- Published: Sunday, 02 April 2017 22:06
LITURGY NOTES FOR PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
April 9, 2017
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians
of the land on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,
(the …..) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.
‘Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the human person, above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed, who, besides being human beings, are also divine beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all politics. They touch the very heart of God.’
Archbishop Oscar Romero (assassinated March 24, 1980)
I. BLESSING OF PALMS AND PROCESSION
Introduction by the Celebrant [Alternative]
Today and throughout Holy Week our attention focuses on the sufferings Jesus endured for our sake and how they led to his resurrection and our own rising to new life. We keep in mind also, that Jesus goes on suffering today in his body in the people who are victims of injustice, of deprivation, marginalisation and isolation, betrayal, persecution. Let us pray for them that they may also rise with Jesus and that we may help them to rise to new life.
Prayer of the Blessing of the Palms [Alternative]
Let us pray
God of all life,
we come before you with green branches,
symbols of life and youth,
and of Jesus, who called himself the green wood.
Bless us, and bless these branches.
Let these green twigs and leaves acclaim Christ
as the One who brings us life's fullness,
even though we have to take with him
the hard road of suffering and death
towards the Resurrection. We make this pray
The branches are sprinkled with holy water in silence.
Gospel of the Palm Blessing
in Jesus your Son you have shown us
that your way is the way of loving service
and the willingness to pay the price
for faithful and unswerving love.
Give us the attitude of Jesus,
that we, too, may have the integrity and courage
to walk in the way of his suffering
and share in his rising.
Prayer over the Gifts
on the night before he died
Jesus gave himself to his friends
in the form of bread and wine.
As we offer this bread and wine,
may your Spirit give us the courage
to follow Jesus’ way of active resistance to non-violence
and strive to bring about
reconciliation with one another and with you.
Prayer after Communion
in this Eucharist
Jesus has given himself to us
as he gave himself through his suffering on the cross.
May we learn from him
that true love is love of the enemy.
May we step gratefully into this Holy Week;
and tread softly for much is already bruised. Amen.
May we go reverently for holiness is found in unlikely places. Amen
May we walk lovingly with the Crucified One
who is the Centre of all things on earth and in heaven. Amen.
Introduction: Strengthened by the word and example of Jesus, may Jesus’ suffering and death bear fruit in us and in all people. We pray in response: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was led out of the city, we pray for all who feel themselves marginalised in the Church, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus we remember the people of Queensland and northern New South Wales who were severely affected by Cyclone Debbie, the lives uprooted, the lives of people lost and animals killed and environment destroyed, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who shares the suffering of crucified peoples, we remember the people of Rwanda who suffered a genocide in 1994 and whose wounds are still open, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayer.
- With Jesus whose suffering we remember, we pray for all who are living with terminal illness and those who die alone, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was arrested like a criminal, and falsely accused, we pray for all who are in prison and in detention centres, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who proclaimed peace, we remember all those who have fought in war and conflicts have returned home bearing wounds that will never heal, we pray; Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was anointed and comforted in his distress by an unknown woman, strengthen and encourage all who follow by showing their compassion and care for others, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was denied and betrayed by his friends, we pray for all in need and feel abandoned by their neighbours and friends who look away, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was brought before unjust judges, we pray for all who suffer from injustice, abuse and political manipulation, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was scourged and crowned with thorns, we pray for all who are tortured physically and mentally in prisons and detention centres, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who carried his cross, we pray for all who have difficulty bearing their afflictions and weaknesses, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was helped to carry his cross, we pray for all people who reach out to others in their sufferings, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
- With Jesus who was raised from the dead, we pray that peace and justice will rise in our hearts and bring new life to all, we pray: Crucified God, hear our prayers.
Concluding Prayer: Crucified God, hear our prayers and give us all that leads to resurrection and life. Turn our crosses into channels that lead to life and joy as you are with us, in Jesus, forever and ever. Amen
April 7: World Health Day (http://bit.ly/2mZDIxW)
April 7: International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda in 1994
In every age the true and perennial 'newness of things' comes from the infinite power of God, who says: 'Behold, I make all things new' (Rev 21:5). These words refer to the fulfillment of history, when Christ 'delivers the Kingdom to God…….. that God may be everything to everyone' (1 Cor 15:24,28). But the Christian well knows that the newness which we await in its fullness at the Lord's second coming has been present since the creation of the world, and in a special way since the time when God became [hu]man in Jesus Christ and brought about a 'new creation' with him and through him (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).
Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #62
Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.
Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, #15
Stations of the Cross of Jesus Christ
1. Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus is trapped by the same system that brings us the death penalty, the harshness of life in prison, political prisoners, torture, white color crime, racial profiling, the criminalization of the poor, the detention of immigrants, and all the inequities of our world’s ‘criminal justice systems.
2. Jesus is made to carry his cross
Jesus carries his burden as do all those who work the land, labor for low wages, struggle to find work, care for their children and family, loose their homes through foreclosure, worry over their debts, strive for their children, attend poor schools, are abused by their bosses, or in any way struggle to make it in this world.
3. Jesus falls the first time
The burden that crushes Jesus can be compared to the burdens of today - the burden of debt that crushes the poor economies of the world - the unequal distribution of resources which stifles development for many people and nations – the burden of an economic system that oppressed the environment.
4. Jesus meets his mother
Jesus looks on his mother with love and sees all the pain and possibility of relationship, deep family love and fidelity, abuse and violence, mutual loving care, separation and divorce, loneliness and community. Jesus sees all the mothers who are struggling to care for their children.
5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross
Jesus' story becomes Simon’s story as well. We are all connected with one another. Globalization can be both a burden and a relief, a freedom and a limit. Jesus and Simon are both victims and helpers. Good and evil play out as their lives are connected.
6. Jesus falls the second time
The burden that crushes Jesus is unfair - as are the economic and political inequalities of our day - wages, resources, schools, rights, beauty, power, savings, and taxes. Our systems are not always fair.
7. Veronica wipes the faces of Jesus
This ‘small’ act of charity is a wonderful action of great compassion. It seems to be all that Veronica can do at the moment. The injustice remains. She cannot stop the suffering and death of Jesus. The compassion of Veronica reminds us to do more, to work for social change, for an end to injustice, and for a new way of living together.
8. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem
Women seem to bear the burdens of the world in a special way. Women feel deeply the pain and injustice of our systems. The experience of women throughout the ages calls us to end the injustice. It calls us to a new heaven and a new earth, to a new way of being sisters and brothers.
9. Jesus falls the third time
The burden that crushes Jesus is like the burden of materialism. Every time the world worships things before people, power before justice, and consumption before the spirit, we lose what it means to be human and alive.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
This radical loss of everything continues to be felt in the lives of all the poor - those without enough food, clothing, shelter, education, employment, respect, dignity, human rights, and community.
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus is a person of active nonviolence, yet here he comes to know violence against his person - the same violence that is seen in all our wars and preparation for war, in all the violence on our streets and in our homes, in the hurt inflicted on people in all our weapons of mass destruction, in ethnic cleansing, in genocide, in all the countless examples of violence.
12. Jesus dies on the cross
Power and control seem to be dominating values in our world, yet Jesus seems to lose all of these things that the world considers important. Yet at the same time, in Jesus nailed to a cross, we see a person of great freedom, compassionate love and a special awesome power - the power of the suffering God crying out for justice.
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
Jesus is radically stripped of everything. He is a human person whose rights and dignity and been taken away. In Jesus, we see all the women and men of our world who still seek their basic human rights - rights to the basics like food, water, clothing, shelter, education, political freedom, development and justice.
14. Jesus is placed in the tomb
Jesus is carefully placed into the earth - an earth that is the divine creation - a planet that we so often abuse as we waste resources, seek profit and convenience before all else, and consume without awareness.
Stations of the Cross – a selection for Good Friday March 25, 2016
View: Peace Stations of the Cross https://educationforjustice.org/pdfs/ej/peacestations.pdf
View: Migrant Workers Journey with the Lord Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross by Adolfo Perez Esquivel
God, I believe that you can do new things. Help my unbelief!
I believe that you can help us to make a way in the desert. Help my unbelief.
I believe that you want to create rivers through the wasteland. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we are not stuck to just repeat the evils of the past. Help my unbelief.
I believe that I can do things that I was not able to do before. Help my unbelief.
