Gentle Liturgy of the Palms

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for Palm Sunday 01 April 2012

Gentle Liturgy of the Palms

Have you noticed that the geographic areas which have climates to support palm trees often have the most strife lately?  Not always, of course, but lately the spirit of unrest is touching places postcards have historically touted as paradise.  When one rides on a donkey or a mule, does one just learn to get used to weirdness and become one with it?  They learn to go with the flow?  That seems to be what the donkey does by nature.  They are grounded creatures.  True, they are also known for their stubbornness, but they are stubborn in their “rightness.”  It is impossible to fight with someone who knows they’re right.  St Peter, the Church’s patriarch, was famous for his difficulties and challenges in giving up his right to be right.  Another example is “Donkey” in the animated Shrek stories.  As loveable a character as he was, Donkey drove Shrek crazy with his constant talking.  Isn’t that what the Church has been doing?  Babbling on and on (ie “Babylon”) and saying nothing, doing nothing, but being loveable in her nothing?

The Lectionary readings say that Jesus entered Jerusalem sitting on a donkey’s colt. (Jn 12:15)  Mark makes sure that the reader knows that the colt had never been ridden. (Mk 11:2)  Humans, too, that have “never been ridden” (ie harassed, harangued, abused, pressured, and stressed by others because of preconceptions and judgments foisted upon them) share an innocence with this donkey’s colt.  It is a contrast of the image of the gentle beast’s young innocence held up to (and supporting) the gentle innocence of Jesus who did nothing wrong, but was crucified for his Personhood.  Gentleness is easily dismissed, overlooked, ignored, and omitted (not to mention beaten and “crucified.”)  The Revised Common Lectionary Liturgy of the Palms (option one, which is shorter and is two pages of scriptures on the Messiah’s entry into Jerusalem) and the Liturgy of the Passion (option two, which covers ten pages of Jesus’ whole Passion event), and in both options, neither includes these scriptures which show how Jesus fulfilled this gentle passage from the Book of Zechariah.

Zech 9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Fulfillment of scripture is important because it shows God’s integrity.  It shows God keeping His word, which is all any of us really have.  What “donkey” do you ride upon into your “Jerusalem” as you come in the name of the Lord?  Is it through your craft?  Your care-giving? Engineering?  Diplomacy?  Hospitality?  We all are Christ’s representatives in some way.  May we truly bless Him and each other as the collective “Daughter of Zion.” (Zec 9:9 and Jn 12:15)  From the beginning of my calling, God would translate the word “Zion” for me as meaning “the heart.”  Through empathy, compassion, and imagination we can be on the donkey with Jesus, petting its fur and soft nose, smelling the warmth, absorbing the gentle communion of the one carrying the Lord on its back.  We carry the Lord, too, as we engage with others and share of Him.  We can absorb His gentleness.  Coming in gentleness sets the tone.  Even though others may ask, “Why are you doing this?” (Mk 11:3) we can still answer, “The Lord needs it.”  He may not send gentleness back immediately like He did the donkey to its owner, (Mk 11:3) but we can stay anchored and tethered in His Spirit until God accomplishes His task.  Spiritual groundwork often precedes the physical so there is what appears to be a delay factor from our human perspective.  To weather the delay, we can anchor by abiding in God’s sustaining grace.  Even though we still go into the Temple and look around at everything and it is late (ref Mk 11:11), that does not mean that we loiter there.  We take Him with us and go out saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mk 11:9)  Christ IS the kingdom and the King of God’s kingdom, a gentle kingdom that begins in the heart.  We can “ride” Him and others into the ground by our insistence on our right to be right, or we can gently step aside and let God lead the way.

Prayer: Gentle Lord, please help us to praise You as we go forth to celebrate Your gift of what You have done for us as we enter into the Passion of Your Holy Week.  Show us how to let You be right.  May we yield to Your right-of-way.

Palm Sunday           01 April 2012            Gospel: Mark 11:1-11 and John 12:12-16

The Revised Common Lectionary Liturgy of the Palms

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

118:25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.

118:27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

118:29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Mark 11:1-11
11:1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples

11:2 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.

11:3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'”

11:4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,

11:5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”

11:6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.

11:7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.

11:8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.

11:9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

11:10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11:11 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.

John 12:12-16
12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”

12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

12:15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.



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