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Do the Stones Have to Shout Out for Us?

April 13, 2019

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Now during the seven years I lived on the Florida Gulf Coast, it was not a problem to get pictures of palm trees or palm branches. It is a bit more of a challenge in Colorado! Not only because they aren’t native to this area, but also because we got a nice dumping of snow this week and it looks like we will have a Snowy Palm Sunday! So this picture is from a much needed vacation to Florida we took last November.

Palm Sunday… ah the memories of when I was a kid and we processed into church waving palm branches as the grownups sang the opening hymn. And yes, I remember sometimes using the fronds as a sword… we were kids after all! When I was Confirmed in 9th Grade, it was on Palm Sunday and so the first time we were able to take Communion was on Maundy Thursday.

To be honest, it wasn’t until much later that I began to think about the significance of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. At some point I began to understand how radical this processing into Jerusalem was and what a profound statement it was.

The conquering Messiah was supposed to ride in on a mighty steed with sword drawn, ready to kick the Occupiers out of Jerusalem! Instead, Jesus rose in on a humble donkey through the gate that the lambs had been led, on their way to be sacrificed in the Temple.

Palm Sunday is such a mixture of sentiment, story, and raw emotion. It has hit me once again this year in a very real way. While Denise was back in Alabama helping her Dad and visiting with him, I spent a fair amount of time reflecting upon Holy Week. Tonight, I am reflecting on the journey into Jerusalem as I prepare my own heart for Holy Week.

In our Ignatian Spirituality Course at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, we learned and experienced a great deal about what it meant to immerse yourself totally in the Scriptural story. Tonight I find myself immersed in the entry into Jerusalem.

As a part of the immersion into the events, I found myself listening to two modern interpretations of Holy Week and the Life of Jesus. The stage-play and movie interpretations in Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar were a powerful part of my own spiritual formation. I remember going to Saint Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota with our Youth Group to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. It drew me into the story of Jesus and Holy Week in way that I had never experienced before.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was confronted by the High Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees in a most powerful way. You can hear the song at this link: https://youtu.be/62Jt_UMM4KU

As he is confronted by the Religious Authorities and told to stop the crowds from singing, he in turn challenges the Religious Elite:

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting
If every tongue was still, the noise would still continue
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing

We will further explore the depths of Holy Week as the week move on. Tomorrow, perhaps we should focus on what Expectations we have of Jesus. The disciples (especially Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot) may have hoped that his entry into the political forum that was Jerusalem would spark a revolution. Did it? Yes and no. What does Jesus’ entry into our own lives… our own Jerusalem, say to our own spirit?

I believe that the challenge for us today is this: when we are told to stop singing the Lord’s song… when we are told to stop sharing the radical news of God’s transformational love for ALL creation and ALL humankind… when we are told to stop speaking up on behalf of the voiceless and the oppressed… will we be silent in the hopes that the Rocks themselves will speak out?

Martin Niemoller, a prominent German Pastor in 1930’s Germany asked the following question:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Perhaps, as we enter into this week, we might slow down our lives enough to truly experience this Holy Week. Where is Jesus challenging us? Where is Jesus calling us to speak out? How is Jesus calling us to live our lives? Perhaps in the midst of all the noise of this world, we could take time to listen. In the words of 1 Samuel 3:10, perhaps we should say: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

I believe that by listening in such a way, we will be called to speak the words of Love, Grace, Justice, Mercy, and Peace… the words of our Lord… and then, the rocks and stones themselves will join in our chorus instead of speaking out when we are silent.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening…

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