Liturgy of the Palms B
April 1, 2012
It’s a funny coincidence that Palm Sunday falls on April Fool’s Day this year. The celebration of Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem – before His betrayal, trial and crucifixion – would seem to be the polar opposite event from a bunch of people running around putting whoopee cushions on their co-workers’ chairs.
But, then again, maybe not.
St. Paul was very interested in the “foolishness” of belief in Christ: “… but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles … for the foolishness of God is wiser than [our] wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than [our] strength” (1 Cor 1:23,25). In a time that was very status-conscious (much like our own), the act of preaching belief in a small-time preacher from Galilee who died the most disgraceful and horrific death imaginable was pure lunacy. But Paul was not one to be deterred on this count. The book of Acts records peoples’ reactions to Paul’s preaching as: “What is this babbler trying to say?” (Acts 17:18) and “You are out of your mind, Paul!” (Acts 26:24).
Jesus also appreciated the absurd. In the Palm Sunday readings that many of us grew up with, Jesus enters Jerusalem near Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, riding (in Mark) on a “borrowed” colt (in the parallel reading in John, it’s an ass). Several Biblical commentators (such as John Crossan and Marcus Borg in The Last Week, 2006) have pointed out that, at the opposite gate to the city of Jerusalem, the Roman governor Pilate was – in all likelihood – making his grand entrance into the city through the main gate on his great war-horse, accompanied by a great deal of pomp, circumstance and military might.
And there, on the other side of town, is Jesus coming in on a borrowed colt (or ass). It would be sort of like a protester holding a counter-motorcade to the White House, on the side opposite the President’s grand entry, driving a banged-up Yugo, wearing a gimme cap and a flannel shirt. Or riding a unicycle and wearing a propeller hat. You get the picture.
But the crowd loves it. In Mark’s account, they shout “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10). Jesus is, in effect, the anti-Pilate. All the Roman might and power that Pilate has … Jesus doesn’t. But that’s just fine with the Jerusalem crowd, which has had it with Roman occupation.
So, in celebration of Jesus’ spectacularly foolish entry into the city where He will spend His last days, how about a little Tomfoolery for Christ? Why not invite someone completely random off the street to Church this Sunday and sit somewhere that is not your “assigned pew”? And wear a really loud tie or sweater. Or during the coffee hour after the service, loudly start singing “Oh Bla Dee, Oh Bla Dah, Life Goes On,” encouraging everyone to join in? I dare you. If you do happen to do any foolishness – of the legal variety – please feel free to submit pictures (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll post them!
If we’re going to be fools, let’s “be fools for Christ’s sake”!