April 13, 2014: Palm Sunday – Passion Sunday

Posted on : Apr 10th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This past week a guy came to our church and told me “God sent him to us.”  I was honored, but “guarded.”   There was a tone in his voice that I have heard before, and it usually is the tone of somebody who is about to do a “religious dump” on us for money.   Sure enough, “God sent this man to us” because the brakes on his car had failed and he needed money.  I tried to explain as kindly as I could that we do not give out money but we could give him food if he was hungry.

He then started speaking “religious-ese” to me (pious religious manipulative chat).  He was absolutely sure God sent him to us for money.  But then God must have spoken to him again, because God’s demand dropped from a brake job to $20 bucks.  Only cash would do.

One thing I’ve learned in serving Christ on the corner of Sunset and Martel is if God sends someone to us seeking money, they must have heard wrong.  Because, God knows, we don’t have money!

Every time I encounter someone who is using religion (and sometimes the teachings of Jesus) for their own gain, I think of the Palm Sunday story.

The day begins with such joy and exhilaration.   Jesus rides into Jerusalem knowing full well the religious authorities are out to get him.  We don’t have “holy cities” in Christianity quite like they do in Judaism (Jerusalem) or Islam (Mecca), but Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem is a profoundly “in-your-face” kind of event.  The religious authorities were out to get him.  They expected that if Jesus dared to enter Jerusalem, he would sneak in, in the dark of night.  Never did they dream he’d be so bold as to ride in on a donkey.

During the time in which Jesus lived, the donkey was not thought of as a dumb, stubborn animal, as it is today.  The Donkey symbolized “peace.”  When a King or Ruler rode into a city on horseback, that symbolized that they came to fight, and a war was about to break out.  When they rode in on a donkey, that symbolized that they came in peace.

The people loved it!  They cut branches and laid them on the road as a symbol of homage to Jesus and they went wild – giving Jesus the welcome that a rock star would receive today.  But that triumphal welcome didn’t last long.  Within five days the religious authorities manipulated the minds of the people.  They went from loving Jesus to hating him; even calling for his death.

A few weeks ago, a member of our church forwarded to me an open letter to Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.  Cardinal O’Malley is considered one of the more progressive reformers in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.  He was appointed the Bishop of Boston just as the child-sexual abuse scandal was just beginning.  Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston on December 13, 2002, allegedly in response to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.  Cardinal O’Malley came in, and much like Pope Francis, “cleaned house.”  He tossed out the hierarchy that protected abusive priests and he sold the beautiful, palatial residence that the Bishop of Boston had lived in to cover some of the reparation payments with the children who were abused.

The open letter was not about the abuse of children, but about the theological reasoning behind the Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain women.  As I read this letter, I immediately thought of Jesus and the Palm Sunday / Crucifixion story.  This priest was bold and articulate.  I immediately thought of two things.  One, he’s going to be tossed out of the priesthood; and two, this priest really gets Jesus.

The core of his four page argument is this:

Unfortunately, this teaching that “women are not fully in the like-ness of Jesus ”—  qualifying, as it does, as a theological explanation — is utterly and demonstrably heretical. This teaching says that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. This teaching says that women are not made whole by the saving favor of our God. This teaching says that the “catholic” church is only truly “catholic” [i.e. “universal Christian Church”] for males.

The priests are voiceless. The academic theologians are nice and safe. The bishops make statements but do nothing that would be recognized as engaged teaching. The adults — desperate for something that respects their intelligence —leave the church in droves. How many serious people, young and old, have given up on ever finding a theological explanation of women barred from priesthood— an explanation not hopelessly patriarchal and sexist, not serving inequality and subservience, not aiding and abetting violence?

It’s words like those that get people hung on crosses.  But, substitute yourself for “women” in the above argument, and you have the very situation Jesus challenged as he entered Jerusalem, as well as the reason why he did that, knowing that in doing so, he would lose his life so that we might have eternal life.

Blessings to you as we begin this Holiest of weeks,


~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 19: 28-40

Luke recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.   If anyone asks you, `Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, `The Savior has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Savior has need of it.”

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt, they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

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