Parades and Perp Walks: Marching for our Lives

Preached on 25 March 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
Palm Sunday, Year B

And so we begin Holy Week.  It’s a week that takes our souls on a journey by telling the stories: from Jesus’ Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem, through his Passion and Crucifixion, all the way to his Resurrection, and everything in between.

It’s more than the stories, though.  Holy Week is an experience with Christ in the depths of our soul.  There are no bystanders of Holy Week.  The stories open the doors and windows within us so we can more deeply connect with our true selves, with Christ, and with each other.

Holy Week is time outside of time, it can feel like time is suspended.  It is holy time, consecrated by God, belonging to God.
This year, as we go through the week and listen to the stories, I invite you to imagine yourself in the story; and imagine the story happening now, in our time and place.

This Sunday and next, we’ll be hearing from the gospel of Mark.  Now, in Mark, Jesus’ core message is this:  The Kingdom of God has come near,
in contrast with the Rulers of the world.

Mark’s message is about Following the Way, Discipleship; what it means to follow Christ.

Let’s begin.

Read the Passion of our Lord according to Mark

I call this reflection, “Parades and Perp Walks: Marching for Our Lives”

We begin the day with a parade of honor.  There has been some planning and preparation.  Jesus uses the symbolism of riding a young colt, evoking references to scriptural stories of a King of Peace riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt, banishing war and restoring Israel.

The people, and these are the peasants, the poor people; they respond, shouting “Hosanna,” “Save us!” (That’s what Hosanna means.)
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”  This is the greeting for a king.
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” they shout.  “Save us!”

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, there is another parade of honor going on; a military parade.  Pilate, the Roman-appointed governor along with his military retinue, is arriving in Jerusalem for the Festival.  They don’t want any trouble and their show of force is aimed at quashing any thoughts of challenging their authority or causing trouble.

Two parades; two very different kinds of kingdoms.

Jesus goes directly to the Temple, the seat of power. His arrival in Jerusalem is political.  He has come, not to die, but to confront; to challenge those with money and political power; those with religious authority who are complicit with the Roman oppressors in the name of God.  This isn’t about a few individuals who are corrupt; it’s about a corrupt system, it’s a structure of domination.

Jesus takes a look around, assesses the situation and then leaves again.  He goes back out of the city to the town of Bethany, which means the house of the poor or suffering.  It’s where Lazarus lives with his sisters, Mary and Martha, where Simon the Leper lives.
He’ll be back in the Temple the next day and the next and the next to teach and to challenge. His message is, It doesn’t have to be this way.
The kingdom of God is near.

The scene quickly shifts to the end of the week and a parade of shame: a perp walk.  You know, you’ve seen them on the news and in crime shows countless times.  A person accused, or convicted of a crime, is escorted to jail or to court, trying to hide from the cameras and the crowds.  Jesus’ per walk was orchestrated for maximum humiliation.

Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha, the ultimate shame.  The shift from glory to shame and death happens so fast, and yet, we can see it is inevitable.
To follow Christ requires us to go to Jerusalem with him and all that entails.

What details in the story stand out to you?
Let’s take a moment to just sit in this story; to experience it.

I can’t help but think of the marches yesterday, organized and led by students.  Marching to the seats of power and challenging the status quo;
proclaiming, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”  Confronting the leaders who have the power to make a different choice; to do something different;
to change the system.
I think of the headlines that look to the children to save us.

The kingdom of God is near.
Which parade are you going to?