If you go to church this Sunday, you will find Christians on this day, called Palm Sunday, enacting the tragedy of a man named Jesus. The drama begins with the people waving palm leaves and singing praises to welcome Jesus, whom they consider as someone who could be their savior. But Jesus reviews a different idea of God through his words and actions. He believes that we are all sons and daughters of God and that makes us all equal and connected. And we are to include each other as if we are part of the same body in everything that we do. If one of us is hurt, all of us hurt. If one of us is oppressed, we all suffer. Because of this “sustainist” vision, Jesus is betrayed by one of his best friends, abandoned by most of his friends except for a few women and his mother, and finally sentenced to death by the same people who welcomed him enthusiastically at the beginning of the story. The drama takes us to the bitter end when he is killed like a criminal. Why do Christians want to replay this horrible story with such an unhappy ending every year?
The Palm Sunday drama reminds us, especially Christians, the woeful side of human community. We might embrace the idea of something new at first, but when we find out it is not what we assumed it to be, we reject it.
For example, we like the idea that “All men are created equal.” It is written in the Declaration of Independence of the United States. But for some, if this means giving up, or sharing what we have, then this idea doesn't seem so great, so we create a system that says some are more equaled that others. For 235 years, people in the United States have been struggling in the tension between those who wanted to realize the true-living-out of this phrase and those who rejected it out of fear. From the various amendments to the Constitution (e.g. 14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, 19th Amendment) to last week’s debate over the federal budget and the possibility of a government shutdown, these struggles are all part of the drama of living up to the new idea that all people should be equal. As Christians move toward Palm Sunday, let the drama of Jesus and his friends and betrayers remind us of how we are to act. Do we act out of our fear or do we act out of the conviction of our vision? We have a choice in how this drama unfolds.
At the end of the Palm Sunday worship, we are left with Jesus dead in the tomb, hopeless. But this is not the end of the story. The story will continue. It has to continue.
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning God wakens–
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4)
A sustainist takes a wholistic/inclusive view of the events in our lives. Speaking and listening are parts of the same experience. Teaching and being taught are parts of the same happening. Winter and spring are parts of the seasons. Night and day, sleep and wake, darkness and light, are part of the rhythm of life. “Turning the other cheek” is part of confronting your enemy by connecting with him/her as a fellow human being. Non-violent protest that is met with violent retaliation is part of a process that exposes the injustice and oppression of our system. Death and resurrection are parts of the cycle of living. Our human instinct is to avoid the hurt, the betrayal, and the unknown. But the sustainist embraces the darkness for now. And we wait knowing the cycle will come around and there will be light. While we wait, we listen to each other with awakened ears. While we wait, we speak the words that sustain each other.
Invite people in your community to consciously do the following wherever they are with others this week – family, workplace, classroom, community groups, etc.:
1. Truly listen to the others, especially their concerns and struggles. The goal is to achieve understanding, not agreement. So, hold back from speaking while the other is speaking and don’t debate.
2. After listening, share something that will sustain the other. For example, a word of encouragement, propose something that you can do together or simply feedback for the other showing that you have listened and understood.
Gather the community a week later and invite people to share their learning. .
| Reflection Questions for Palm Sunday (Year A):
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world