Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV/adapted)
Jesus went on ahead of the disciples, heading towards Jerusalem.
As they were approaching Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of the disciples on ahead, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. ‘Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ ‘The Lord needs it’, they replied. Then the disciples brought the colt to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt’s back, they set Jesus on it.
As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God enthusiastically for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
Palm Sunday: A Moment to Examine our own Contradictions
Scott and I had a conversation this week about the power of certain intimate friendships, including many found in this church, to call us back to ourselves. For example, last week when Scott got back from Hawaii, he and Lisa went out to dinner with Teri and Janalee. During the meal he was explaining how he was really struggling to lead DART Stations of the Cross this year. And he got two different responses. Teri reminded him that if it really was too much, he could set it down and everything would still be OK. And Janalee suggested that maybe he hadn’t done enough to really feel good about it yet.
Two very different responses. But somehow these friends created the space for him to set down a heavy expectation he was placing on himself that had him frozen and thereby, paradoxically, to choose to pick up and engage deeper in the work at hand. The work that he feels called to do.
It is possible to live one’s whole life on the surface and asleep–numb with fear and with pain. On Palm Sunday, we remember that Jesus rides a farm animal through all this numbness. Leveraging the shock value of his vulnerability as he rides unprotected into a dangerous situation, he calls out to us, Wake Up!
Talking to Scott got me thinking about the function of this community, and all true communities, as transformers. Meaning, what do we, the community, do with the pain and hurt and anxiety of each of our member’s individual lives? Do people leave worship or community meal carrying the same load? Or sometimes, do we succeed at converting these burdens into electrical current which galvanizes and provokes us to re-engage the work that we are called by the Spirit to pursue?
Palm Sunday gives us a chance to look inside the transformational process. With the sea of disciples in Luke’s passage, we see a crowd hungry for truth and meaning, yet also carrying seeds of doubt and capacities to turn toward anger and vengeance.
Now, not everyone in this triumphant scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem will later be crying out ‘Crucify him!’ Yet consider those followers with a less extreme change of heart. Those who just sat in their house and felt shame as the drama unfolded. Those who found everything they had wanted, or thought they wanted, shattered at their feet as Jesus was pulled deeper into the Lion’s den. Those who felt powerless to respond and powerless to even fully engage with what was happening. Might they have wondered what happened to the truth they had tasted with the call of Hosannah on their lips? And where was the future they thought Jesus was heralding?
All of these questions and yearnings are wrapped up in a swirl on Palm Sunday. It is a day of contrasts.
And those of us hungry for Truth cannot merely wave palm branches and lay down cloaks this Sunday without considering our own shadow sides: the fear and anxiety and seeds of doubt that block our path toward fuller living. And the invitation, reverberating through Jesus’ life and the prophets before him, to cultivate practices that transform our fear and our pain so we do not continue to transmit them.
What are these practices? They are simple and there are many. But time spent with truth-telling friends is surely one of them. People who love you enough to call you out when you are being lame, but who also love you enough to point the way home. For in these moments of intimacy we can be the face of Christ for one another. We can help each other to heed Jesus’ call as he enters Jerusalem: ‘Wake up!’ to the movement of the Spirit of God.
Join us tonight as we host new friends from Journey, a fellow emergent community of faith in Dallas, and together enter deeper into the heart of Lent as we prepare for DART Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, April 2nd. Paul is making lentils, Journey folks are bringing cookies to share. 108 S. Rosemont Ave, Dallas TX 75208. 214.233-4605. everyone welcome!