In the Grip of Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11Palm Sunday – for March 29, 2015

“Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields.” (Mark 11:8)

With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .
With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .

Today I read Mark through John’s eyes.

Only the Gospel of John mentioned palm trees.

Mark and Matthew were branches, with no palms allowed.

And Luke? Well, Luke didn’t know, didn’t care, or got the memo late about the greenery. There were no palms in the third gospel, just cloaks scattered on the ground when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Palms, like other elements in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were symbolic. For example, the bread and wine shared during the “last supper” were common parts of a meal that became essential symbolic elements. Don’t forget the iconic gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ beginnings. After Bethlehem’s gifts, there was the high-in-the-sky symbol of a dove descending. And if your literal-leaning faith prefers to interpret the gold at Jesus’ birth in the clutches of a flesh-and-blood magi or a visible and heaven-sent bird at baptism soaring in the clouds above the Jordan River, at the least we can agree those—and other Gospel events—have become symbolic.

Palm trees too. Continue reading →

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No Safe Place

Matthew 21: 1-11  – Palm Sunday – for Sunday, April 13, 2014

“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking ‘Who is this?'” (Matthew 21:10)

Jesus.
Who is this?

Jesus?
Is this . . . who?

Jesus . . .
This, who is!

jesusentry20All the wide streets, narrow alleys and beaten paths emptied more debris and people into the roiling, boisterous crowd. Wind swirled. Branches chattered. Banners fluttered. Officers barked orders. Soldiers tightened grips on swords and spears. Shopkeepers closed early or doubled their prices. Whores beckoned from the shadows. Thieves rejoiced; so many pockets, so little time. Children played a dozen variations of tag. Dogs snatched food from unsuspecting hands. Over there, two were joined by two more when a fistfight erupted. Not far away, a cripple was trampled. Down a few steps, a woman stabbed a man with his knife. A beggar snatched a purse of coins left on a table. A priest fondled a woman and was kneed in the groin. And they shouted . . .

Help!
Hooray!
Yes!
No!
Now!
Later!
Please!
Never!
I need . . .
You can’t have . . .

And then he came. Closer. Continue reading →

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The Sun-Scorched Path

Luke 19:28-40Palm Sunday – for March 24, 2013

“(T)he whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully . . .” (Luke 19:37)

We call it Palm Sunday. Luke’s Gospel said . . .

As Jesus 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 joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen . . .

jesus-christ-riding-into-jerusalem-for-passoverAnd then Jesus entered Jerusalem, the City of David.

Soon, the swirling dust on the wending, sun-scorched path settled down. After the colt carrying Jesus passed by, most of the crowd reclaimed their cloaks. But some clothing was left, trampled to the color of dirt and unnoticed or simply forgotten by their owner.

Out on the road, encircled by the ancient hills, the shouts faded. In the distance, people inside Jerusalem’s walls now cheered—or jeered—the man from Nazareth, the echo of their voices ebbing and flowing.

A quiet returned to the pilgrim’s route that serpentined east to Jericho, the Jordan River and beyond. Though soon, another crowd or caravan would likely approach the City of David. This was, after all, the city of prophets and dreamers. And yet also the city of profits and losses, where a few hoarded Caesar’s silver while most of the rest begged for even a single copper coin. Here, since David’s reign, thieves and princes, whores and virgins, priests and pretenders all scrambled to achieve their dreams and schemes.

Still, there were those abandoned cloaks, along with other detritus of frantic human activity scattered across the road:  discarded bits of bread, frayed sandal straps, shards of pottery and the like.

When crowds gather, there was always litter.

And rumors.

*        *        *

A man with a limp—years before a Roman wagon, heavy with grain, rolled over his foot—struggled back home. He rehearsed the speech he’d deliver to his wife and neighbors.

“This Jesus fellow will cure everyone. They say he’s a healer. They say all you have to do is touch his garment. They say there’s God’s power to him. If only I had gotten closer today, I would’ve touched him. And so I’ll go the city and try again tomorrow. I’ll grab onto him and won’t let go. He will cure me. With one miracle, everything will change for the better.” Continue reading →

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