Palms, Passion, and Power

How many times have you read or seen or heard the story of Jesus’ last week? Dozens? 50? Hundreds of times?

Whatever your answer to that, it is a well-known story. Many of us can likely quote all the lines (as it were) from beginning to end — this year from the gospel of Mark. So how do we keep such a frequently-encountered story fresh?

Perhaps the same way we keep any good story fresh: by immersing ourselves in its narrative, by opening ourselves to think and to feel again. Perhaps we keep it fresh by striving to really experience the story and let it move us. After all, there must be a reason we continually return to this particular story, mustn’t there?

Perhaps this week we can see the palms waving in our mind’s eye. Perhaps this week we can hear the roar of the crowd in our imagination. Perhaps this week we can feel the tension building between Jesus and the crowd; between Jesus and the disciples; between Jesus and the powers that be.

Power. Perhaps that is the ultimate question to which this story distills: Who has power and how do they wield it

And the follow up question is like it: What forms of power do we choose and why?

Those were my thoughts leading into my Palm Sunday (is that the best name for it?) sermon this past Sunday, March 28. I also spent some time poking fun at all the weird language we Christians use this time of year (and, honestly, all the time). Low hanging fruit? Maybe, but Lord knows way too many self-professed Christians demonstrate zero ability to laugh at themselves or at any of our bizarre practices and/or terminology. I’m determined not to get caught in that snare. Sure, I’ve been told we laugh too much during worship at Woodridge United Methodist Church. Even had a member leave, citing excessive laughing as their reason. I’ll err on the side of laughing too much over not enough 100 times out of 100, thank you very much.

Inspiration for this here sermon:
Mark 11 — the Palm story.
Mark 15 — the Passion part.
Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (with whom I went to seminary, though I highly doubt I did or said anything that would cause them to remember me) on the importance of imagination in anti-racism, anti-oppression work. Dr. Robyn is doing wonderful work at Activist Theology Project — I encourage you to check out and support them!
Father Richard Rohr via his Daily Meditation, this one on scapegoating.
U.S. News & World Report article on the name Easter. Why did it take me 49 years to ask this question?!?

Per usual, you can listen to the audio-only of the sermon. Or partake of the video (by scrolling ahead to the 47:20 mark because stupid YouTube and stupid WordPress never seem to play nice together and let me embed the video to start at the sermon. Grr!) Anyway…I think there is value in seeing facial expressions and body language, but whichever way you prefer to experience it is fine with me.

We long for a world in which all people can flourish and truly live. Can we imagine there is another way to get there besides the violent way of the scapegoat? Can we imagine a way in the world that leads us to true justice, true peace? 

Can we imagine creating a world without racism, without White supremacy? 
Can we imagine creating a world without policies that demean and diminish people for their race or their sexual orientation or for their gender expression? 
Can we imagine creating a world without policies that make it easier to buy machine guns than it is to vote? 
Can we imagine creating a world without policies that criminalize feeding people experiencing homelessness, that criminalize bringing water to a person standing in a long line waiting to vote? 

Can we imagine creating a world built on true justice giving us true peace? A world in which we see God in all others, including in ourselves, and a world in which we experience God in ways that go beyond enforcer or rage monster?  I think we have to learn to image such a world if we are to create and inhabit such a world.

Sermon begins at 47:20

We have the power to use our hands, our feet, our votes, and our voice to follow Jesus and create a world where all — every single one of our neighbors — can flourish.

Photo by Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

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