The Palm Sunday liturgy in Anglican & Catholic traditions brings a rude awakening for us. We begin with reenacting the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We wear palms…we wave palms…we shape palms into crosses and rings, calling “Hosanna” (i.e. “Save Now!”) to the Redeemer King. Yet, those cries for salvation swiftly turn to cries of “Crucify Him!”
Palm Sunday commemorates the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem. The people had been seeking a king. Being under the yoke of Roman oppression…being subjected to oppression by the religious authorities…they were seeking someone who would bring them out of bondage. Their understanding of messiah was simply and purely physical. They wanted a “here and now” liberation – only.
After seeing all that Jesus could do and had done…after all the miracles, healings, feedings, and teachings, they thought Jesus was the messiah they wanted. But, He wasn’t the messiah they wanted. He was the Messiah they needed.
So, after stopping traffic to celebrate Him on what we know as Palm Sunday and once the blind euphoria dies, they people realize that He is leading them in a way they don’t want to go. So, they want to kill Him. The same ones who were waving palms and proclaiming their love for Jesus, now want nothing to do with Him: crucify Him, crucify Him!
And, I realize how much it’s like that for us who claim to follow Jesus. On Palm Sunday, we welcome the One we will later reject.
We grab palms and we parade around the Church singing “all glory, laud and honor to Thee Redeemer King!” We knock on the door of the Church to open the gates of Jerusalem (i.e. the Church), so that the King of Glory may come in. But by the time the Mass is over, we have condemned the Lord to death on the Cross.
Don’t you see it?
Don’t you see how true this is? As you look around the Church, doesn’t this look frighteningly familiar?
On Palm Sunday, we welcome the One we will later reject.
How do we do this? Why do we do this?
For the direct parallel, we look at the church and her clergy. Now there are many examples of priests and pastors who act in ways deserving to be cast aside. Yet, we all know Church…so we know the flip side is true.
Take a church – any church – in need of a new pastor or even an assistant. They’ll go through the search and when it’s time to call the “chosen one,” he/she will be proclaimed to be exactly what that church needs. That pastor or priest will be welcomed with great fanfare. Yet, the moment that “chosen person of God” begins to follow the will of the Father as opposed to the will of the congregation, just like the Gospel accounts the people cry: “crucify her, crucify him!”
Or for the indirect parallel, we can look in many directions. And sticking with the Church, let’s look at welcoming new members. A church will be clamoring for new members: “we need young people!” By the grace of God, in comes new life…new youth, and everyone rejoices! More than just being present, these new faces have the audacity to roll up their sleeves and get to work on building their new church home. Now for some, these new persons don’t fit the “prescribed mold” for the church and the same people who were begging for young people to come shout: “crucify them, crucify them!”
We say we want to be a welcoming community, and we hope for the unchurched to find their ways into our doors. When they come, there will be rejoicing and great fanfare. Sensing the warmth, the new (and broken) person will become vulnerable and share more of himself/herself, hoping their new family will nurse them back to wellness – to wholeness. Yet, as this person exposes themselves, the self-righteous realize he/she doesn’t mask their conduct to fit the “saved and sanctified” appearance. Now those same ones who were loudly rejoicing at the presence of the unchurched quickly turn and shout: “crucify them!”
My brother Deacon Father Jerry de Jesus gave an awesome testimony at last night’s Stations of the Cross, wherein he stated that we – the Church – have a tendency to create Judases among us, so we can crucify them rather than dealing with our own failings. But we feel good about it – proud that we have found a way to throw away – push away – one who Christ has redeemed.
I would like to hope that this Palm Sunday would be different. I would like to believe that on this Palm Sunday, we would continue to hail Jesus as our Redeemer King and wouldn’t join in with those who will throw Him away and push Him out of their lives because He doesn’t lead them in the ways they want to be led. But that’s probably foolishly naive. #MercyLord #SaveNow!