Palm Sunday Parades, by Pastor Noel

April 14, 2019       Palm Sunday, C


      There were two processions coming into Jerusalem on that day we call Palm Sunday.            

       Jesus was riding into the city on a lowly donkey. He was greeted with shouts of joy.

      Jesus was coming to bring peace, God’s peace, peace that comes from knowing God’s love, having God’s love in our hearts.

      At the same time, coming in from Caesarea Maritimus, a splendid new city on the coast, Pontius Pilate, is riding toward the city.

      Pilate, Governor of the Roman provinces of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, rode into the holy Jewish city with an army. They came with horses, chariots, armor, and weapons.

      Pilate represented imperial power and theological power of the Roman Empire.

      The Emperor was called “son of god,” “lord,” “savior” and “peace maker.” Tradition said that on his death the Emperor ascended to “heaven” to take his place among the gods.

      Pilate was keeping the Emperor’s peace, but that was peace controlled through fear. The Emperor’s peace was not peaceful.

      It was a domination system of governance through political oppression and economic exploitation. This was given religious legitimization because the Emperor was a god and could do no wrong.

   Pilate brings peace, but it is peace gained only by power over others. It is not real peace at all.

      The message of peace that Jesus brings can be heard in the Prophet Zechariah, “He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations.”

      God’s power is not domination, not power over, but power with God’s people.

      God’s power is received without fear, “They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”

      We read this in Micah, and many other places in the Hebrew Scriptures. And it is the message we hear from Jesus, over and over.

      Imagine the sounds of the two processions.

      Pilate with clanking armor, creaking leather of the saddles and harnesses of the horses, drumbeats and loud footfalls of the marching army.

      Pilate’s message was strength through power, “out of my way!”

      Imagine the crowd watching in silence and fear.

      No joyful shouts would have welcomed Pilate and his military parade.

      Jesus enters the city through another gate, with cheering crowds shouting, “Hosanna!” (Lord save us)

      No shining, prancing horses, just one poor donkey—maybe bedraggled, ungroomed.

      Except for the cheering crowd, the parade would have been silent.

      There were no weapons, no drums, just clothing making a muffled “carpet.”

      And the barefoot crowd marching along, singing joyously.

      Pilate represents the kingdom of the world. He was the elite, the wealthy, who rule over others, through power with fear, exclusion, domination.

      Jesus represents the kingdom of God. This is the kingdom to which we all belong. It is not a promise of heaven as “hereafter,” but God’s kingdom here, now, lived in peace, inclusion, justice, hope and joy.

      We live in the world. We depend on the world for life, and the world is not all bad.

      But kingdom of the world, the “powers that be”, have influence on how we understand ourselves, others, and God.

      This is the parade that most of us are marching in. The values of the world are the values we live.

      And, we are invited to “Let the same mind be in (us) that was in Christ Jesus.”

      The parade Jesus calls us to join doesn’t turn its back on the world—we can’t do that, can we?—Jesus asks us to put these things in perspective and hold them in balance with God’s values.

      I can’t help but see the world today in those two processions, two ways of life.

      There are people who use their power and influence to control others. To keep them in line. To keep them out of the mainstream of life. To block them from opportunity. To keep them from having choices. Keep them in fear as Pilate did.

      This is how the kingdom of the world works.

      And there are those with other ideas.

      Those who welcome and include, who rejoice in differences and enable them. Those who heal and help and have compassion. Those who see no “other” but just people of all kinds.

      This is how the kingdom of God works.

      What kingdom do we live in?

      Where is our source of true life and wholeness?

      Jesus calls us see beyond world system. He calls us to believe good news — God loves and cares about us, and invites us to love and care about him and everyone else. 

      Jesus invites us to live in, and commit to, the kingdom of God through lives of peace, inclusion, justice, so that we will have hope and joy, also.

      There are still two processions, two parades, for us to choose from every day.

      The parade of the world, Pilate’s parade, lures us with false promises, says that we can have it all! and leads to frustration and pain.

      Jesus’ parade has no false promises. Just the promise that he is with us always. The promise that as we live to follow Jesus and reach out with compassion, understanding, welcome —this will lead us to God’s kingdom. It will be difficult, and it will be the best life we have ever had.

      Marching in Jesus’ parade may not change the world, but it will transform us in ways that Pilate’s parade never can.

      Which parade are we marching in?

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details