Palm Sunday: A Poem for Palm Sunday

Hope coming through Fear
Close up of a large square banner with the word HOPE mostly visible at the center. Most of the dark colored words of different fears, are cut away revealing words in brighter colors underneath. Image courtesy of Rachael Keefe.

Palm Sunday reminds us that we have a choice about whether to follow Jesus or to follow Empire. Which will you choose?

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Palm Sunday by Rachael Keefe

From Negotiating the Shadows

Two parades cross town
giving onlookers a simple choice
between Pontius Pilate
and Jesus of Nazareth –
between power
and humility.

One rides into town
on a big white horse
with shouts of acclamation
and a full Roman guard –
breast plates shining,
spears gripped, at the ready (no offense) –
securing peace.
Who would not be tempted?

The Other rides quietly
on a young donkey
with little fanfare
and a few lowly disciples –
dusty clothes and dirty feet,
hands empty, accepting all (without defense) –
questioning security.
Where is the temptation here?

Roman rule is safe and sure
no risk
no change
no choice.

Jesus’ way breaks rules
risks everything
changes everything
challenges everything.

If I choose the big, fancy parade
just for today
will it shift the course of this week?
Not likely.

Jesus will ride to the temple if I am not looking
and turn toward Bethany with his friends.
He will gather for Passover in an upper room
wash feet
break bread
sing hymns
go to a garden to pray.

If I turn to Rome even for a moment
Jesus’ disciples will still fall asleep
leave him alone
until the soldiers come
and Judas betrays him with a kiss
and Peter follows his impulses …

If I fall for the glamour
Jesus will still be arrested
found guilty without trial
Pontius Pilate will wash his hands
(as if he could cleanse his own sins)
the whip will crack and blood will flow
the innocent condemned.

What difference will it make if I am not there
just this once?
No one will notice if I turn away
from the humble man who rides with his toes dragging in the sand.

I do not need to see prophecy fulfilled with branches and cloaks
tossed to the ground – a poor pavement for the Son of God.

Will it matter if I don’t wonder why he rides up and looks at the Temple
before heading off in another direction?
If I step away from the crowd before
brokenness and betrayal,
darkness and denial,
will any difference be made?

If I am not there today,
I don’t have to hear the cries for crucifixion
or see the tears of anguish in his mother’s eyes
One day, one parade, one person
One less Hosanna
One less cloak on the ground
One less face in the crowd.

On the other side of town,
cheers and shouts
instruments and song
proclaim power and presence.
The white horse and the Centurion stir up dust
and put on a show.
Echoes fade fast and the crowd stands lifeless,
waiting for more
in the oppressive heat.

Who would know if I went there?
One more to wave and sing
covered in dust
awed by power
blinded by the glare of empty promises,
marked by the shadows of Roman spears.
One more face in the crowd.

If I avoid the triumph of today,
the quiet cleansing of Thursday
the deep silence giving way to deeper darkness
in the garden and on the cross,
If I do not witness
the fickle crowd shouting “Save Us!” today
and “Crucify him!” tomorrow
the hope cracking wide open
into abysmal despair,

What else will I miss?
Rome changes nothing with its finery;
it always rules in falsity and illusion
securing obedience with fear
and peace with force.

Jesus rides through the city
asking for nothing
but for us to have courage
to bear witness
all the way through to the early morning
on the first day of the week
so our eyes will be opened

Ride on!
Take me with you (feet dragging and all) …

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Posts from the office are composed by church staff and leadership at Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, on behalf of the church membership.

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