I believe that I might be able to forgive my enemy. Help my unbelief.
I believe that peace among nations is possible. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we can overcome the ways of violence. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we can eliminate hunger and poverty. Help my unbelief
I believe that we can overcome racism. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we can create homes for everyone. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we can finally drop the stones of condemnation. Help my unbelief.
I believe that we will have a new heaven and a new earth. Help my unbelief.
God, I believe that together we can do new things. Help my unbelief! Amen.
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.
The absolute desire of 'having more' encourages the selfishness that destroys communal bonds among the children of God. It does so because the idolatry of riches prevents the majority from sharing the goods that the Creator has made for all, and in the all-possessing minority it produces an exaggerated pleasure in these goods.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
When the rich take from the poor, it's called an economic plan. When the poor take from the rich, it's called class warfare. It must be wonderful for President Bush to deplore class warfare while making sure his class wins.
William Sloane Coffin, Credo [collection of excerpts from speeches and sermons]
Bright Sadness is the true message and gift of Lent: ... the sadness of my exile, of the waste I have made of my life; the brightness of God's presence and forgiveness, the joy of the recovered desire for God, the peace of the recovered home. Such is the climate of Lenten worship; such is its first and general impact on my soul.
Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent
What God requires of those who call on God's name is responsive servanthood. God wishes to act in and through us, so Christian hope does not relieve men and women of responsibility. We are not primarily responsible for shrewd analysis of problems, for strategic selection of means, for maximizing the chances of success. We are primarily responsible for turning to God, for attempting to know and do God's will. That well may lead us into actions which are not shrewd, strategic, or successful, as the life of Jesus suggests. But as Jesus' life demonstrates, human action which is faithful to God's will can have transforming effect.
Parker Palmer, The Company of Strangers
Who Would Jesus Bomb?
I've seen you in the markets
I've seen you in the streets
And at your political convention
Talking of your crusade
Talking of your nation
And other things too terrible to mention
And you proclaim your Christianity
You proclaim your love of God
You talk of apple pie and mom
Well I've just got one question
And I want an answer
Tell me, who would Jesus bomb?
Maybe Jesus would bomb the Syrians
'Cause they're not Jews like him
Maybe Jesus would bomb the Afghans
On some kind of vengeful whim
Maybe Jesus would drive an M1 tank
And he would shoot Saddam
Tell me, who would Jesus bomb?
I've seen you on the TV
And on the battleships
I've seen you in the house upon the hill
And I've heard you talking
About making the world safer
And about all the men you have to kill
And you speak so glibly
About your civilization
And how you have the moral higher ground
While halfway around the world
Your explosives smash the buildings
Ah, if you could only hear the sound
But maybe Jesus would sell land mines
And turn on his electric chair
Maybe Jesus would show no compassion
For his enemies in the lands way over there
Maybe Jesus would have flown the planes
That killed the kids in Viet Nam
Tell me, who would Jesus bomb
Yes I hear you shout with confidence
As you praise the lord
And you talk about this God you know so well
And you talk of Armageddon
And your final victory
When all the evil forces go to hell
Well you'd best hope you've chosen wisely
On the right side of the lord
And when you die your conscience it is clear
You'd best hope that your atom bombs
Are better than the sword
At the time when your reckoning is here
'Cause I don't think Jesus would send gunships into Bethlehem
Or jets to raze the towns of Timorese
I don't think Jesus would lend money to dictators
Or drive those SUV's
And I don't think Jesus would ever have dropped
A single ounce of napalm
So tell me, who would Jesus bomb?
Created July 2003
Copyright David Rovics 2003, all rights reserved
This I Dare Believe
This is God’s world, and it is not aimless.
Time has a purpose and God is its steward.
Loving God, I believe, scatter my unbelief.
It is not possible that greed and injustice are forever.
It is not possible that the meek will stay dispossessed.
It is not possible that peacemakers must inevitably fail.
It is not possible that nations will always make war.
It is not possible that the merciful will be always be scorned.
It is not possible that forgiveness will at last dry up.
It is not possible that the weak are doomed to be down trodden.
It is not possible that the hungry will always go unsatisfied.
It is not possible that sincere hearts will always be exploited.
It is not possible that laughter shall finally be stilled.
