Monday, 23 March 2015

Palms and Passion

Some reflective resources for Palm Sunday

Hold on to the Hosannas

Let’s stay with the Hosannas for a while
Let’s let them keep on ringing in our ears
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
Instead of rushing on to hear the cries
that came later in the week
Let’s stay with the Hosannas
Maybe once we’ve heard those
in a new way
will we be ready
to make the rest of the journey
A journey that was hastened
and given new purpose
by those Hosannas
For those Hosannas were not
simply the innocent cries
of palm branch waving children
Those Hosannas were the war cries of adults
tired of the oppression
of occupying forces
Those hosannas
were the hopeful cries
of a nation seeking liberation.
Those Hosannas
were an investment of hope
in one they thought would deliver.
Those Hosannas
that we have sanitised  over the years
rang out in clear insurrection
sealing the fate
of one who rode on a donkey.
so, let’s stay with the Hosannas
Let’s wrest them from the lips of children
and allow them to ring in our ears
and spew from our mouths
as a call to action
a call to justice
a call to love.
Let’s stay with the Hosannas
even as we journey
with the Christ
who carried those Hosannas
all the way to the cross
and ensured their fulfilment
as the justice and love of God.
Let’s stay with the Hosannas.

The weeks have rolled on
The weeks have rolled on
those austere, bleak weeks
of our Lenten observance.
We’ve journeyed with Jesus through the wilderness
felt the rub of sand on our feet as we traversed the desert
and again, as we emerged with him on the shore at Galilee.
We’ve marvelled at the things he did
and cringed at the things he said
one moment proud to step out beside him
the next, embarrassed to know him.
He’s been wild, free, tormented and cursed
sometimes all at the same time.
Oh we’ve had laughs,
laughs that burst our guts as he burst the disciples’ nets,
We’ve had our party times with him too,
even through this season of penance
How could we not party when we saw him eating, drinking,
making merry?
So often there was a lightness in his step
a freshness that lifted us up
We’ve listened to his stories, marvelled at his miracles
Questioned our living
in the light of the way he showed us
And that’s all to the good.
But sometimes he got a bit heavy,
nudged us out of our comfort zones
challenged us to respond to his words
and not just passively listen,
goaded us to be different –
For the sake of the kingdom he said.
What kingdom is the question.
He’s said some tough things,
upset a lot of people
He’ll be lucky to survive with his life
never mind build a kingdom.
There’s definitely a change in the atmosphere now.
All the talk recently has been bizarre
Of death and darkness and destruction
But also talk of hope and newness.
The two simply don’t go together.
Still, the mood is changing
It looks like we’re going to have the party of all parties
And then, who knows?

Becoming like children
We imagine Jesus riding into Jerusalem
surrounded by palm branch waving children
surrounded by exuberance
and infectious laughter
shouts of greeting
cajoling and cheering.
There is a freshness in the welcome of children
a candour that is not subdued
or diminished
but comes from the heart.
bringing warmth, promoting acceptance
with is no expectation of return
but simply a desire
to spread the love.
We imagine those greetings containing familiarity
arising not out of disrespect
but out of the ability
to naturally honour and cherish
every relationship
deeming all as worthy of nurture
and investment.
We imagine Jesus surrounded by children.
The adults would have been much too reserved,
too inhibited
to be so vulgar
in their welcome.
Palm branch waving
and jacket tossing
are not for sophisticated grown ups.
We leave that nonsense to the children.
And most of the time that’s OK.
Most of the time, we are quite relieved
to keep our feelings to ourselves
to remain tight lipped
cool and distant.
But, on occasion,
wouldn’t it be great
just to throw caution to the wind
and let our exuberance escape
even just for a little while?
And what better day than this fools day
when we celebrate the absurdity
of a king riding a donkey
into Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday – a day to become like children.

What of the children

What of those children lining the streets.
Caught up in the adults’ excitement.
A festival or feast day for them.
A family day out.
With a special picnic.
For once they could be noisy in the presence of adults.
Because the adults were being noisy too.
For once they weren’t being told to simmer down.
They’d probably rarely seen adults so uninhibited.
Letting their hair down.
Throwing their heads back in unbridled mirth. The children had known from the beginning this Jesus was a hero.
It was great that the adults had finally caught on.
All those times they’d been in trouble for staying out beyond supper because they’d
followed Jesus around.
Now maybe their folks would finally understand.
There was just something about this guy.
But then Sunday was over.
And the week stretched ahead.
Things went quiet.
Eerily quiet.
There was something wrong.
It wasn’t just the anti-climax that often follows excitement.
This was an an unnatural quiet, a quiet that signaled something not good.
The adults were whispering again.
In little groups.
Closing up as soon as the children appeared.
They were used to adult’s secrets.
But there was something different about these secrets.
They felt bad.
And so the week dragged on.
It was almost a relief when the crowds gathered again.
Although it was ugly, at least it was a resolution of sorts.
And how ugly.
How could folk turn so quickly and so completely?
Is that what happens to adults?
They follow each other.
All good together.
And all bad together just as easily.
What happened to those partying folk?
Now they were yelling at the children, and yelling at each other.
And especially yelling at Jesus.
Crucify him.
Crucify him.
What had he done in a week to so turn their minds.
From hero worship.
To a blood thirsty rabble.
The children would never understand the vagaries of adult minds.

