This one I wrote for today actually. Happy Palm Sunday. Ha ha.
When I was a kid, this Sunday meant cutting some green construction paper into Palm fronds, lining up, and waving them at each other as we took turns walking past our classmates, pretending to be Jesus. “Hail King Jesus'” I can still hear us saying. (I may or may not have construction paper and scissors waiting upstairs for my middle school kids.)
Palm Sunday, I think, is one of the pieces of evidence that god has a sense of humor, or at least a sense of irony. His son enters Jerusalem, hailed as king, a dangerous thing for someone to do in the Roman Empire where no one was king but Ceasar. Dangerous as well for those waving branches and laying down cloaks. This is it, the people must have thought. The messiah is here, he will restore god’s chosen people to our proper place in the world, and I can’t wait to see the looks on the faces of those centurions when god’s hammer comes down! Hosanna, hosanna!
Five days later, Jesus is dead. Ok, so it’s not laugh out loud funny.
But this is one of my favorite things about our faith. Who else but a god worthy of worship gives us a king whose great act of authority is not to bring the hammer down, crush his enemies, and replace one Caesar with another, ours instead of theirs. Anyone can do that. People do it all the time; have done for centuries. Instead, god’s ultimate reveal is to show himself as a dead prophet, a man who not only preached love and forgiveness for friends and enemies, for saints and sinners, mostly sinners, he lived it. He died standing up to the strong on behalf of the weak. He died praying forgiveness for his killers and speaking kingdom invitations for sinners. That’s the god we’re called to follow. A god that says follow me and then dies. A god that it doesn’t make any sense to follow. What chance does love have in the face of hate? What kind of life can I have if I give it up for others?
And even knowing what happens next Sunday doesn’t change who god is on Good Friday. It just gives us hope that maybe it’s not crazy to follow Jesus, to love unconditionally, to forgive generously, to die to ourselves, and to participate with god in the redemption and reconciliation of the world.