Here we go … this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday and for many of us, who struggle and endeavour to fully live into our Discipleship as Christians, marks the beginning of jubilation that can be present in the midst of human horrors. And this day, when leaves swayed from left to right, up and down, marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and there embracing him at the entrance to the Holy City was the crowd. People no different that you and me, and boy were they a finicky bunch!
For some who watch, reflect on, and examine church structure, a useful tool is something called Systems Theory. In essence, it suggests that – sometimes – when men and women come together to form groups (like church’s, NGOs, cooperatives, governments, play groups and sports teams), individual values can get pushed aside and reflect the collective in a completely new manner. At a system’s worst, unfortunately, what you or I may never do in our own lives, we can rationalise, allow, or openly advocate collectively. The most dramatic example of such horrors is summed up by a statement attributed to Martin Niemöller, First They Came …, which challenged the choices of those who did not speak out against the Nazi regime.
Niemöller’s ‘They,’ I believe, is the crowd. And, core to his challenge, is that we are that crowd! There’s a core tension in Palm Sunday which is something I have always experienced during Lent: the reality is that the very same crowd that waved those Palms, like welcoming a victorious General, also openly supported and celebrated Jesus’ execution by the Roman State. From jubilation to blood-letting frenzy, the crowd swayed mirroring those Sunday Palm leaves!
It’s an ugly reality and one that I think gets over-looked way too often. We can be swayed by the opinions of the group, advertising, propaganda, or simply by the road to least resistance that allows us to remain comfortable. When we are in groups where love is guised in fear, too often we remain silent in the resulting hatred.
I am uncomfortable writing this down; I squirm knowing my inner monologue is now live, but we’re lazy! We’re lazy in that too often we do not recognise that Palm Sunday is part of the Christian story and does not stand on its own. It is part of the story to the Cross: the place at which Jesus’ ministry and choices led to the system, the state, and to friends executing him for challenging that the way wealth was distributed, the way people were dehumanised and the manner in which violence was used to oppress was contrary to God’s desire for ALL of us to be whole and recognise we are loved for who we are, not for whom others would mould us to be.
Palm Sunday, as with any symbol, should and does point beyond itself. As we, you, I walk into Holy Week, I sincerely hope we, you and I can confront the gathering darkness, see where we have been in and contribute to it and, with Hope and Grace, make choices that are uncomfortable, yet completely life-giving! Shine on!