Palm Sunday Processions, by Pastor Noel

March 25, 2018   Palm Sunday, B


      On Palm Sunday each year we re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem over 2000 years ago.

      We may not throw our clothes in Jesus’ path, or shout “Hosanna!” (which means “Lord, save us!”) We sing and wave our palms as we march.

      Those who welcomed Jesus and processed with him thought they were cheering a king. They hadn’t heard Jesus’ words about his impending death.

      As we march, we may not be thinking about the rest of our worship today that leads us from jubilation to the tomb.

      As Jesus walked into the city from the south, there was also another group entering the city.

      From his new and glorious city on the coast, Pontius Pilate marched into the holy city of Jerusalem.

      What a different procession that was!

      Pilate and his army with horses and chariots. With armor and weapons. As Jesus entered Jerusalem to bring God’s peace, Pilate entered to bring imperial power.

      Pilate, Governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, was the symbol of imperial power, and theological power. He was representing the Emperor, who was known as “son of god,” “lord,” “savior,” “peace maker.”

      When the Emperor died he took his place among the gods in the heavens. He didn’t want to be considered equal to any upstart from a back water country like Israel!

      So Pilate came to keep the Emperor’s peace in the city during the holy days of Passover.

      Pilate kept the peace through fear and domination. Peace came from political oppression and economic exploitation.   

      The Emperor was never wrong, and the people had no right to say that this was wrong.

      Jesus comes to bring God’s peace, and his message is very different from Pilate’s.

      As we read in 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 peace come without fear, without domination.

      The prophet Micah gives God’s message. “They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”

      Would that God’s peace were our reality today.

      Fear does such terrible things to us. We can’t think clearly. We can’t plan ahead. We don’t sleep well, and we probably don’t eat well. Our blood pressure and heart rate go up. Our lives suffer both emotionally and physically.

      There were marches yesterday to say “No!” to the fear of kids being shot in school. We may have different ideas  about gun ownership, but I hope we all have the same idea about school safety.

      Having our children and grandchildren spend every day in fear does not lead to good education.

      Having our children, grandchildren—or anyone—slaughtered is just downright sinful.

      I was proud to march with our Bishop and many other Episcopalians for whom “enough is enough.”

      Yesterday is the anniversary of another march. A very sad moment in our country’s history, The Trail of Tears.

      A large group of native peoples were marched from the lush south of our country to the barren lands of Oklahoma. The Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee were removed from their home lands by soldiers who marched them over 1000 miles. They starved and froze and died from diseases. As many as 6000 died on the trek.

      Yesterday we marched in sunshine and heard pleasant conversation as we walked, and wise words from our young speakers. Around the country and the world there were marches in snow and rain, but I haven’t heard of deaths.

      As we walked, I thought of that day so long ago when Jesus and his joyous crew entered Jerusalem. No proud horses, just a poor donkey for our Lord. Cheering crowds, welcoming their savior.

      Pilate came into the holy Jewish city of Jerusalem with clanking armor, creaking leather, and the drumbeats that kept the marchers in time. They were loud and belligerent. The onlookers watched in fear and silence.

      Pilate represents the kingdom of the world.       

      Here wealth is misused as power, and power is used to put others down. 

      So the Trail of Tears represents the kingdom of the world, too. A kingdom, a culture, that uses power over people, separates and excludes. A culture that rules through fear.

      Jesus is the kingdom of God. A very different culture from Pilate’s—a culture of inclusion, welcome, compassion, equality, peace.

      The March for our Lives is part of that culture—working for that peace that God offers us always.

      Jesus’ procession and Pilate’s procession—very different ways of life. The culture of God or the culture of the world.

      We can choose which procession to join.

      Those processions didn’t end 2000 years ago.    

      Each day we have the choice to be part of the world’s way, or part of God’s way.

      The world itself is not all bad—God’s creation is wondrous and full of goodness and hope. But there is also evil in the world.

      The culture of the world can call us into the darkest corners of life, into evil that is harmful to us and to others. We can join this procession, it’s open to everyone.

      God’s culture has no darkness. The light of Christ shines on us with peace, joy, love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion—all the gifts of God’s grace. This is what God’s procession offers us, and it is open to everyone too.

      As we leave our worship in silence today, I wonder—in which procession are we marching?

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