Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday: Triumphal Entry

See Luke 19:28-40.

The image of the statue, ropes twined around it, mid-topple, framed by blue skies and crowds of people--- this image is etched in my mind, as are vague memories of tanks rolling through town, so many American flags, and the unbridled triumph in the voices of politicians. This triumphal entry, on April 9, 2003, was fed to us as the signal of the USAmerican victory over an evil-doer. The staged Marine-led toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad was narrated to us as a triumph of democracy and goodness and hope. And yet, here I am ten years later, listening to reports of cancer and murder and suicide and I can't seem to find that democracy and goodness and hope we were promised as the statue fell.

Our pro-war propaganda machine tells us that this is how we bring about freedom: tanks and toppling. But there is another Triumphal Entry we celebrate this week that tells us something different. It tells us that God's victory arrives not on a tank but on a lowly colt. It tells us that people shout for joy not because of deeds of military might, but the deeds of power they saw in healing miracles. It recognizes that the one who comes in the name of God comes not in a military uniform but as a political agitator for peace. Jesus came into Jerusalem on the back of a colt promising a different kind of victory, a different kind of freedom than that proclaimed in the ten years since the USA invaded Iraq.

People recognized that difference and it scared them. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd commanded Jesus to stop. On Friday, we will remember the consequences of Jesus' triumphal entry, a crucifixion that resembles more the day to day suffering of Iraqi civilians and abandoned USAmerican veterans suffering from PTSD. And yet, too many of our churches will forget the connections this Holy Week, forget the roots that extend into our own times, tell ourselves that the story we remember is a spiritual story that demands nothing of us but "belief." So I urge you this Palm Sunday to pray. Lift up the cause for peace in Iraq in your congregation's sharing of prayer concerns. Educate yourself about the ongoing struggle in Iraq--- just because the USA has declared the Iraq War over does not mean that the mess and terror of war has been alleviated. And, of course, our government wages war and supports war in many other countries too.

It is our responsibility as Christians to remember Jesus' entry in Jerusalem and the lessons it teaches us of freedom and peace this Holy Week.


Shannon Sullivan serves the Deer Creek Charge, a two-point charge in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. She is a graduate of Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, and blogs at You'll Never Guess What the Heathens Did Today.

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