We have spent the spring—from the Sunday after Christmas Day until today—reading the gospel according to Mark. And you might remember that a few weeks ago, we fast-forwarded a little. We jumped from Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, telling the disciples about what was going to happen… to Jesus in Jerusalem, causing trouble.
And I told you then that a flashback was coming… that we would fill in the missing moment.
And here it is.
There are people who love Christmas. There are people who look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ at a midnight service and singing Silent Night in the candlelight.
There are people who love Easter. There are people who look forward to celebrating the resurrection at a sunrise service and seeing the lilies on the altar.
There might even be people who love Epiphany… or Reformation Sunday… or All Souls’ Day.
…I love Palm Sunday. I love blessing the palms. I love having the kids run through the sanctuary passing them out to people. I love hearing the people shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Most of all, I love that this is the day when a dispossessed people in an occupied land… put their hopes on a teacher and healer and prophet… from nowheresville in Galilee… who rode into Jerusalem on a ‘borrowed’ colt. This is the day when people believed in the impossible.
It won’t last, of course. We know where this is going. Jesus will insult the Jewish authorities and suggest sedition against the Roman authorities. He will predict the destruction of the Temple and end of the world. And by the time we get to the end of the week…
…a woman will anoint him for burial…
…bread will be broken and wine will be shared…
…a friend will betray him and a friend will deny him…
…he will be arrested and tried… and the people will turn on him… and he will be hung on a cross and buried in a tomb…
…and the story will be over.
But for a moment—for just a moment—the people saw hope in the midst of their despair, and chose the world-as-God-intended-it-to-be over the world-as-it-was.
It’s becoming a refrain, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
For some of us, life hasn’t changed much. We’re eating in a little more. We’re having meetings via the internet a little more often. We’re checking the news more than we should and eating a little less healthily.
For some of us, life has changed quite a lot. We’re stuck at home when we’d rather be out with friends… or at the office… or at school. We’re stressed and scared and worried. And we don’t know when things are going to get better.
And for some of us, this pandemic is our life now. I know that we’re flattening the curve so we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system… and I know that our healthcare workers are already overwhelmed.
We are seeing a glimpse of what it is like to be a dispossessed people in an occupied land. We are dispossessed of our normal lives. We are occupied by a virus. And it is terrible and stressful and scary and worrisome and devastating. And it’s good to recognize that. It’s important to own that.
And it can be easy to think that this time is special or different or unique. And it is… and it isn’t.
Because the truth is that we have always been a dispossessed people in an occupied land. We have always been dispossessed of the world-as-God-intended-it, of the kingdom of God, of the kin-dom of God. We have spent our lives in a world occupied by sin.
Maybe, we have even gotten used to that world. Maybe, we have even internalized it. Maybe, we have even come to believe that it’s just the way things are… the way things have to be… inevitable. That there would always be divisions and fears and oppressions along lines of race and class, sexuality and gender identity, religion and nationality and a thousand other things… that the poor and marginalized would Just. Always. Be. There.
And it’s becoming a refrain, but one of the things that we’re learning in the midst of this pandemic is that nothing had to be the way that it was. While we might have to live in a world stained by sin, we do not have to accept that world. We can do things differently.
We can see hope in the midst of our despair, and choose the world-as-God-intends-it-to-be over the world-as-it-is.
And the deeply beautiful thing about that choice is that we don’t need a pandemic to make it.
We live in a world stained by sin. Poverty is always with us; and we can respond to poverty with generosity. War is always with us; and we can respond to war with peacemaking. Hunger is always with us; and we can respond to hunger by opening our pantries and our tables.
Divisions and fears and oppressions are always with us; and we can respond to them with love.
Every Sunday is a celebration of the Easter story. Every Sunday is a little Easter. Every Sunday is a little reminder of that wonderful day when the women went to the tomb and discovered that Jesus was not there… that God had gotten up.
I hope that every Sunday is also a celebration of this story. Every Sunday is also a little Palm Sunday. Every Sunday is also a little reminder of that day when a dispossessed people in an occupied land stood along a road and put their hopes on a teacher and healer and prophet… from nowheresville in Galilee… who was riding into their capital on a ‘borrowed’ colt.
Every Sunday is a reminder that the hope of the world does not ride in on a war horse, through the grandest gate, with a grand procession, to ruffles and flourishes. He sneaks in… with the humble… to coats on the road and palms in the air and shouts of, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
And yeah, Jesus was not the messiah that the crowd expected. And yeah, Christ is often not the messiah that we expect, either.
And yeah, we will go through this Holy Week exactly as we go through every other week (which is also holy… every week is holy). And by the time we get to the end…
…we will anoint Christ for burial…
…we will break bread and share wine…
…we will betray him and deny him…
…we will arrest and try him… we will turn on him… we will hang him on a cross and bury him in a tomb…
…and we might even think that the story is over… that this is just the way things are… that this is just the way things have to be… that we are destined to be a people dispossessed of the kingdom of God living in world occupied by sin. That the way that the world is, is inevitable.
And in those moments, I hope that we can also remember a simple truth and believe the impossible: that Christ rises… that God gets up… that hope rides into the world… and that, one day, we will no longer be a dispossessed people living in an occupied land…
That we will live in the kingdom of God, the kin-dom of God, the world-as-God-intends-it-to-be.
And that we can greet every small sign of that kingdom with shouts of, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”