Monday, March 26, 2007

No-Palms Sunday

Periodically, I ask myself what our worship might look and sound like to someone who hadn't been going to church all their life.

I know, I know: I ought to ask this all the time. We're meant to offer this Gospel message and the liberating grace of God to those outside the church, and it'll never work if we just use our clever codes that take years of getting-used-to. I'm working it on.

This week, though, as we head into Holy Week, the big celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, we're confronted with a particular challenge:

Our scripture for Palm Sunday has NO PALMS in it. It's the same story: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. But in Luke, people spread "garments" on the ground, not palms, as Jesus enters in bizarre theatrics that look royal, but with several key differences. (He's on a donkey rather than a horse, for one...)

Maybe it's time to think about this story with a bit of freshness. The gospel (what with its omission of mention of the very objects our Sunday is named for) demands that we look a little more closely.

James Ensor painted this reimagining of Christ's triumphant entry--making him ride into 19th Century Brussels instead of 1st Century Jerusalem. (You can go see it at the Getty Museum. It looks much more incredible in real life. It's big.) And, he invites us to ask: what would it look like for Christ to ride into our lives/culture/nation/world?

That donkey ride began a week of intensified confrontation between Jesus and Rome. It made clear that Jesus' life-giving, transforming, grace-filled, resurrection power wouldn't work with Roman attempts to powerfully keep control in the world.

SO: come to worship this Sunday. We'll see if we can't make it "just another" Palm Sunday. Jesus' entry demands more. And, after all, even if we fail, the rocks themselves will speak for us. (It's in Luke. I don't make these things up.)

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