It is not possible that fear will always outwit love.
It is not possible that the cynics will always be right.
It is not possible that goodness will have flowered in vain.
It is not possible that death will render all things futile.
It is not possible that Jesus will ever be forgotten.
It is not possible that faith will die out on earth.
Christ holds God’s secret in open, wounded hands,
Christ is our future and all will be redeemed.
Loving God I believe, scatter my unbelief.
Peace Which the World Cannot Give
you love justice and you establish peace on earth.
We bring before you the disunity of today’s world:
the absurd violence, and the many wars,
which are breaking the courage of the peoples of the world;
human greed and injustice,
which breed hatred and strife.
Send your spirit and renew the face of the earth;
teach us to be compassionate towards the whole human family;
strengthen the will of all those
who fight for justice and for peace,
and give us that peace which the world cannot give.
World Council of Churches
I once took a count of what sort of things Jesus thought important enough to confront people about in the gospel of Luke. Nine times Jesus confronted people for not showing love in their actions. Nine times he confronted folks for their greed and hoarding, which get in the way of single-minded service toward God and loving action toward the needy. Nine times Jesus confronted people for having divided loyalties, rather than serving God alone. Eight times he confronted people for showing by their actions that they did not recognize his authority. Eight times he confronted people who were seeking places of honor and reputation, and urged instead the way of servant-like humility.
Seven times he emphasized that the crucial question is whether we actually do what he teaches, versus the hypocrisy of claiming to be on the side of righteousness while not doing God's will. Seven times he called people explicitly to repent, to take the log out of our own eye, to stop being self-righteously critical of others and insisting on our own way, and instead to be more humble and loving toward him and toward others.
It is dramatically striking how Jesus' confrontations, and his pronouncing woe, all had to do with ethics. By contrast, he never confronted people about their doctrines. How far some of us have drifted from the way of Jesus!
Glen H. Stassen, Incarnating Ethics
The more freedom is extended to business, the more prisons have to be built for those who suffer from that business.
It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.
Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890
I have seen the tears in a single
She was crying at the politics that
prevented her from the good life
Or at least simply a life that was
Her tears flooded the hood
Drenched the future
Washed away the positive hope
that was attempting to be born
She was eager but torn
Between trying to be politically
And trying to protect
Her own dignity
Her own pride
Her own integrity
Her feelings inside
She illegally attempted to purse a
can of Similac
Looking over her shoulder as she
jammed it into her backpack
Because it would not fit into her
tiny ripped purse
What could be worse?
Only her getting caught
Stealing a can of Similac for her
baby that could have been bought
Only she gave into the politics and
lost her religion
Gave into a bad decision
And now her babies will suffer and
That their momma wanted to, but
That mother who provided
And we just continue to sing
Open barbeque joints
Overlook tear covered faces
We just keep
Passing from hand to hand
Focusing on spinning rims instead
of spending in our communities
I’ve seen the tears of a single
Left to turn left instead of right by
a frustrated lover
Reaching into empty air
Crying rivers that fail to find folks
And we dare to mention the
budget to sore ears
And we squeeze funds for our
highly regarded peers
But what about that single mother
She won’t be vacationing in Europe
or on the beaches of Jamaica or
It’s more than plain
Can’t we change?
Can’t we feed our single mothers?
So they can cope
Can’t we re-vote?
Yes, I’ve seen the tears
And now my tears combined
Are rinsing away our chances
Cut the political dances
Let’s stand still for a moment
Because the last dance
Could be the last dance
That turns off the music
on our children’s lives!
Terry Moore is a spoken word artist living in Sacramento. A slam champion, he also works for the Center for Fathers and Families. www.terrymoore.info
It is important when all the instruments of government collapse, we go in the final hour, to the most important line of battle: the people themselves. The people of this nation, I think, and I know it, are awake, and are being more awakened every day. They are hearing, and sensing, the danger that sits on the horizon.
Harry Belafonte, International Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, January 20, 2006
It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression ‘follower.’ He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible.
To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. Admirers are only too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger.
Now suppose that there is no longer any special danger, as it no doubt is in so many of our Christian countries, bound up with publicly confessing Christ. The difference between following and admiring still remains. Does not the Way – Christ’s requirement to die to the world and deny the self – does this not contain enough danger?
