Out of the Wilderness, Into the Streets

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer shares that ceremony is the way we can remember to remember. As we enter Holy Week, we enter a time of stories and ritual that form us, and we reflect on what they call us to remember today.

This Sunday we recall the story of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem. A very large crowd gathered and spread their cloaks and cut branches on the road for him to travel over. The crowds before and after him shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!     
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 
(Matthew 21:9)

We hear that this large, loud parade put the city into turmoil.

In Jesus’s time, if a crowd was parading into your city it meant that Rome was coming to show you that you had been conquered. It was a parade of humiliation. A parade of domination and violence. A display of the victors’ strength and control over others. We know that even today, these kinds of parades march on in our world.

When I enter into the Palm Sunday story, I wonder about the crowds of ordinary people who gathered and celebrated Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem. This was a very different parade. Participating in this parade, in the face of the empire, was a deeply political act. They knew that Jesus already was at risk for his words and actions. To participate was to take on the risk themselves. Why did they come? What did it feel like to be there? To risk? To celebrate?

In the book Queer Virtue, Winne Varghese, a queer priest from Manhattan imagines:

“In that little moment before he dies – they don’t know how many days it will be, but they know he will die – they just celebrate their freedom. 

Now hear it, because no freedom has happened. They are not any more free than the day before or the day after, but they have in this brief moment – as we have in this brief moment – a little bit of a vision of what the reign of God might look like. That a gentle, healing, wise man, in the position of the prophets, enraged by injustice against women and children and his people and the sick and the outsider, that this one could be a sign of God’s reign now. That this might be who we are. And the people respond with this glorious procession, everyone of them potentially marking themselves also for death by Rome…

They risk themselves to sing aloud a memory of who they know they could be … the beloved, the wildly inclusive, those believing that all of creation were vessels made to be good forever and whole, not shattered, as they were and were about to be again ” (Queer Virtue, 163-164)

The parade we remember on Palm Sunday marches on today. We see it when people celebrate their freedom even though they are no freer than the day before.

Thousands of Palestinians assemble along the Gaza-Israel border to reaffirm the ‘Right of Return’ on 30 March 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

We see it when people live themselves into a new relationship with the earth of gratitude and love.

20 September 2019, Berlin: Demonstrators carry banners and posters on the street . The Fridays for Future movement had called for a global climate strike.
(Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)

We see it when people risk to come together to proclaim who they are, and that we are all beloved. We see it in wildly inclusive hearts.

Participants march in the 25th pride parade in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 26, 2016. While Argentina and Uruguay lead South America when it comes to LGBT rights, activists continue to fight against homophobia and hate crimes. ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images

We see it when people sing and pray aloud of who they are in the face of violence.

Freda Huson, director of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, sings as RCMP look on, just before arresting her on Monday morning. February 10, 2020. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

Today on Palm Sunday, we consider our place in the parades of our time.  

Like those joining the crowds welcoming Jesus, we are called to risk living this dream of liberating love. We are called to show up and claim ourselves, one another, and the earth as beloved.

In Braiding Sweetgrass, we learn that our actions on behalf of life will heal and transform us, moving us forward:

“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us” – Joanna Macy in Braiding Sweetgrass

Similarly, as we show up with love for one another, those relationships heal and transform us. We grow deeper in our understanding. Together we gain a clearer vision of becoming the kin-dom of God.

Today we remember to remember to risk to sing aloud about who we know we can be.

Reflection Questions:

  • In this time of physical distancing, where do you see this liberating love in action around you?
  • Where have you noticed it this past year?

Practices:

  • Enter the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21)
    • What is it like to stand among the crowd?

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