28 March 2021
For me Palm Sunday has always been great fun.
It is a celebration before the sadness of Holy Week and we get to act out the story as we process inside or outside of our building.
And so last year’s Palm Sunday was particularly disappointing. We were still learning how to stream our worship and figuring out which equipment to purchase, and whether it even was available as everyone was facing the same predicament.
And so we joined the service the Synod provided, which was anticlimactic not only because it reached ahead to Good Friday, when Sundays are always a celebration of the resurrection, but also because I had to just sit there and I am not very good at just sitting there. For me, the best part of last year’s Palm Sunday was Jackie tying cedar bows to our front gate, providing at least some avenue to assert our conviction that Jesus is Lord and that his reign is coming.
Last week I read about a church that found itself in the same predicament last year and that decided to do something all together different. Americans are a little more extroverted, at least more than me.
They decided to have a car parade. A member of the congregation writes about it:
“We placed a few of our brave young guys in the middle of key intersections to hold oncoming traffic, and then we slowly travelled the streets of our neighbourhood honking our horns, shouting the good news. Some of our neighbours came out to cheer and to thank us, some with tears streaming. More than a few drivers flipped us off and yelled at us. Some neighbours stood on their porches in shock at the spectacle we were creating.
The parade got us on the local news, but more importantly our neighbours and our own children saw us rejoicing together with decorated cars, waving recycled Christmas tree branches out our car windows, streamers, balloons, joyful music, honking horns, and smiling faces in the midst of a global pandemic. One of our members captured aerial footage from his drone camera as another led the way on his bicycle wearing a donkey hat. It was completely weird, seriously wonderful and wow, did we need it.
As I drove my car, waved my Christmas tree branch, sang along with the music, and shouted hello to friends, neighbours and strangers, I wondered if we were getting a real taste of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We were conspicuous; we were jubilant; we were proclaiming the coming of the Lord and of the Kingdom. Many rejoiced with us, but not everyone was delighted to see us.”1
The sentence that stuck with me about that experience was this, “The parade got us on the local news, but more importantly our neighbours and our own children saw us rejoicing together.” In a world where our faith usually takes place inside our churches and has become almost invisible to the world, it seems a good idea to do a parade in the neighbourhood. Not that a parade is earthshaking but it helps us practise our faith publicly, sort of like the procession from the old church on Number 3 and Francis to the new building. And in the case of Engelwood Christian Church, it also provided the added benefit of sharing joy with a world that was fearful.
The report of the parade ends with this sentence, though, “I wondered if we were getting a real taste of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We were conspicuous; we were jubilant; we were proclaiming the coming of the Lord and of the Kingdom. Many rejoiced with us, but not everyone was delighted to see us.”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, many rejoiced and many joined in the parade. They were exuberant, they were hopeful, and they placed all their hopes in Jesus.
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Now, we who know the story and are entering with Jesus into this week we call holy, know what lies ahead. And what lies ahead is because Jesus did not come as an entertainer whose only goal was to make people happy and to make a few bucks.
Rather, Jesus proclaimed and enacted God’s reign and those in power felt threatened, in the same way Herod felt threatened when the scholars from the East asked him about the new born king that Herod knew nothing about.
Hosanna, means Save us. Jesus in the Aramaic Yeshua means to deliver or to save and we may remember the angel’s word to Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people …” (Matthew 1:21)
So, when the church shouts, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!, the church is making a political proclamation, saying that Jesus is Lord rather than the powers and rulers of this world.
Furthermore, Jesus enters Jerusalem during the Passover festival which is more than a religious celebration but remembers the liberation from oppression and from slavery.
Moreover, palm branches are a symbol of liberation since two centuries earlier palms were waved as Israelite troops liberated Jerusalem from Syrian occupation.
And so it is no wonder that the powers feel threatened.
And yet this parade is different. It is political, because Jesus is proclaimed as God’s anointed One, because the parade remembers Israel’s liberation from slavery, and the Maccabean revolt 200 years before.
It is different because of who Jesus is, and who Jesus is is expressed in Jesus’ riding a colt and the allusion to Zechariah 9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, nonviolent (praus, often translated as humble) and riding on a donkey, on a colt, … He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (9-10)
The One who enters Jerusalem on this day does claim political power, but he does so by means of peace. He is the Prince of Peace.
Today we join in the parade and may we stay with him as he stays with us.
1 Susan Adams of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, http://www.ekklesiaproject.org/blog/2021/03/making-a-spectacle-of-ourselves/