When I went to graduate school in political science out east, one of the draws for me was that I would be close enough to DC to go to all the protests and demonstrations. Well I remember one spring receiving an invitation from the justice action network of the United Church of Christ to protest US involvement in Central America. This was soon after Iran Contra when we were funding all sorts of dictators and right wing militia groups to battle communist influence and secure our economic interests. I don't remember the particular action of the US government we were protesting, but I felt it was important at the time. As we gathered to march past the white house to the Capital. These amazing puppets joined the march. They were so tall. Towering over us all, adding drama and flair to our demonstration. These puppets were part of a UCC Congregation's ministry from Vermont. As we sang songs of freedom and hope in Spanish and English, the puppets danced to our movements and hope. As we sang of a God who wants us to love our neighbor, I was struck by what a powerful moving experience it was. Whenever I think of Jesus' parade into Jerusalem, I am reminded of the many protests I participated in - where my politics and my religion came together to demand a better world, to change how we treat people who are beloved children of God.
The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 51When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
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!’
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1-11
On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem. Jesus is coming to the seat of religious and political authority to announce the coming kingdom of God and call for repentance. Imagine the sight of the crowd that has been following Jesus being joined by those in the city spreading out their cloaks and waving palm branches while singing and shouting Hosanna (God Saves), Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus enters the city not on a war horse but a colt. He is not bring an army to battle but a ragtag group of the least, the last, the lost, the outcast. The people are announcing to the city that God saves and here is the one, a humble man, not a war hero or an avenging God, has come to bring God's mercy and justice to the temple. Jesus brought his parade to the religious center. He walked through the temple, seeing what was happening in God's house and left the town.
In our churches and our culture, where there is a desire for the church to stay out of politics, to keep politics out of worship, Jesus takes the word of God straight to the center of power. He preaches repentance and of the coming Kingdom. He invites us to hold our political and religious authorities accountable to God's dream of a world where the lame walk, the blind see, the mute speak, the deaf hear, evil is chased away, the prisoners are set free, the hungry are fed, the children are welcomed, and the least become important. How are our church's and pastor's keeping this vision of God's dream before us? I am reminded of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina where religious leader and people gather to fight poverty and policies that are hurting the poor and working class. God's justice is a moral matter. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "... If [the poor and dispossessed] can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life..." The leaders of Moral Mondays have identified five principles that are “bigger than Democrat or Republican but good for the whole”: 1. Economic sustainability and ending poverty; 2. Education equality; 3. Healthcare for all; 4. Fairness in the criminal justice system; and 5. Voting Rights. What we're up against is much too big and all-encompassing. We must see, as Dr. King once said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - and an injury to one is an injury to all." Where will you let the inspiration of this text take you to challenge the injustice you see?
Blessed are you who come in the name of the Lord, Jesus you showed us what it means to challenge political and religious authority. Yet we don't wants politics in our church, we want it to be the calm peaceful Jesus we meet. Jesus the provocative preacher and the political revolutionary meet me today. I'm not sure I want to meet that you, but I want to be your follower and I know that I have to move and change to be who you want us to be. Guide my feet to day Jesus. Amen,
Waiting for the Great Leap Forward by Bill Bragg