Preached on Palm Sunday 2018 by the Rev. Diana Wheeler, Deacon
From Mark: “ Then those who went ahead and those who were following were shouting “ Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
From John’s Gospel: “ The great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 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! “ Jesus found a young donkey, and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 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.
From the Gospel According to Andrew Lloyd Webber:
Caiaphas to Jesus : “ Tell the rabble to be quiet, we anticipate a riot. This common crowd, is much too loud. Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong. They are a curse. They should disperse.”
Jesus to Caiaphas: “ Why waste your moaning at the crowd? Nothing can be done to stop the shouting. If every tongue were stilled the noise would continue. The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.”
Where were you in 1973? That’s the year that Jesus Christ Superstar came out in the theatres. I was 19 years old. And shocked. By the thought of Jesus and his disciples as hippies. And all that earthy flesh. And so stunned by the flesh and dirt and the blood. And yet that was what was happening all around me as a girl living in SF during the civil rights and women’s movements. The farm workers movement. The Vietnam war protests. The triumphal processions in the streets made a difference. The marches frightened people and gave people hope. And it changed so much in this country for the better.
The characters in Webber’s work resonanted so much with me then and made an impression on me as a young follower of the Jew named Jesus. They spoke to the world I was living in then. They spoke to my heart and spirit.
As I was preparing this offering I ran across a 2000 British remake of Jesus Christ Superstar. The segment of the Hosanna triumphal procession is updated in costume and character and even more unnerving. It looks like the it is the Gospel in our present times. Stunning. Really stunning. Go to Youtube and have a look. Meditate on it.
It tells us what to do now.
The people around Jesus, the crowd, the disciples. They did not understand.
We don’t understand. I don’t understand what is going on in this world right now. I don’t know what the best action for me to take is. There is so much chaos in our world and the people that I am with and companion in my ministry are very afraid. They are afraid of the people emboldened to do violence against their neighbor because they are different. And fearful people are emboldened. This is our reality. And many of us can’t believe this is happening.
And we don’t know what to do. What can we have faith in? And it’s faith that we need because we just can’t be sure how all this chaos has happened and if we have any power to stop it.
And we take to the streets. This week we marched for our lives. Last week students around the country marched to demand a stop to gun violence in schools. Black Lives Matter. The Women’s March. We take to the streets to say STOP; ENOUGH. We take to the streets to say that we are human beings entitled to dignity; entitled to justice. When the neo nazi folks tried to come to our City, we marched from all of our neighborhoods and blocked their way. We said ENOUGH. We march for dreamers and all immigrants. Faith communities have been a part of these marches. Faith communities across the country are providing sanctuary and accompaniment to immigrants.
And every time we leave the our pews and walk together into our communities as oppressed people in solidarity with other oppressed people we are witnessing to our faith in the kingdom of love; the kingdom of justice; the kingdom of God. We say to Caesar and Caiaphas, “ENOUGH”. We resist. We learn the painful lessons of necessary to become better allies to the people we walk with. This is our life’s work. As followers of Jesus this should come to no surprise to us. This is real. As long as our neighbor suffers, we should be working to make life better. Not just wait until oppression affects us.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but it helps to remind ourselves how much it means to people that folks in our churches come out to stand with people in their need. After I leave here today, I will be taking armloads of palms down to Castro and 18th St. to do a blessing and then a procession through the streets, in the shops and bars and hand out palms. What started 10? years ago ( people looked at us like we were nuts), has turned into a tradition. We are joined by folks from the neighborhood, clergy, drag queens, SPI. Folks remember how to fold palm crosses from their childhoods as Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics. And so often we hear those in the procession behind us singing “ Hosanna!”
The first year we were accompanied by
He was amazing. He stopped and talked with everyone dressed in his bishop’s finest. Afterwards we took him to Esta Noche, which was a Latino drag bar on 16th St. It closed a few years ago. The patrons were mostly immigrants. I remember watching Martin sitting at the bar talking with people and then standing on stage telling the people how happy he was to be with them and how loved they were. I watched people crying to hear him and I thought of how people who felt so poor and unloved and unimportant must have felt listening to Jesus. I will never forget it.
And this is what we all are called to do as the followers of Jesus. I feel so fortunate that I am able to be with people and show them how much they are loved and how important they are. When I was a young person, I didn’t understand what a big deal that was.
We have so much to do to usher in the kingdom of love and justice. Yes. It’s frustrating to have to do it again and again. But we have to understand that we can’t stop just when we feel safe and free. We can only stop when all of God’s creation feel safe and free. And loved. And fed. And heard. And important.
Every time you go out those doors as a proclaimed follower of Jesus of Nazareth, you go out to proclaim all these things. Don’t stop.