle mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds; the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. the swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful. (p.3)

Essentially, the reader is invited to imagine Pilate arriving in Jerusalem to keep Rome’s thumb on the people during the festival of Passover which celebrates freedom from being under the thumb of Egypt. Then read today’s text: Donkey, tattered cloaks (no palms), cheers.  For the ever present Roman guard, the question must be whether this is a deliberate taunt of an imperial procession or does it just seem to be that? Those “some Pharisees” who try to hush the crowd may believe that as well - Let’s not draw unnecessary attention, OK??? 

Some Pharisees and some in the cheering section however may have recognized in the scene the prophet’s description in Zechariah 9:9-17 of the king arriving triumphant and victorious to command peace to the nations and save his people by something that sounds a little bit like a military victory. You know – celebrating freedom from being under the thumb of power. I’m not convinced that those people were cheering for the Jesus we see at the end of this week.

God wants to bring us out of whatever enslaves us to freedom, God wants to call us to return from exile. God wants to call us out of death into life. Read the Philippians text.

Here on this day of this week, what are we cheering about?

With what does Jesus' peaceable entrance contrast today? What would his message be?

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, March 20, for more ways to reflect on these texts. 

And next week, we will have a mini-post with a verse from the story of Holy week and a reflection question each day. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below (all the way down past the related posts).

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