(8:30 Service) I can understand the excitement of getting accidently caught up in a parade. I am pretty sure the first time I was in parade was by accident. I got carried away with enthusiasm. We decorated my bicycle with streamers, and I rode on my training wheels as fast as I could. I pedaled as hard my 5-year-old legs could go while my parents directed my baby sister and I to watch the 4th of July parade alongside the boardwalk. And soon, we saw decorated bikes, firetrucks, baton twirlers, clowns, Shriners in little cars, and lots of friendly people handing out flags and waving to us. I waved back! And I just didn’t stop as I saw the other decorated bikes. I joined right in the parade. I became a part a of the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade, whether I was registered or not. I joined the parade.
There was nothing accidental about the parade that Jesus was a part of on that day. Like the ones we know for Memorial Day or Veterans Day, St. Patrick’s Day or Mardi Gras, Jesus was the main attraction in the parade. Jesus sent two disciples ahead to shore up transportation. An important detail that some might have regarded as trivial, the donkey, the unridden colt communicated one of the most important nonverbal messages across time and space – Jesus was and is a different kind of king. In this parade, Jesus turned the parade meme upside-down riding by not riding the white stallion as the ruler of the day, Roman Emperor, Caesar or even, provincial governor, Pontius Pilate. Jesus rode a beast of burden, a donkey, a young colt.(1) The Gospel of Mark, whose writer has rushed us through many details, pauses to let us know, that the animal has never been ridden. Jesus’s ride of an untamed young donkey turns on its head the professional well-heeled chariot and stallion that will follow with Roman guard and military complex. Which parade do you join? Jesus is asking the crowds.
Whenever and wherever people have gathered, strong statement have been made by the presence together- parades and marches, military and peace-filled alike. From Selma to Montgomery, they marched. Like the multiple times that they marched on Washington. Like the parade that went to Jerusalem, it has always intended to garner the intention of the powerful!
Jesus went up to Jerusalem not turning away from the same questions he had addressed with the religious and political leaders he had encountered throughout his ministry. As shouts of Hosanna! And blessings rang through the streets, the calculations of executions had already rung in chambers of leaders. Jesus was teaching and preaching to those on the margins, who had been largely ignored and rejected by people of power. Jesus gathered in the widows and the children, the tax collectors and sinners, the forgotten and lonely. No one was beyond the reach of love and communion of Jesus. This was how he lived, how he loved, and how his parade meandered through the streets of Jerusalem.
They pulled palm branches from the trees, waved them in the air, laid them on the ground. They took off their outer garments and put them also on the ground under the feet of the colt. They were looking for the king in contrast to Caesar. They wanted something to change. They wanted something different. Some of them had followed Jesus for a while now, and some of them had just started to hear about Jesus and hoped that he would change their lives. And so desperately, they hung onto a hope. In fact, clung to hope as if it was the only way to know life and maybe sometimes it is. We do this, too, you know. We cling to hope, even and most especially, when we are not sure if we know where to find more of it.
And so, the disciples and the casual followers along with those who just heard of Jesus on that day were all mixed together in one parade. They all raised their palm branches high and yelled out – Save us! We need a Savoir! This world needs the hand of God! Blessed is the Holy One who walks in the Midst of these trials and leads us to Life. Blessed is the One who brings Justice When all we can see is division.
Still today we gather in parade. Still today we gather in protest. Some who marched yesterday in the March for our Lives movement, marched with palms in their hands. In similar ways, prophetic voices with pleas of “Save us” were heard!
From the prophets who came before Jesus who called on behalf of God urging God’s people to turn back to God to those today who gather cry for justice on behalf of God and urge us to turn back to God. We hear the voice of Jesus telling us, like the disciples the he has need of us, too, to join the parade.
We turn to God looking for glimpses of kingdom when all people will know justice, when all people know love, when all people know God. We see God’s people around us and beside who advocate for justice and peace, the ones who join the parade alongside us.
No longer do we join the parade accidentally. No longer do we get caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement. My 5-year-old legs no longer have to pedal on the stream decked-out bicycle for all they are worth, thanks be to God, to catch up with the parade! Rather, we who have met and know Jesus intentionally chose to pause and join the parade. We chose to praise God and cry out for justice. When we cry Hosanna! We join the voices of those who have come before singing ‘Jesus save us!’ Let us this Holy Week, walk with Jesus as he walks with purpose towards the cross and beyond. Let us pause to join the parade to praise God and cry for justice, God’s justice.
