Palms for Peace

CrossOver reflection for Week 19, Palm Sunday • April 14, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 32

Rev. Erin Martin

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good Peace March.

Raised the daughter of a Congregational Minister who was a Vietnam Veteran for Peace, I was virtually raised with a “No Nukes” poster in my hands. Now, I am teaching my own children (Elijah 13, Rowan 10), the value of public demonstrations for peace. There is incredible power present when people gather by the thousands to lift their collective voices to proclaim God’s dream of shalom and well being for the world. Since 2016 alone, our family has participated in the International Women’s March, the March for Our Lives following the shooting at Parkland, and the ecumenical Immigrant Justice and Reform demonstration at the Sheridan Federal Detention Center among others.

Yet, what do these public demonstrations have to do with Palm Sunday? If you are anything like me, then you have also participated in countless Palm Sunday attempts to reenact Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. You know the drill. Ushers hand out palms to everyone entering the sanctuary; during the first hymn the congregation stands and is encouraged to wave the palm branches; maybe even the children are paraded down the center aisle, adorable but a bit confused by all the commotion. We shout our glad hosannas, but do we really understand the subversive message of welcoming the One who comes in the name of the Lord?

I think the mention of the Hebrew prophets in Chapter 32 of Brian McLaren’s book, We Make the Road by Walking, is the key to making the connection. McLaren reminds us that Jesus, throughout the Jerusalem parade and the events that follow, quotes Zechariah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to link his symbolic actions both to the history of Israel and to its present reality.  Jesus’ parade is both a judgment on “what is,” the violent and wayward social rule of the Roman Empire, and also an embodiment of “what can be,” the fullness and humility of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

In our contemporary celebrations of Palm Sunday, we must never forget the significant connection between the prophetic judgment on our own current violent and wayward social order and the hopefulness of our own proclamation and practice of life as rightly oriented towards God’s sovereignty and peace. So I say, this year, maybe we should bring our palm branches to the next public action in the streets. Or maybe this year, we should wave our protest signs as well as our palm branches in worship on April 14.

What do you say? This year, let’s lift our palm branches for peace:

“Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you,
and gets the red carpet treatment.
Children waving real palm branches from the florist,
silk palm branches from Wal-Mart…

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Kingly, he takes a towel and washes feet. 
With majesty, he serves bread and wine.
With honor, he prays all night.
With power, he puts on chains. 
Jesus, King of all creation, appears in state
in the eyes of the prisoner, the AIDS orphan, the crack addict,
asking for one cup of cold water,
one coat shared with someone who has none, 
one heart, yours, and a second mile.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you. 
Can you see him?”                  
– Excerpts from “Coming to the City Nearest You” a Poem by Carol Penner.

Rev. Erin Martin serves as Superintendent for the Columbia District in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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