Finally! We made it!!! Several chapters after being told the Jesus had set his face toward the city this week’s reading finds us on the very outskirts of Jerusalem — though we still seem to stop just short of actually walking through the gate. You can read the passage (Luke 19:29-44) here.
The folks at Working Preacher have, as usual, offered up a commentary and a podcast. And this week’s commentary offers some excellent questions, particularly in respect to Jesus’ contention that “if these were silent, the stones would shout out”.
Some first observations:
— No branches, not even a reference to branches. So much for a Palm parade…
— I am always fascinated by the account of how the colt is procured. Is this not portrayed (given the information we are given in the text) as a possible act of thievery? Or do we follow with the idea that Jesus has this all pre-arranged? Or is it the hand of Divine providence at work?
— even without the full Passion story (unlike the RCL the Narrative Lectionary assumes that we will have services on Thursday and Friday to tell the rest of the story) we still have the sour note starting to sound. We may start in glory and excitement, but the text refuses to let us stop there.
Who makes up this crowd that lines the road (and covers the road)? Are they new people, those who are seeing Jesus and catching the excitement for the first time? Or are they folk who have been traveling around with Jesus and company for the last 10 chapters, people who have seen the wonders and heard the stories and who are finally seeing [they hope/think/wonder] the promise blossom into reality? When it comes to preaching the story, does it make a difference either way?
It may be a dead end, but there is a trail that I have sometimes pondered taking on Palm Sunday. What does Jesus think of all this? Is the power of the moment upmost in his mind? Or is he still hyper aware of where this road leads (after all he has told his disciples three times what is coming)? What is he seeing and hearing?
That leads me to the lament with which the passage closes. From a historical perspective the way Luke phrases it seems heavily impacted by the reality of Jerusalem’s fall to the Legions decades after Jesus is supposed to have uttered the words. And Luke clearly is assigning meaning to that catastrophe. But Jesus would also remember an earlier catastrophe. Jerusalem is not invulnerable, it has fallen before, and within his faith tradition meaning was assigned to that destruction. As one who preaches the Kingdom, is Jesus only lamenting for the Holy City or is he lamenting human nature in general. How good are we as a species at recognizing the things that make for peace? Do we always “recognize the time of your [our] visitation from God”?
Finally, those stones. Those stones that are on the verge of crying out. To me that is a sign of the unstoppable awe and power of God’s presence. At the same time, I wonder if we are ready to open ourselves to that possibility. Are we ready to admit that God is at work doing something that we can not control — even if it may not conform to our norms of decency and orderliness?
Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings
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