Vicar's Musings for Palm Sunday
20 March, 2016
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee." (Matthew 21:10-11)
Jesus was not a religious political party man; he did not belong to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Zealots. Jesus was known as a prophet, a courageous man who didn't pull any punches when it came to truth-telling. He exhorted his followers to observe the teachings of the Torah, most certainly, but he was not solely a preserver of tradition, he was also an agent of change. The crowds who thronged the streets as he entered Jerusalem knew this, but most misunderstood what form this change would take. The Palm Sunday procession was not the start of an armed rebellion. The uprising that Jesus had in mind was to take a radically different form. Jesus' message was not intended to be comfortable, pleasing, preserving of the status quo, or aimed at growing synagogue numbers. Jesus' gospel message was designed to challenge and provoke his hearers into reconsidering how they related to one another, to their neighbour, and to God.
The issues of our day are very different from those of first-century Palestine. We cannot put Jesus' gospel into a box and say: this is what happened then, so this is the answer for today. We have to work it out for ourselves in each generation and each context. Looking at the New Testament as a whole, however, we can probably draw out an underlying touch-stone: God, in Christ, exhibits a priority for the marginalised, the oppressed, the poor, the sick, the needy. This is a cornerstone of Christ's gospel and should be a cornerstone of our church-life too.
That is why many of us volunteer at the Lazarus Centre homeless breakfast program; it is why we are developing a coffee cart social enterprise to provide employment pathways for long-term unemployed people; it is why we visit the sick; it is why we work hard at being an open, welcoming and inclusive church. The man on a donkey was signalling a new way. As we enter into Holy Week may we recommit ourselves afresh to this way; the way of the cross; the way of truth; the way of life.
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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