Palm Sunday sermon, 2017

Palm Sunday sermon, 2017

Author:
April 05, 2020

When Clayton and I travelled to Washington DC last spring (2016) with Elisa we had an unforgettable encounter with power and the show of force.  It was Saturday morning and after a morning swim we decided to take a stroll over to the White House, just a couple blocks away. I noticed a heightened police presence and a buzz in the air but didn’t think much of it.  We made it to the White House, fought through the crowds to snap the obligatory picture of Clayton in front of it, armed secret service agent and all. We made our way past the Eisenhower building and as we were walking along the sidewalk to view the Southern side, we were told to stop.  That’s when I noticed the first motorcycle. And then another. And another. And then a police car, followed by several more and then came the black SUV’s. “Clayton!,” I said, “It’s the president!” We stood there in awe as no less than 30 SUV’s, police cars, ambulances, SWAT trucks, the whole host, escorted President Obama up to Howard University to deliver the commencement address.  It was an amazing stroke of coincidence that was, for me at least, a sobering encounter knowing full well the amount of firepower that was carried in that convoy. I know that safety is the primary motivator in this day and age, but it’s still disconcerting to be in the presence of that much potential force. And maybe that’s the point. Welcome to life in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.
In the gospel reading during the liturgy of the palms, we hear of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  What is not mentioned, however is another triumphal entry that would have been happening at the same time or very close to it.  I want to focus on that for a minute because I think it not only puts Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in perspective, but also highlights the very essence of Jesus ministry as it was perceived and how it is revealed.  The other procession I’m talking about is the yearly entrance of the Roman governor, in this case Pontius Pilate, along with a whole host of cavalry and foot soldiers reinforcing the Roman garrison that was permanently stationed at the Fortress Antonia overlooking the temple, into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover celebration, and all major Jewish festivals for that matter.
For starters, if you haven’t read Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book “The Last Week,” I recommend it.  It’s a fascinating look at the historical setting of Jerusalem during this time and include a lot of helpful background on what was going on politically, religiously, and culturally.  
So back to this other procession. Quoting Borg and Crossan here, “Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city.  A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles 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.”  Think about that scene for a moment, because visualizing that I am suddenly much more sympathetic to the misguided souls who in one breath shouted “Hosanna, (literally “save us”) and in the next, yelled “Crucify Him!”
Such was the tension that Jesus and his followers embraced, some more willingly than others, in his day.  And I can’t help but feel that same tension in our own time. At the time of Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, or “seio” meaning “tremble.”  The intersection of the brutal Roman rule with all its lack of subtlety as described above, the fear and anxiety of the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, and Jesus’ satirical entry into the city with the hopes and dreams of a tired people, resulted in a strange confluence that would, in the end, leave the city shaken to its core.  
In his entry on the back of a donkey, his trial where he disdainfully threw his own defense, and his execution willingly accepted, Jesus shows the powers that be, and each of us, that power as the world knows it and power as God wields it cannot be compared.  The tension remains. While we cry out our “Hosannas” for God to save us we must do so acknowledging that the power we invoke is not bound by our own earthly standards. Be in turmoil. Be shaken to your core, yet thankful our “Hosannas” that turned into “Crucify Him!” are not the final word. There is more to come, and as all the readings this morning spell out clearly, the events of today and this Holy Week were not set in motion for things to stay the same. 
BACK

ST. AUGUSTINE CANTERBURY CENTER
519 W University Ave | Stillwater, OK 74074
(405) 624-1041


CONTACT USDONATE
 
Top