The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in word he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no. The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires. And because of the follower’s life, it will become evident who the admirers are, for the admirers will become agitated with him. Even these words will disturb many – but then they must likewise belong to the admirers.
Søren Kierkegaard, excerpts from Followers, Not Admirers from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard
Reflections on the readings
We have palms and hold them up. Remember: Matthew's Gospel has blood spattered all over it. The hands that hold the palms will easily become fists. The child who escaped Herod falls victim to a new cadre of frightened leaders who use fear to control people and keep them afraid. Like so many people before and after him, Jesus dies at the hands of power but this time the bloodshed changes everything. Everything was changed by this death, and God's love is revealed in it. When it was all over, the world was a different place, and the world knew it. (The earth shook. Rocks split. Tombs groaned and fell open to the light) God [became] flesh and blood in order to bring love to life. God showed, 'You don't have to come to me where I am anymore. I will come all the way to you where you are, through my beloved son.’ God comes to find us where we are.
If we are waving our palms today it is not because all is well in our world; not because the suffering or wars, or civil strife, or abuse of power have ended. We cannot close our eyes to reality. There is just too much suffering: the good, the poor and vulnerable are not spared suffering. Jesus reminds us of that today. But, God has entered our ‘holy city’ - the places of defeat and pain and transformed them and contradicted our usual ways of dealing with the cross rather than with might – which Paul says, is foolishness according to the way the world sees things. Here violence is turned to nonviolence (active love). Like Good Friday, something different happens today. We must take part as actors or participants in the drama. There can be no spectators. We cannot look away from Christ’s continuing passion and wounds in the world.
Radical evil got its inning and took its solid turn. We continue to face critical tests of principle. How often must we say never again? So often the world looks away. We say these evils and violence must never happen again – but it does. ‘If the people are silent, the stones will shout out.’ Something powerful happened as Jesus entered Jerusalem. His entry from the East indicated that a new day was at hand.
Old ways of thinking are to be put aside. Might is not right. Power does not liberate. Death is not the end of life. Success is not measure of human worth. Violence does not resolve conflict. God is not indifferent to human plight; human suffering has not fallen on deaf ears. Palm Sunday Rally and March. God hears our cry for help. The entry into the holy city makes every place of suffering holy ground.
So the question arises amidst struggle and tension: ‘who will cry out?’ Jesus knows that 'if the people do not speak up, the stones will cry out.' Today, we remember all who speak out for the voiceless. We remember those beaten and mocked for being faithful and speaking God’s liberating word. We remember those who like Jesus say there must be another way. We have seen in recent times Middle Eastern and North African dictators toppled, as people, longing for freedom, protested and pressured their rulers to make way for democracy. This pattern has been played out many times in the history of human power struggles. This is what the human system of dominance looks like. In Jesus’ time such images of power and control were rather commonplace. Crosses dotted the countryside as a fierce and decisive response t0 and attempts to question or challenge the dominance of the Roman Empire. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in response to the zealot uprisings in the 60s AD is a reminder of this pattern.
This power over others occurs not only in the political arena, but in business, were competitors are treated as ‘enemies’ and can be mercilessly driven out of business in order to reach the top of the heap. The language of war is often used in sport where opponents will inflict serious injury on one another because the glory of winning is everything, and the losers must be humiliated. And it occurs in religion. Human history has witnessed the same violence, dominance and power struggles between different religious groups and sometimes even within a single religion.
Jesus rides into a setting where there are power struggles, violence and dominance. Jesus began by preaching the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (manifesto of ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’). Here violence and dominance are absent. The God who invites all people into God’s reign welcomes not so much the powerful, the victorious or the dominant but the grieving, the poor, the meek, the peace-makers, the persecuted – the ones the world might shun as ‘losers’. The heart of Jesus’ message was that the human system is not working. An alternative is needed where equality, compassion, sacrifice and mutual service operate. Where power is not grasped and asserted over others, but is given away and shared. Jesus has stopped talking. He shows us what he means when he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. He reveals the destructive horror of the powers by submitting to their evil machinations, and hanging on their cross. He shows up the emptiness, the poverty, the hidden vulnerability of all dictators by choosing a different way, a way of love and grace and peace that those who cling to power cannot understand and try to stamp out. He comes not to humiliate but to forgive them and invite them into a different way of being.
