In our parish, on Palm Sunday our liturgy stays with the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Trusting that our members will join us on Good Friday, we have not adopted the practice of rushing to the Passion of Christ. This allows us time to linger over our Hosannas. Our worship began outside with the reading of Matthew 21:1-11, followed by a procession of palm waving, hosanna cheering congregation. This year I changed the first reading to the story of Jacob’s wounding during a wrestling match with God in Genesis 32:22-31, followed by an feminist interpretation of Psalm 118, and the Gospel text John 12:12-15. I am indebted to Michael Morewood’s book “Is Jesus God” for the inspiration behind this sermon and to John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg’s “The Last Week” for the historical details.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us! Save us! Save us from who? Save us from what? Save us for what? What is all the shouting about?
Two millennia ago, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, when Jesus mounted that donkey it was pretty clear who needed saving from who; it was clear what they needed saving from and it was fairly clear what people longed to be saved for. The people longed for freedom: freedom from the brutality of their Roman rulers, freedom from the ravages of poverty, freedom from the strict oppression of their religious authorities, and freedom from the fear of illness and death. Life among the conquered peoples of first century Palestine was cruel, oppressive, impoverished and filled with fear and suspicion. Whatever hope of deliverance there was all too often false hope. Among the oppressed there are always calls for revolution and the conquered people of first century Palestine had seen more than their fair share of wanna-be saviours. Some of their young people had fallen prey to the incitement of the Zealots and in youthful, exuberant, impatience had taken up arms against their Roman oppressors. Some of their neighbours had betrayed their own people and taken up whatever crumbs the Romans were offering, sold their souls and become collaborators, lining their own pockets at the expense of their own people. But far too many people had given up and given in, settling for whatever life they could eke out under the cruel regime hoping against hope, that someday, someone, somehow would come along and save them from the horrors of life. And so, they longed for the good old days; The days when their people and not the Romans dominated the land, the days when one of their own was king. But not just any king, they wanted a king like David; a king who would ride at the head of their army full of pride and power and conquer all their enemies. The elders, the wise ones, pointed to the past and heralded David as a Messiah; an anointed one; anointed by God to lead the people. How they longed for such a messiah to rise up among them and lead them; lead them to victory against all their foes and save them from their miserable existence. One by one, they’d hear these wanna-be messiahs, these trumped up saviours, call the people to rise up. But they knew, with each successive saviour, there was no hope that they could triumph over the mighty Roman army and so over and over again, they hunkered down, waiting and watching, longing and hoping for the one who could save them. Continue reading