This is the Gospel, the Good News, of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(1) Borg, Marcus and Crossan, John Dominic. The Last Week: What the Gospel Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem, 2006.
(11:00 Service) As we have been reading the Gospel of Mark, we have seen Jesus confronting the powers that be. Jesus has not avoided or skirted any conflicts. So, up to Jerusalem, he went. With the disciples, Peter, James, Andrew and John, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and the rest of the bunch, they traveled to Jerusalem to go to the Temple, to celebrate Passover, to face down death. At the beginning of the chapter, we find out that someone was given the critical job of donkey detail as Bishop Willimon calls it. (1) Two of the disciples, perhaps the very two who requested a few verses earlier to be given the honor of being placed one at Jesus’ right hand and one at his left, were given detailed instructions to secure transportation. This is a bit of risky business. They were not given the purse to transact a rental or copious detail. Rather, they were given just enough. And there was a young, unridden colt involved. (2)
Enough to create the parade in contrast to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate’s. Enough to share Jesus’ teachings of love and healing with others. Enough to have others join the parade and raise their voices in Hosanna – crying for him “Save Us” for “Messiah has Come.” We, too find ourselves with each song, with part, with each part of this holy week, with just enough – remembering Jesus.
We stand in a long line of those who have been remembering Jesus. Our parents and grandparents joined their voices in this parade saying they need Jesus, Hosanna! Here, West Grove Church, like many in the Methodist movement – begun in a private home, Martin and Louisa Benn’s home at 29 Oakland Avenue, Dorothy Week’s grandparent’s, saying they, too need Jesus! Hosanna! And back even further to fourth century, a pilgrim by the name of Egeria. She traveled from what is now France to the Holy Lands. She describes many practices the church still holds for Holy Week. She writes of the Palm processional that begins at the Mount of Olives with hymns, responsive readings, and prayers. The community reads scripture including: “Blessed is the One who Comes in the Name of the Lord” as the children gather around the one who plays the role of Jesus. (3) They joined and walked together from the Mount of Olives to the Church of Resurrection, slowly, so no one would be left behind.
We, too pause to join the parade with our praises. We believe, and we act together. All Lent, we have been pausing to see, to know, to be, to create, and then rising to act. Belief and action are always joined together. As the crowds gathered to come and glimpse Jesus on the Palm Sunday parade, they cried out, “Hosanna!” – “Come and save us” “Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.” They joined in the parade – some wondering in their hearts, others confident in their belief, and praying with their feet.
You and I, we reenact the parade when prepare the way of the Lord in our own lives. We move from the drama and reenactment of Palm Sunday in worship to our own lives as we join parade raising our voices to prepare the way of the Lord. As we enter this Holy Week, we are called to reshape our lives believing that Jesus is Lord. We are called to live as if God really is in our world. When we reshape our lives, how do we show that God is most important? Where have placed the importance of worship? Where have we placed the importance of prayer? Have we made time for our relationship with God?
In the life of the pilgrim, Egeria, the community of Jesus was marked, by not leaving any of God’s children behind. This can also been seen throughout scripture as well. How are you living out the scriptural call to be reaching all of God’s children in love?
Throughout the week, we remember. As we remember, we each get a new chance to see who we are in the parade. Will we be like the disciples who walk with Jesus for a while learning and helping, but then denying or betraying when it gets difficult? Will we be like the religious leaders who have been asking questions to catch Jesus and trip him up? Or will we be like the women who join the parade and walk faithfully through the week and remember?
Let us pause to this week to join the parade and remember.
This is the Gospel, the Good News, of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(2) Borg, Marcus and Crossan, John Dominic. The Last Week: What the Gospel Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem, 2006.
(3) Farley, Lawrence. Following Egeria: A Modern Pilgrim in the Holy Land, 2015
Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 118:1-9, 21-25
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Gospel Lesson: Mark 11:1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 14:1-9
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, March 25 ~ Saturday, March 31
Sunday: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” Mark 11: 8-10. On this Palm Sunday, join the parade! Let your praises ring!
Monday: “Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11. Jesus taught each step of his life. Where are you learning this Holy Week from Jesus?
Tuesday: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 118: 1. Pause today to pray to see God’s steadfastness.
Wednesday: “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.” Psalm 118:5. What today can you offer to God?
Thursday: “While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” Mark 14: 22-25. Pause to remember Jesus and the disciple as they gathered for the Last Supper as you gather tonight around the communion table.
Friday: “At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”Mark 15: 34. Pray today for all who feel forsaken.
Saturday: “Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.” Mark 15: 46. God is not dead. Keep watch. Pray.