Many will fail to hear the message. They will see his quest as a failure. They will be so addicted to their power that they will be unable to decipher the creative, gracious alternative he offers. He gives up everything, so that, for those who have ears to hear, an alternative pattern can begin to emerge in the midst of the noise of power and violence.
So today, we stand between the Pharisees (the keepers of the system) and Jesus - God's word; between the stability of the past and the painful beginning of something new. Some will drop out and avoid the tough questions and conversations. YET, others shout and keep telling the story, even to those who refuse to listen as people continue to do with climate change and the plight of asylum seekers. The peace movement was made to feel like a donkey since the invasion of Iraq. But, we know who the donkeys [apologies] are now [US, UK, Australia].
Around the world – today and in past weeks – people have heard the call again to stand against concentrated, oppressive and abusive power. We are called to join them in our following of the ‘suffering One’ with the liberating power that brings peace, justice and harmony to all of creation. This Holy Week is a time to enter the sacrament of suffering, and to read from the present world around us the meaninglessness of violence. And it is not just violence from below, but from above: boardrooms, sweatshops, political leaders.
Jesus asks to be on guard – to be on guard against the violence in our hearts, our lives and our communities. Today we begin to face the great mystery of evil and to stand against it – otherwise we approach with a kiss… and Jesus is betrayed once again. How do we show betrayal? Do we not do that when Christians take up the sword, bless nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, when nuclear weapons are called ‘Peacemaker’, when working for companies that make weapons and fail to raise our voices when our taxes underwrite war and mayhem; and stealing oil and other resources. Jesus says simply to all of us, ‘No more of this!’ But let us not forget the betrayal of people who share our pews or rub shoulders with us. They are grieving at lost, rejection, abuse and vilification and need to be listened to and responded to with compassion.
Many would rather look away from suffering and violence. The sword is still prominent and church leaders continue to bless it. The rooster crows: Wake Up! Martin Luther King once said that the choice is not between violence or non-violence but between violence and non-existence. Jesus journey to Jerusalem indicates where he would be! Who he sits with.
He could have stayed away and preached from a safe distance. But his entry challenges our accommodation to all kinds of power-‘modern Jerusalems,’- misplaced respect for powerful government; religious status; middle class values; physical and intellectual achievement; economic success, etc. As Jesus enters Jerusalem he challenges us to confront our Jerusalems today-where we bow to power, make concessions and avoid the challenges our belief in the gospel require us to face?
He submits, doesn't fight, or hide or try to outwit the powers. He chooses to be there, in Jerusalem, exposed to all the forces against him. It looked like a loser; God seemed to have gambled and lost. But Jesus' submission really was a confrontation with evil: he did not run away, his suffering was God's way of working through him. Through Jesus' loss, we are all winners.
We know from the gospel only a few women remained to bury their friend. The implication was that they were not even worth arresting. They represented the powerless and homeless. It was not long before the church recovered and put men back in charge, but it was women who were there at the cross, at the tomb, present at the foundation, and who lived to tell the story as apostles to the apostles, and passed it on.
It is still the powerless that Jesus is closest to – the converted enemy, the turncoat imperial soldier who proclaims Jesus’ innocence. And it is the he who constantly proclaims our faith across the centuries, over the Golgothas of world history saying: ‘Truly’ all of us aliens, women, marginalised and turncoats come to declare, ‘Truly, this was God’s son.’
Each of us must join Jesus and go ‘up to Jerusalem.’ Like Jesus, our personal Jerusalem may be a place where we seem to be losers: where our faith values are disregarded or trashed; where we face daily encounters with forces that oppose our best efforts; where political structures defeat the disenfranchised; where the world of high tech and privileged education broaden the gap between the haves and the have-nots. We are called to be present to our own experience of Jerusalem and there we are invited to take up the cross and risk what previously we have cherished and clung to. But first, before we straighten our shoulders and prepare for the struggle we must let Jesus go ahead of us. We follow him into the city this week; watch how he surrenders to God's ways and identify with his loss. But, through his death and resurrection we also experience new life.