Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Protest! What Are They Good For?!

One thing about me that you may not know is that I love a protest.
I have been to many of them.
I think protests have what I love most about life.
Lots of people coming together who believe that they can make a difference.
People who see something that is wrong and want to do something about it.
I will tell you that I like protesting so much that there have been times when I was at protest and I wasn't exactly sure what it was for.
Someone invited me, or there have been times when I saw one going on and I just joined in.
I mention this because there has been a lot written about the crowd that gathered to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.
Did they understand what they were asking for?
Did they understand the significance of the moment?
Did they understand what they were chanting?

They thought that they were welcoming someone who was going to overthrow the Roman Government.
Someone who was going to make their lives better.
They knew all too well that things were not good in Palestine.
They didn't like being subjects of a foreign power.
They believed that this Jesus person could make things better, they believed he had the power to do it.
They had heard the stories of Jesus calming storms, healing the sick, feeding 5,000 people.
They had heard that he preached the Kingdom of God that took care of the least and most vulnerable.
It is perfectly understandable that they had high hopes for what Jesus would do.

Everything about this protest was set up to be about triumphant.
Palm branches in the ancient world were a symbol of military and political triumphant.
They shouted that the King of Israel would come and save them.
They thought this could be that moment that the messiah would finally come and right the wrongs.
That is the thing about protest.
They are meant to right wrongs, to fix something that we feel is wrong with the world.
I have noticed over the years a couple of things about protest.

First, the rarely fix the problem.
I came to the realization when I was at protest in Washington DC to protest us getting into the war in Iraq the second time around.
We were marching down a street and there was a office building next to us.
Some of the people in the office building had come to the window to watch.
One of them had written on a 8*11 sheet of white copy paper a sign that said, "F*#$@ Peace"
It made me see that in some ways this was not changing anyone's mind, nor was it stopping the war.

Second, Protests are meant to make one side righteous and the other wrong.
I have found in life that rarely are things that black and white.
Let me put it in theological terms.
We are all simultaneously saints and sinners.
(I really wanted to talk about this during our reformation series, but we ran out of time.
It is a key in understanding Lutheran theology."
All of us are a complex combination of saints and sinners.
Even our best of intentions are not that great.
But Jesus gives us grace we can do good.
The Holy Spirit draws us out of ourselves and into something that helps our neighbors.

Third, protesting isn't about taking on an individual.
It is not about a person, it is about an entire system that is bigger than any one person.
You don't protest that a person is bad, but that the systems of the world are bad.
What is the systems that lead us to kill each other, hate each other, rob from each other.

Fourth, protesting is still necessary and good.
It helps us to express our desire for a better world.
For a world without violence, greed, and hatred.
A world without corrupting power.
A world where we are all free, and all are valued and fed.
I am big believer in being part of lost causes, and things that will never become law.

And that is what is happening on Palm Sunday.
The crowd thinks they are there to see the start of victory.
They think this is the beginning of Jesus Triumphant over the forces of a corrupt government, that has conspired with corrupt religious leaders.
They think this will lead to that change that they have dreamt of and wished for.

The problem is that they are not really looking closely at what Jesus is doing.
In Mark's Gospel it is interesting that Jesus is silent.
In the other Gospels Jesus speaks on his ride into Jerusalem.
Here he take it in.
He doesn't condemn the crowd, but he doesn't give it his full endorsement either.
Instead he rides without comment.
Knowing what the crowd doesn't.
Knowing that he is the Messiah, that there will be a victory, but not in the way that they think he is.
Knowing that the victory that will be won is not a military one.
It is not about passing just laws.
It is about something even more, beyond the reach of the crowd.
It is about giving of his life, so that we might live.
It is about proving that God is more powerful than any government or religion.
That the freedom we seek comes from knowing God's power in our lives.

Palm Sunday is the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
It is the entry for us into the Holy sacred story that lies at the center of our faith.
As we enter into it we should remember these lessons.
Jesus fixes our problems by showing us how to be in the world.
How to love each other, how to give of ourselves, how to be peaceful and caring, how to stand up for what is good, right, and just.
Jesus is our Messiah who wins the victory, but not in the way we think.
Jesus is the humble peaceful son of God who comes in silence riding on a donkey.

The story is not about bad people versus good people.
It is about how we have failed, to love and care and understand.
We are both sinners and saints.
Sinners because, like the crowd, we don't understand fully the beauty of Jesus.
Saints because Jesus shows us the way to truth and life.

The story is not about individuals fail.
It is about how systems of oppression are evil.
It isn't about Pilate, but about how Pilate is part of a system that executes people.
It isn't about the religious leaders, but about how the system has blinded them to the truth.
It isn't about how Judas failed, or Peter failed, or the disciples failed, but about how they too couldn't fight against the system.

And finally it was all necessary and good.
It was according to plan.
Because Jesus knew that the system would never change, it would kill him first.
Jesus knew that even his disciples were sinners.
But it didn't stop Jesus from protesting, from trying to show us a different way.
It didn't stop Jesus from entering Jerusalem.

I hope for us this week that we focus on Jesus.
Not on whose fault it is that he died.
Not on what the people of that time knew or didn't know.
Not on what we know or not.
But see Jesus giving himself for us.
Jesus loving us, offering us grace.
Jesus entering our hearts so we might know God.

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