Palms and Passion, these are your themes for the coming week. Sunday begins a very busy week for the church, with some of you focusing on the events of Palm Sunday, and others are focusing on the Passion narrative in addition to or in place of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. Some of you will not have Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, so you’ve got to squeeze it all in on Sunday. You will move through the jubilation of Sunday to the reflection of Thursday to the grief and agony of Friday, all in one morning/afternoon. You have my prayers!
Ours is one of the churches focusing solely on Jesus’ triumphant entry this Sunday. In Year C, we have Luke’s account of that entrance — you know, the one that never mentions palms or branches, only garments being placed on the back of the borrowed colt and in the path he rode. Maybe this is the year we should have ordered coats instead of palm fronds!
Perhaps my favorite part of this passage is when the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke (silence/correct) his disciples for their praise and prophecy. Jesus insists that if they were silent, the nearby stones wouldn’t be. That response has inspired a good deal of the musical tradition in the African-American church. “I don’t want no rocks crying in my place!” you might hear a soloist or choir sing. For a community with a voice that is too often marginalized, that response provides a lot of validation. It affirms the voice of those who are saying unwelcome or inconvenient things. God does not silence us when we proclaim what God is doing in our midst, and neither will anyone else. You may not want to hear it, but I still have to tell it!
Given the political and social climate of the day (not just in America, but the world over), I think there is something to work with in this passage regarding prophetic urgency. Sometimes, when change is a foot, when God is showing up, when something is happening, we can’t be silent. We have to tell the story. We have to let the world know what we see and what our hearts desperately welcome. And that will challenge and inconvenience some people — particularly those with power and privilege — but it still must be proclaimed. Someone might try to correct us or police our tone, but we still say what we see. If we don’t, someone else will. If we don’t, something else will happen in response.
The actions and words of those who lined Jesus’ pathway on that Sunday, for me, illustrate how we participate in what Christ is doing. We give of what we have (our garments) and we tell of what God is doing. Looking toward the cross, those who hold to substitutionary atonement understand Jesus’ death as something he submitted to in our place. And yet, it occurs to me that an active, vibrant faith cannot involve proxies. We have our own part to play, and there are no understudies. No one should speak or act for us. As my foremothers sang, “I don’t want no rocks crying out in my place!” Only we can tell our stories. Only we can share our witness.
What is your approach for Palm/Passion Sunday? Are you preaching, or will the Word be proclaimed some other way? What garments are you laying down this week?
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