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Vicar's Musings for Palm Sunday

9 April, 2017

St Peter's Church always looks so spectacular on Palm Sunday. Thanks to our Sacristan, Adam Blackwell, and Verger, David Morrell, for all the work they and their helpers have done over the past week: sourcing palm and olive branches, making palm crosses, decorating the church and hall.

On a spring day in the year 30AD, at the start of the Jewish Passover festival, two processions entered Jerusalem. Millions of Christians around the world re-enact one of these processions on Palm Sunday each year; Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, his way strewn with palm branches with crowds shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David." Although unfamiliar to most people today, it was the other procession that everyone in first-century Jerusalem knew about. Each year the Roman governors of Judea would show up for the Passover festivities, not out of respect, but with a powerful demonstration of military dominance. The Passover was a celebration of the Jewish people's liberation from the oppression of the Egyptian empire. Parallels with the Roman occupation of Judea were painfully evident each year, and this was a prime time for dissent. Pontius Pilate had travelled nearly 100kms to be there that day, from the safety and comfort of the newly built coastal city Caesarea maritime (Ceasarea on the Sea). The Governor arrived that day with a great procession of Roman soldiers to swell the ranks of the garrison permanently stationed in the Fortress Antonia, overlooking the Jewish temple.

Around the time of the Governor's dramatic entry into Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples were planning an alternative procession; a protest-march if you like. It was an incredibly courageous act of non-violent resistance to the occupying forces. Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a donkey. They had decided to enact the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah: "Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey." The whole city is electric, in turmoil: "Who is this?" How will Pilate react to this brazen challenge to Roman authority?

It has become a tradition in recent years to stage Palm Sunday protest marches across the country. After our processions in church, many Christians in Melbourne will go to the State Library at 2pm to join a procession protesting the injustices experienced by refugees who are caught between violent conflict in their homeland and government policy here in Australia. For those who are interested, more information can be found on the Refugee Council of Australia website: www.refugeecouncil.org.au/event/2017-palm-sunday-walk-justice.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster


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