Sunday, March 16, 2008

PALM SUNDAY: A Tale of Two Processions

It was a great big old Palm Sunday at All Saints Church. The church was packed for both principle services, the music was wonderful, the speech choir did a great job with the Passion Gospel and the palms they were a'wavin!

The rector's semon was officially entitled "The Liberating Power of Self-Offering" but what I heard was "A Tale of Two Processions."

It began:

Two processions entered Jerusalem this spring morning. The procession of Jesus on a donkey and the procession of Pilate on a strong steed. Jesus' procession is surrounded by children, men and women waving palm branches -- symbols of peace.

While Pilate's procession is surrounded by swordsmen, military might and the banners of the forces of domination. Jesus' procession is about liberating the crowds; calling them to the true meaning of Passover. Pilate's procession is about controlling the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover."

Pilate's procession was about overpowering. Jesus' procession was about empowering.

Those are the choices laid before you and me over these next eight days -- the holiest week of the Christian year: will the steps we take in our journey be in the service of domination or liberation?
You can hear it all here.
I recommend it. Highly.

And now, onward to Holy Week!


RonF said...

I just looked through Mark, and while the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem is documented there I didn't see where the procession of Pilate was described. What source is the preacher using for the timing and description of Pilate's procession?

gerry said...

A sermon and the passion? Impressive.

Trinity was packed, but after the Passion we needed silence and a quiet time of reflection and meditation.

The Rector chose not to preach and the Music Director composed a splendid antiphonal anthem with Soprano and Tenor Soloists based on 'Were you there, When they Crucified My Lord" that bridged the service from the Meditation into the Petitions and Prayers of the People. As I invited the congregation to kneel for the Prayers, I could see people wiping their eyes.

It was awe inspiring...


See, Ron, that's yet another place where we approach this stuff differently. To look to Mark to "document" historical facts wouldn't even occur to me.

Whether or not Pilate rode into town that particular day what we know about Empire and it's domination ethos is that Jesus was modeling an entirely different way of being in the world ... as the preacher put it "liberation over domination."

Thanks for taking time to comment. Hope you're having a holy Holy Week.

DavidJustinLynch said...

The "two procession theory" emanated from Marcus Borg & JD Crossan's book on Holy Week. I read it last year as it tracks the Marcan passion. I found it helpful. Though a life-long Anglo-Catholic, I didn't really get into Jesus' procession until 1992 when I went to law school and later became a lawyer who helps injured people instead of an insurance adjuster who tried to keep it away from them. What drove me to change processions was a visit in my sleep from the Blessed Virgin Mary. I've prayed with her all my life and could not turn down her request.

RonF said...

gerry, we always sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" as the closing hymn on Good Friday evening. Right out of the 1980 Hymnal, #172. We sing it quieter and quieter and then sing the last verse a capella and walk out across the nave instead of processing.


I deleted this comment by mistake so am posting it myself ... sorry ron!

RonF has left a new comment on your post "PALM SUNDAY: A Tale of Two Processions":

I'm having a heck of a time having a holy Holy Week. Lent has been tough in that regard as well, frankly. I'm hoping that the music will help. Wednesday night is choir practice, and then I'll be singing in church all week. There's been a lot of unsettling distractions ....


Another deleted in error:

RonF has left a new comment on your post "PALM SUNDAY: A Tale of Two Processions":

My point is that in both Mark and Luke (I didn't look in Matthew) we see a description of Jesus' procession into Jerusalem. It's important for a number of reasons, it seems to me; first, that the people were thirsting for the news he brought. Second, because of the contrast to later events. There's also the issue of fulfilling prophecy. But overall this is not an allegory; this is being presented as historical fact, that it actually did happen. I'm not sure why you wouldn't think that looking to Mark to answer the question as to whether the events we talk about for Palm Sunday happened was appropriate.

Now, the preacher quoted in your post looks for another lesson to teach. Not finding it in what Scripture says, he (or she, I don't remember) contrasts it with another procession that he specifically states happened the same day. If you weren't familiar with the Gospel, you'd think that Scripture also documents that procession as well. But, in fact, it does no such thing. The preacher says that Jesus' procession happened, and I can believe that because it's documented in Scripture repeatedly. But the preacher also says that Pilate's procession happened at a very specific time and bases his sermon on that; whereas, in fact there's no evidence that such a thing happened. If this preacher presents as fact something that there is no evidence of, what else is he presenting as fact without evidence?

It's fair enough to say that Jesus stood against the way that the Roman empire exercised power in the world and pointed out a different way to be in the world. But making up things out of whole cloth is not the way to try to convince people that you are telling the truth and that this is, in fact, the lesson that Scripture is trying to teach us from the reading that day.

uffda51 said...

Ron, do you believe that any of the Gospel writers were eye witnesses to any of the things they wrote about?

RonF said...

It's my understanding that the Gospel writers were recording specific events that they were told had happened; they were writing down oral history. It's not my understanding that they were making up stories. They were specifically told and believed that Jesus actually did process into Jerusalem on an ass. They did not record that anyone had told them that Pilate processed into Jerusalem on that day.

It is useful to contrast Jesus' actual procession into Jerusalem with the kind of way that Pilate probably did, and/or may have been recorded as having doing at some other time. It is a lie to state as fact that Pilate actually did process into Jerusalem on the same day as Jesus did when, in fact, there is no record of such an event.