Monday, April 7, 2014

Blessed is the one….

Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matt 21.9

In their book, The Last Week, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan explore what the gospels tell us about Jesus’ final days. This Sunday we will hear the story or maybe even reenact the biblical procession—Jesus riding on a donkey, the shouting crowds, the waving palms—the procession from Bethany, down the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. This is the beginning of the week of Passover, when Judeans travel to Jerusalem to celebrate and thank God for their deliverance from Pharaoh. 

Borg and Crossan also describe a second procession—the one with Pilate and his Roman legions, traveling from their home base in Caesarea Maritima to Jerusalem. Not to worship in the temple, but to ensure that the crowds do not get out of hand, with this freedom celebration—for the Judeans are once again under domination.

So this second procession—the army with the horses and chariots, the armor, the weapons on display—is planned to show the Judeans who is in charge, to showcase the massive power of the Rome….just in case a new Moses is in Jerusalem for Passover.

Showing off weapons and armies is a time-honored way of discouraging dissenters. Think of those film clips of May Day parades in the Soviet Union—hundreds of thousands of soldiers with thousands of tanks and big guns—or think of July 4th parades with Air Force flyovers.

Empires must constantly remind us who is in charge. If you are in the ruling majority, these displays make you feel safe. If you want to challenge the empire, these displays are designed to make you think twice about staging your protest.

Reading about these processions makes me think about Eran Eftati’s visit to Denver, when he told us that as an Israeli soldier in Hebron, he was ordered to raid the homes of Palestinians in the middle of the night—not because there was a dangerous suspect to apprehend—but, in the words of his commander, to show who is in charge.

And I think of Eyad Burnat, one of the leaders in the non-violent protests in Bil’in—weekly processions to the wall Israel has built on their olive groves and sheep grazing land to protect the settlement that is also built on their land.

Mazin Qumsiyeh being arrested in Al-Walaja, 2011- he was later released
And I think of Mazin Qumsiyeh, who protests with the villagers in Al-Walaja, near Bethlehem, where the wall is being finished so that it forms a noose around the village, totally cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank, so that now every time anyone wants to leave the village—to see a doctor, to go to the market, to visit children or grandparents, or  friends, to transact business with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah……..—they must go through a checkpoint, with maybe a long line. So every Friday they process from their village to where the bulldozers are working to finish the wall. They shout, wave flags, protesting the occupation. Watch one of their processions (Mazin is the one in the black and red baseball cap).

Gracious God, show us the Palm Sunday processions that are happening today, not the ones in our churches this coming Sunday, but the ones in the streets of our own towns and cities where people are protesting injustice. Give us courage to pick up a palm branch, a banner or a poster and join them. Amen.

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