Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday: Do you mean it?

Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh. Hosanna in the highest.

Sadly, It's actually not too uncommon of a story. Jesus comes into the city riding on a donkey (which should have given the people a hint that he wasn't going to do as they expected him to do). The crowds of people, poor people in need of salvation from oppression and sin, welcome Jesus with the highest regard. They love him, they're all about him. No one, except maybe Jesus, could have expected that in a few short days he'd be reduced to torture, suffering, and death. The people just knew he was their Messiah, but when they found out what he was really about, namely bringing solidarity between oppressor and oppressed (see the story of Zaccheus) rather than swift revolution, they gave up hope and at least some began to hate him. I wonder how many of those who cried “Hosanna,” also cried “crucify him.” Jesus knew what he was about all the while, but what could he say? Jesus made it pretty clear to those who’d listen that his revolution was not going to be what they expected. He told them that this revolution would involve the kind of love that none of them would really want to participate in, for example, love for enemies. They thought Jesus was supposed to defeat their enemies. Jesus told them that they’d have to “count the cost” and that they’d have to “take up a cross.” But when they discovered what Jesus was all about, they didn’t believe. When Jesus began to suffer, they wanted no part.

We all want revolution, we all want change, but none of us want to cause it. When we find out that real change involves sacrifice, that solidarity might mean suffering, we lose hope in it. When we discover that love might mean giving up some of our security and dining with a “sinner” or living among the unacceptable, we’re out, we didn’t sign up for that. And eventually we cry “crucify” toward the very one who wanted change enough to die and wanted solidarity enough to break the rules at his own expense. We expect Salvation without sacrifice, we’d rather someone else do it so, inevitably, we kill them.

It's actually not too uncommon of a story. Do you mean it when you wave those branches? Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?

“Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for the human race you
sent your Son our savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer
death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully
grant that we walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his
resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and
the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.”

_Prayer for Palm Sunday The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal)

2 comments:

coldfire said...

I wonder, with so many pastors will give a propositional and somewhat hollow message about Jesus dying for sins, how many people really do understand the message of Jesus Christ. So many churches want to skip over the suffering, skip over our suffering, and go straight to eternal life with Jesus.

I'm not sure that such a message is helping the church.

Thanks for your thoughts to counter this.

May you be blessed in the week of holy suffering.

WES ELLIS said...

Danny,
I agree with you.

I don't think the message has been lost completely, though. Most Christians I talk to still hold the concept that life as a Christian is "not easy." So there is hope that the message of "our suffering" will not be lost. We just have to begin introducing new ways of seeing the cross, rather than the "Jesus did it, I don't have to" perspective.

grant that we walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his
resurrection