A Reflection on Matthew 21:1-11 for Palm Sunday
This week the United States government dropped missiles on a country because of what is believed to be a sarin gas attack that killed 70 people, ten of them children. The images from the tragic events are horrifying. The fact that technology makes it possible to know of the deep suffering of others is nearly paralyzing.
I believe that whatever God is, it mourns with us.
I am guessing I am not the only one who has felt a mix of sadness, despair, anger and more. The glaring hypocrisy- calling the victims in Syria, children of God after they are already dead, while actively seeking to deny entry to refugees seeking persecution from the very same place. We are told that the missiles were launched because a line was crossed.
War has become too easy. In part because we have spent generations investing our energy, money and talent in how we fight and the sophistication of the weapons we use. I learned yesterday that the president is financially invested in Raytheon, the company that made the missiles that he ordered dropped and of course their stock is now up.
War has become too easy and those who make the final decisions aren’t likely to have a child on the front line. War has become our default language, allowing our bridge building capacities to atrophy and denying peace a place at the table.
And there is a disconnect from the pain of war, the loss and trauma born by those who serve and the willingness of political leaders to flout military might with press conferences and ceremonies- lavish expressions of nationalism that hide the truth of war, the cost and the wounds.
We have been on this path for a while… but maybe this is a time when things are clarified and illumined. Is this really where we want to go together? Is this really the path God would want?
The world’s powerful have decided that some lives matter more than others and that security is equivalent to expressions of dominance. Kings with the most swords and gold decide the fate.
And into this present moment and from an ancient time, Jesus of Nazareth, begins on the road to Jerusalem. Maybe at the start, he walked alone, but he knew where he was going. It was a simple protest march against those with far more economic and political clout.
Tradition calls this march palm Sunday as the cut branches from the trees were spread across the road. It was must have looked a bit ridiculous. Insignificant and powerless.
We need Jesus to accompany us on this march, in this time, in this place. Because without his procession, we might find we have joined the wrong march. Maybe it wasn’t our intention. We are good people and we got swept up. And here we are at Jerusalem and we must face him and he says, Is this really where we want to go together? Is this really the path God would want?
As Jesus walks, as his people find him and his crowd grows, on the other side of town, we could imagine a different procession.
In the book The Last Week, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan reconstruct the story by contrasting the image of Jesus’ procession and pronouncement of the power of God, with Pilate’s pronouncement of the power of Empire. One has a donkey, one has a war-horse.
Maybe sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be. If we follow Jesus, all we need to ask ourselves is which procession are we in? Which path marches us all toward freedom? Which procession leads to something else?
As Borg and Crossan write, this conflict Jesus had to face, this “protest was against a domination system legitimated in the name of God, a domination system radically different from what the already present and coming kingdom of God, the dream of God, would be like.”
How hard it is to follow Jesus to Jerusalem, all the way…he is marching against domination.
As we begin Holy Week, Jesus’ journey offers footsteps for us, a pathway that points us toward participating in the undoing of suffering, but the other procession has more might and power and an amplified voice and maybe a bigger crowd.
The world’s powerful have decided that some lives matter more than others and that security is equivalent to expressions of dominance. Kings with the most swords and gold decide the fate. And into that Jesus walks…
We have allowed a world that has chosen the procession with the warhorse, and often it is done in the name of the One who came on a donkey.
As we enter Jerusalem together, the question for each of us is simple, which procession are you in?