Fools Erand
It started with the search for a colt
a fools errand for the disciples
It ended with a parade
a clown's procession for the common people.
For Jesus used that colt
to laugh in the face of the authorities
taunting them
flexing his muscles of influence and popularity.
He really should have been keeping a low profile.
But, throwing caution to the wind,
he took himself into the city
and, enjoying, momentarily, the protection of the crowd
he pushed his enemies over the edge.
And he knew it.
He looked around, saw it was late, and left.
Late on so many levels.
Late in the day.
Late in the journey.
Too late for him.
His boats were now burned
and the salvaged timber already fashioned
into a cross.
A simple request: Find me a colt
set in motion
a whole series
of truths and dares
of arrest and trial
of betrayal
and denial.
His fate was sealed
and so was our redemption
as palms dissolve into passion.
A fool's errand indeed!

Did you know?
When you sent your disciples to borrow that colt, did you know? 
Did you know that, as you rode on its back, the crowds would line the streets to greet you? 
Did you know the children would wave branches? 
You said that, if the crowds hadn’t shouted their welcome, the stones along the way would have called out in praise? 
So what was it all about? 
Some giant ego trip? 
A display of your popularity? 
Or did you have in your mind all along that prophecy that said that the king would ride on a donkey? 
Was it a giant political statement? 
A king without all the paraphernalia?
Or were you just plain stupid? 
I mean it couldn’t have escaped your notice that you’d really ticked off the authorities. 
Doing the kinds of things you did. 
Healing on the sabbath, encouraging folk to question their rulers. 
Even upsetting the economy by questioning their taxes. 
Why, if you had to be in the city - why didn’t you just skulk in quietly? 
Why the entourage? 
What part of - “they’re out to get you” did you not understand? 
Or was it that you’d played their game long enough. 
Now it was time to get the inevitable over with. If you were going to die, then let’s get on with it.
And as those crowds greeted you like a hero, were you able to enjoy it? 
Were you able to bask in their praises and forget, just for a while, that by the end of the week those same voices would be baying for your blood - and those same hands, palms raised in welcome and salute, would become clenched fists, demanding your execution?

And don’t you know, Jesus, that we would never do that?
We would never sing your praises one minute and call for your demise the next.
Not us who gather week in week out, in our Sunday best, singing your praise, reading your word.
No fickleness in us.
None of that going with the flow, following the crowd, saving our own necks.
Not us.
While that crowd were gunning for you, we would have been defending you, challenging them.
We would have been just as vehement in our defence of you.
We would have put our heads above the parapet and stuck up for you.
We would!
We would!
Well, Ok then, maybe we would have calmed our jets a bit.
I mean there would be no point in us all coming to a sad end.
It would be daft to follow you that far, stick our necks out so much that we lost them.
But we would at least have whispered “Leave him alone”.
Or, to be on the safe side, we would have kept quiet.
Stood in silence, while all around us, your fate was being sealed.
We would have stood our ground, quietly, as your execution papers were drawn up.
Ours would have been a silent protest.
That’s effective you know - standing quiet while there is raging all around us.
We would have stuck it out, quietly.
Don’t we make you proud.
Isn’t our loyalty and bravery just what you need?

Donkey Riding King

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of humility
Of taking our place up front
in the knowledge
that that is where we're called to be
not because we are God's gift.
but because of God's gift
Gods gift of love
about which we cannot be silent
Gods gift of love
that we have to model up front

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of subversion
Finding ways to quietly
and peacefully
subvert what others perceive
as necessary evils
so that justice can prevail.
Quiet subversion
that brings love to the fore.

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of humour
Finding humour 
even in our darkest moments
laughing with the God
who transforms
tears of sadness
or frustration
into belly laughs of joy

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of uncertainty
Following even though
we do not know
how or when it is going to end
Following even when we do know
how or when it is going to end
because in all the uncertainty
is the promise
that God's love will be enough

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of compassion
being so moved
as Jesus was
about the plight of the world
that we can do no other
than do whatever it takes
to make a difference

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of love
that makes us want to serve
And, in serving God and each other,
finding that love
really does change everything
and allows us
to meet all these challenges
head on
following our donkey riding king.

Who were these people?

The city was busy.
Teeming with Passover revellers.
Why did they all feel the need
to come and welcome Jesus?
We were hoping, for once, to keep a low profile.
Tired of attracting big crowds wherever we went with Jesus
we thought, at least, we’d have a quiet Passover
Thought everyone would be too busy
with their own family preparations
to take notice of ours.
And it was also time that
Jesus got out of the limelight
We could tell the authorities didn’t like it
they were getting really antsy
It wasn’t just Jesus
though he kept attracting unwelcome attention
but, all the people, it seemed
were getting pretty feisty
and the authorities were getting nervous
clamping down on the most minor infractions.
Definitely NOT the time to be processing into the city
even on a donkey!
It was only a matter of time
before a ban would be imposed
on public gatherings
and demonstrations
the kind that had been breaking out everywhere recently.
So we’d hoped to enter the city quietly
to keep below the radar.
But, before we got anywhere near,
we could hear the shouts of the crowd
not angry, insurrectionist shouts
but the shouts of revellers
out for a picnic.
Maybe they were hoping for more miracles
a healing or two
or to be fed some more of those amazing stories
Jesus seemed to
make up as he went along.
Whatever they came looking for
they were not disappointed
There was Jesus
seemingly innocuous
riding on a donkey
but the people saw it
as something different altogether.
They always seemed to read into everything Jesus did
Saw mockery, even subversion
to the political era of oppression.
Why was it Jesus they flocked to?
Why turn their attention on him.
surely that day, the people signed his death warrant
as surely as if they had shouted
Crucify him!

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