Yesterday, we celebrated Palm Sunday—the most political of days in the church calendar. We contemplated on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem from the east on the back of a donkey, a bold move juxtaposed against the Roman Empire’s military parades entering Jerusalem from the west. We remembered that while Pilate entered the city at Passover proclaiming “Caesar is Lord,” Jesus rode in humbly to cries of Hosanna. Rescue. Save. Jesus rode in as Lord, come to set the captives free without sword or horse or domination.
This week, we will journey together through Jesus’ transformation of the Passover feast, declaring himself the ultimate Passover lamb. We will lament his crucifixion, we will stand vigil as we await his resurrection, and on Sunday we will celebrate the defeat of death.
We will remember that those who stood in a crowd shouting “Hosanna!” one day cried “Crucify him!” just a few days later. We will pray for the wisdom and compassion to stand out from the crowd, to hold onto our cries of Hosanna—the dangerous statement that challenges political structures and quests for power.
In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor reflected on Pilate’s desire to wash his hands of the injustice before him. Rather than face the uprising by going against the crowd, he wished to look away. While he did not malevolently choose to crucify, he opted not to use his position of power to save.
In the midst of complicated global conflict, of injustice perpetuated around the world, I question how we might hold onto our cries of Hosanna. How might we be sure that we walk in the way of a Lord who stands boldly against oppressive empires to comfort the oppressed, who challenges authority in order to bring about justice and peace?
How might we keep from falling into the trap of Pilate—who opted to close his eyes to injustice rather than stand up against the crowd?
What kind of statement might have the political equivalence today of a humble king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? How might the church globally respond to the oppressive political regimes of today, remembering the nonviolent undermining of authority through which Jesus proclaimed his Lordship?
On Thursday, we will commemorate the day that Jesus offered a meal of bread and wine, body and blood sacrificed to stop the shedding of blood. How might we use this method, this simple meal, to open our eyes to injustice and to stand up nonviolently against systems that perpetuate oppression and death?
As we bake our way through Holy Week, I pray that we will remember those who live under the oppression of violent political systems. For Syrians and all who have been affected by the violence of the Assad regime. For Egyptians and all who were directly touched by yesterday’s attacks. For immigrants and refugees in America who face the outright injustice of deportation or the subtle injustice of unwelcome. For those trapped in systems of poverty who are punished for being poor.
I pray that we are not tempted to close our eyes to this injustice or to perpetuate violence as a method to save. I pray that we are not caught up in the waves of the crowd who cry “Crucify him!” I pray that we do not fall into belief that justice will come through political power or military victory.
I pray that instead we search for creative ways to subvert political systems. That we respond to violence with humility, compassion, and care for the least of these.
I pray that we see the power of our bread and our wine, body and blood shed to end the shedding of blood.