Bring in the Trappings
2010-03-25 by Rina Terry
Today, just before I left the church, one of the parishioners brought in four large palm tree plants. He told me he and his wife were not ready to put them on their porch yet as they haven't cleaned it up so the church could use them until they were ready to put them on their porch. "We wanted to get them while they were on sale," he said.
Church as storage bin is a large problem at my present appointment. Now, we will enjoy the palm plants and they will add to the festivity of remembering the procession. Yet, for whose benefit do we do what we do in worship, in the church building, in our service.
Clearly, Jesus was doing all that he did as an act of obedience and as a reflection of God's Kingdom which he proclaimed. What will we proclaim on "Palm" Sunday? What's in my spiritual Palm Sunday storage pod? Beyond our scholarly holding forth, beyond our exegetical prowess, beyond our familiarity with the narrative... Will we take home our piece of palm and put it in a vase, in our car, on a shelf or dresser? Use our little woven palm cross for a book mark?
Mark: 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!
Matthew: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
Luke: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
Me: ?? You: ??
2010-03-24 by Stephen Schuette
Go to any of the capitols of Europe or many of our own parks and you’ll find towering bronze figures imposingly mounted on a bronze stallion. Transportation has always been a way of sorting: first class from other class, private or mass transit, the “ride” or just “wheels.”
The story goes into great detail about the borrowing of the colt. In the Jesus movement this was evidently not provided as part of the budget, or “royal treasury.” The image is certainly kingly drawn from Zechariah 14:4-9, but the circumstances are decidedly untypical of a ruler, whether then or now.
As one of my teachers would say this is clearly a “minority report.” But, he would add, “Pay attention to the minority report!” This is a different “way” beautifully expressed by Paul in Philippians, although not to be sentimentalized. Nor should the entry story be sentimentalized. This king, as the hymn suggests, “…rides on to die."
Still, Luke indicates this has to do with power (vs. 37). This power, like the God who wields it, moves in an odd way. In a sense it’s the fulfillment of some of the very first teachings (Lk 6:20ff), a kind of display of what “power” in this new realm looks like. It looks like Jesus riding on a borrowed colt with palm branches. There are other powers at work that function counter to this. And the ongoing question that’s raised for everyone who would be a follower of Jesus is which power we trust.
Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.
Palms vs. Passion
2010-03-23 by Rina Terry
Let me say that I am a pacifist. My children were not permitted war toys or weapon toys. My eldest son was so brain-washed concerning violence that he allowed himself to be physically bullied for months until I found out and explained the difference between self-defense and pre-emptive aggression. I felt such shame that my turn-the-other cheek insistence had caused my son to suffer.
So, why would such a woman choose the Passion over the Palms for this week's sermon? During Lent, my spiritual discipline is at its best. I spend the time, each morning, that I should spend every morning of the year reading, praying, meditating. Like it or not, the Passion is gross torture culminating in barbarous execution. It was something with which I allowed myself, this year, to face. Then, I began to look at paintings of Christ on trial, before Pilate, and on the cross.
It was Matthias' Grunewald's Christ on the Cross, Detail from the Central Crucifixion Panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece that convinced me to preach on the Passion. http://www.musee-unterlinden.com/CLOITRE/RETABLE/FERME.html Gradually, I realized how we have prettied up the crucifixion. Tamed it and put it on a leash. Taught it to sit up, roll over, beg for a treat. Jesus on the cross has become our pet. We've even personalized it in our jewelry. Jesus dangling from the cross while dangling around our necks.
Grunewald's painting has forced me to stand at the foot of the cross and acknowledge the horror. We now know that the average cross was not as tall as those depicted in most paintings and that Jesus was probably no more than two feet off the ground. We know, as well, that he was likely naked, that his legs straddled the vertical portion of the cross and were nailed on either side through the ankle. The small ledge was not for the feet but so that the one being crucified would want to sit, thus tearing the flesh that was nailed at the wrists. It was gruesome, humiliating, torturous execution.
The gospels tell us Jesus knew what was coming when he entered the city. He knew. What do I know about him when I force myself to stand close to the cross, see his suffering, perhaps feel drops of blood fall into my hair when I am brought to my knees and bow my head because I cannot bear to look?
About the Blogger
2010-03-23 by Rina Terry
Rev. Rina Terry is currently pastor of Cape May United Methodist Church in Cape May, New Jersey. That's Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway. She is a published author and former college administrator.
She spent much of her clergy career as Supervisor of Relgious Services at Bayside State Prison, an adult male facility with a population of 2,400 men.
Jazz is Rev. Terry's primary spiritual discipline.
Late at the Gate
2010-03-23 by Rina Terry
So sorry for my late start. A stomach virus precludes blogging but is one of the hazards of being a frequent visitor to Nursing Homes and Hospitals.
Actually, maybe that is one of the crosses we "take up" and carry in service. What, really, does any of us risk for the cause of the kingdom. A 24-Hour Virus is hardly what Jesus faced as he entered the city.
Have you considered this week the very different accounts in the gospels? Leafy branches, cloaks, doneys and colts--and how in his Father's name did Jesus ride astride both animals at once as Matthew records?
The reactions of the crowd are different in each; what Jesus does next is different. How will we interpret this for our people? I guess we begin where the people who watched the processions began--who is this man and what is happening here?
I'm especially intrigued by Jesus actions in Mark. The parade's over, he goes into the temple, looks around and goes back to Bethany. A bit like he is casing the joint.
The anger must have been building in Jesus--yes, that good old human emotion anger--so he curses a tree that doesn't have fruit for him when he is hungry and then does his Rambo impersonation in the Temple.
Was his goal to precipitate the actual conflict that would set things in motion toward his own crucifixion? Was he just giving in to the anger that goes with being fully human? Was the act premeditated?
Questions are good and I'm not certain we always are supposed to craft the answers for our homiletical hearers. Perhaps, we are simply meant to goad them into engaging the story at a depth or from an angle that will fill them with questions.
Mark says (at least in the NRSV he does) they want to kill him because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching (11:18b). At this juncture, it isn't because he is calling himself God, it's because he is holding up "the law" to those who claim perfectly to follow it. It seems possible then that we simply need to hold up the story to those who believe they know it and we may get dramatic results.
I pastor a church on an island at the tip of New Jersey. The small town of few year-round residents has a major tourist industry. It schedules loads of activities to entice folks to come outside of the Memorial Day to Labor Day season. There are lots of parades.
I've been thinking a great deal about this Parade. As Borg and Crosson point out, Jesus procession came down the Mount of Olives into the city proclaiming the Kingdom of God while Pilate's procession from the opposite side of the city cam proclaiming the power of the empire.
So the conflict between the two kingdoms begins and we are meant to live into, walk with and preach the conflict, not avoid it.
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