Confronting the Powers – Br. Curtis Almquist
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In Jesus’ day, palms were carried in joyful, triumphant processions by Jews and Romans alike. Roman soldiers, returning from a successful conquest, would wave palms as they returned home to their welcome. Jews used palm adornments for their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the Festival of Tabernacles. And palm decorations were carved in stone within the Temple. Palms symbolized an oasis in the desert, victory in public games and in conquests, and a sign of blessing and homage.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem replicates how the Roman Emperor and his emissaries would enter the city: on a roadway strewn with palms, and with the crowds waving palms, shouting their praise. The crowds welcoming Jesus are shouting, “Hosanna,” which, in Hebrew, means “savior.” “Savior” is the very title already claimed by the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor’s titles included the “Savior of the World,” and “Son of God,” and “Lord of Lords.”[i] That’s the Roman Emperor. Unlike the Emperor and his party, whose processional entry would be on magnificent Persian stallions, Jesus is on a donkey.
Jesus’ entering Jerusalem is doing an old thing in a new way. There’s no way he can rival the power of the Roman Empire. And he doesn’t try to. He confronts violent, violating power with the principled power of nonviolent love.
You’ve been given a palm frond. Carry it home. Let it be to you a rallying sign for you to confront some power structure gone afoul, and which must be redressed. What is stirring in your soul – or what should bestirring in your soul – where some power structure must be redressed?
Is it to do:
- with stewardship of the environment, with global warming?
- with access to good food and clean water?
- with access to education, to the arts, to technology?
- with people fleeing from their homelands, desperately seeking a new home and a new hope?
- with imprisonment: for whom it is, and how it is that people are sentenced and incarcerated?
- with access to health care and medication?
- with bigotry, discrimination, neglect, or oppression because of people’s gender, age, race, nationality, language, religion, abilities, or appearance?
- with poverty and indebtedness: why people are poor and why people stay poor?
- with some other need that has seized your soul’s attention?
Carry your palm frond home, and let it be a rallying sign for you to confront some unjust power with Jesus’ nonviolent power. Jesus prays to the Father: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”[ii]Be an answer to Jesus’ prayer.
[i]John Dominic Crossan in God and Empire, p. 28.
[ii]Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.
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Thank you Brother Curtis for such a novel and inspirational approach to Palm Sunday. It was so great to read a fresh, simple perspective. Elizabeth Hardy+
I count on Curtis to keep me centered. I share his comments with all my family. He just seems to hit the nail on the head in some reliable way. We are all grateful. Thank you. Shane
Thank you. again, Br.Curtis, for your thought-provoking words. Might you supply the source of that marvelous icon?
Excellent message! This is just what I need to hear at this time of struggle. Your emails connect us in this time of social distancing!
Thanks to Br. Curtis and all of the members of the SSJE Community.
Please pray for all of us in this time of trial. I am praying for each of you.
Marcus Borg, in “Jesus: A New Vision”, contrasts the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem “from the east” with that of Roman troops arriving during the season of Passover “from the west in a procession led by the Roman governor, accompanied by all the trappings of imperial power.” The two arrivals couldn’t have been more different. May we learn to choose the gentle, resolute Savior’s humble advent on an ass over the worldly might and pomp of the occupying army and its tyrant leaders in every moment of our lives.
You really blessed my Palm Sunday! I shared this on Facebook. Thanks
Wow! How poignant for the Covid Occupation! I pray for all persons of all faiths to mindfully and safely extend love and understanding to one another as we travel this path together. I also pray that this same generosity and care is perpetuated so that we are forever altered as a society towards respecting and honoring the value of every person. Thank you Brother Curtis
What a truly wonderful rallying call, a great sermon done so gentley. Pray we hear it. Thank you. margo