Sunday, March 29, 2015

Joining the Jesus March

I don't have a written sermon today because our choir is performing "Requiem for the Living" by Dan Forrest for Palm/Passion Sunday. That meant I preached only at our smaller, more informal, 8:30 service. That gives me an opportunity to do things a little differently, working without a script. These are some thoughts and reflections from that.

Our worship has been following along with Brian McLaren's book We Make the Road by Walking since Advent. Today we heard Luke's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, but we continued on to hear Jesus weeping because the people don't recognize "the things that make for peace." We also saw him at the Temple where he drove out those who "were selling things there."

Jesus' parade was something of an impromptu affair, not a lot like the parades many of us have attended, taking our place on the side of the road to watch the floats, bands, celebrities, etc, go by. This parade was mostly marchers, and as they picked up steam, it started to worry some folks. What if the Romans saw and thought Jesus was starting a rebellion? After all his followers were calling him a king, and the Romans did not take kindly to kings other than Caesar.

It strikes me that Jesus' Palm Sunday parade looks more like the march into Selma 50 years ago than it looks like any parade we stand on the sidewalk to watch. No one beat the marchers in Jerusalem that day, but they would arrest and execute the leader of the march a few days later. According to the gospels, no one but Jesus gets hurt in the march's aftermath, but that is largely because the rest of the marchers scattered. Only after the resurrection, only with the gift of the Spirit, would they be bold enough to keep going in the face of threats and violence.

Back in the days of the Selma march, it was not uncommon for white religious leaders to ask Martin Luther King, Jr to scale it back a bit, to go more slowly and be more careful. He was scaring people and it was sure to stir up trouble. There were white Christians who joined the march, but for the most part, the institutional church played the role of the Pharisees in Luke's account of Palm Sunday, urging restraint and caution.

Parades need participants, but most of us experience them as spectators. Marches are something else. They are all about those in them and the cause they seek to attain. And Jesus calls marchers rather than spectators. He says that we need to take up our crosses and go with him. There are dangers in joining the Jesus march, as anyone who was in Selma 50 years ago can tell you. But the kingdom, the new day Jesus proclaims, happens only as Spirit filled people join Jesus as he continues to lead us toward God's new day.

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