Sunday, April 01, 2007,3:11 PM
Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007 - Palm Sunday

Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007 - Palm Sunday

I'm going to be participating in the Via Crucis Gridblog 2007 this year. From the site - "Last year, more than 50 bloggers around the globe came together to share their reflections in a grid blog called Via Crucis during the week often called HOLY WEEK and in the week after EASTER. The name for this rag-tag effort comes from the Latin words for the Way of the Cross - Via Crucis. The response was astounding to this experiment in distributed global media, which was designed to draw on the creativity, diversity, and theological understanding of the blogging community to a moment in the story of folks practicing faith."

I have signed up to post reflections on particular days and particular stations of the cross and stations of the Resurrection. Why am I doing this? Mostly to force myself to look deeper into the events of Holy Week. Too often I am caught up in the busyness of the time and don't pause to reflect. I hope that this will be a blessing to others as well. If you want to find out more about the gridblog or the schedule or join in - click here.

And we begin with Palm Sunday. For a long time, I viewed Palm Sunday as a "meant for kids" sort of story (like Noah's Ark or Jonah- none of which should really be taught to children in the warped ways they usually are). But the whole donkey, praise songs, and construction paper palm branches made this a "perfect" Sunday School story. Even as I grew older nothing more was added to those elements except the occasional debate on if the praise was genuine or done mockingly. And yes we had the kids at church today bring in palm branches, and yes we will burn them for ashes for next Ash Wednesday. But for the first time ever, the story was unpacked for me with all of its historical socio-political meaning. It leaves the realm of sweet children's story and becomes charged with revolutionary significance when placed in that context. But I'm not posting about that here. Mike preached on it and has posted about it here. It's fascinating and really helps one see the big picture.

What caught me though was what happened after the Triumphal Entry. After the cloaks and the palm branches were laid down. After all the "hosannas" were shouted.
Matthew 21:12-13 - "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers."

In my church experience growing up, this passage was generally interpreted as why we aren't supposed to sell things in church. The kids can't have the bake sell and a book table was out of the question (or at least the church council had to debate whether or not such activities turned the church into a "den of thieves" or not.) It was all about making the church (I mean temple) into a holy place of worship. It usually was paired with a sermon about how we need to give God our best by wearing dresses and ties to church. Fun stuff like that.

Sometimes the passage was used as a polemic against consumerism and the evil and inappropriate stuff one can buy. My favorite representation of this comes from Jesus Christ Superstar. I should probably just say right away that I love that musical. I listen to it constantly during Holy Week - it is my preferred method of reflection and worship at this time of year. That shocks some who see it as heretical and/or blasphemous, but I think its great. And I love the various interpretations different groups make on the story. So for the Jesus in the Temple story there is this great Christmas consumerism portrayal as seen in the picture. The original movie version had Jesus throwing out weapons and drug dealers. And I've also seen it portrayed as a Wall Street stock exchange. All about greed and consumerism missing the point of true worship. I like that interpretation and see it as a necessary message to the church today (as least the church in America), but I am finding myself most resonating these days with the interpretation that sees the passage through the lens of justice and poverty.

Most of the Jews coming to the Temple for Passover were poor. Oppressed people under heavy taxation from their overlords who would have struggled to even make ends meet. But they had to have an animal to sacrifice during Passover. So the "thieves" gouged them in he temple. They charged insane exchange rates for the coins. They sold the doves and lambs at prices the poor couldn't afford, but were forced to pay anyway. That pissed Jesus off. This is the guy who said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" and all that good stuff. People were being oppressed IN GOD'S HOUSE and he got angry. The tables were upturned and the system of injustice was disturbed. For how long, I don't know. The people obviously didn't heed Jesus call to turn from greed and violence to the way of peace and love and they paid for it in 70AD. But when Jesus encountered injustice he didn't, couldn't, remain silent.

So why do we bother debating if the kids having a bake sell during the coffee hour would profane God's house when we could care less that the coffee we guzzle every week was made by slaves. Why pout about the commercialism of Christmas and not give a thought to the children beaten in sweat shops who make our stuff. Or why do we shy away from speaking up if it might involve getting involved politically or (God forbid) disagreeing with the political party we've sold our soul to. Jesus turned over tables to protest injustice and exploitation of the poor - why can't we spend a couple extra bucks on our coffee or write a letter to congress? If we can't follow the example of Christ, was really is the point of saying we are a Christ follower?

So those are my Palm Sunday thoughts. My - "wow there's a lot more happening here than construction paper branches and a donkey" reflection.

May Holy Week expand your boxes. May you approach the familiar with fresh eyes and see this story anew. May this story not exist to make us feel good, but may it force us to change our worlds to change the world.

Shalom

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