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April 10th, 2022

What a party! You can tell they were having a really good time on the streets of Jerusalem that day. After all, everyone loves a parade. And for most of the people in Jerusalem, life was pretty bare bones – subsistence living, really. They were more than eager to stand at the side of the road, waving palms and cheering, hoping for a glimpse of the celebrity everyone had been gossiping about. “Hosanna!” they shout. “Hosanna!” We can imagine them craning their necks, hoisting their children on their shoulders, hoping for a peek so they could say, later, that they had been there. We all know, however, that there were shadows looming over that parade. Any wise person standing in the crowd would have understood this, even as they applauded from the sidelines. Certainly, Jesus knew. And the disciples, much as they prayed otherwise, knew it, too: this could not end well. It’s an old story in human history: the people’s king – the popular leader – who goes up against the establishment. The ones who succeed – who topple the reigning power, usually lose something of themselves in the process, with their strategizing and forced alliances. The ones who run head long, without guise or subtlety, who stand up to be counted: well, history has proven that lesson as well. More often than not, when the dust has settled, the establishment is still very much established. And Jesus, as we know, was not aiming for subtlety: he was walking righteous steps toward his destiny. Not that he wasn't a showman as well: the donkey - that was a pretty smart move. But he was trying to change the game - not play the same old one. It would take much more than a party at the city gates. The thing about Palm Sunday is that the whole celebration in Jerusalem feels off - like an event staged for social media. Perhaps this is foresight - we know what is to happen. We already know there are whisperers in the seemingly joyful crowd, spreading hate like a cancer. But aren’t we, too, just like the mob? A party is so much easier. Let someone else worry about the clean up the next day. We could also say the same about society in general. Until the pandemic knocked us down and forced a wake-up call. But this week, we learned from UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the fight to keep global heating under 1.5 degrees had reached an immediate now-or-never stage. This is not a surprise - scientists have been warning us for years and years. And yet we continued to party - buying stuff insatiably, driving bigger cars, wanting bigger houses, and not pushing back against the interest-driven profit over the environment. Now here we are with the world’s fossil fuel energy supply threatened by war and the pandemic shaking us all out of our revelry. Now here, even with Covid cases creeping steadily up again, we are so keen to abandon rules and mandates - so eager to party - more voices are beginning to ask whether we are on right path. Perhaps, like the people of Jerusalem, we hope for a saviour - someone sure and steady - to step in and set things right - even though, as Christians, we already had that saviour, someone reminding us to take careful, conscious steps in the world. A party is so much easier. Let someone else worry about the clean-up the next day. Perhaps, in the end, this is why the mob turned so quickly against Jesus in the days that followed. They were disappointed: he, who was called a King and the Son of God, had not, with a wave of his hand, fixed their problems. In that doubtful space, a seed could be planted by leaders nervous about the crowd’s loving this Jesus a little too much: perhaps he was a charlatan? Perhaps he’d come not to give power to them but to take it for himself. Perhaps he was not who he said he was at all. And so the narrative cycles on repeat: a masterful act of disinformation and conspiracy. Who does this guy think he is, anyway? Perhaps, in the end, this is why the mob turned: deep down, they were the angriest with themselves. What if, instead of waiting, instead of partying, they had laid the groundwork for the arrival of Jesus? Taking their own challenges to the corrupt leaders of the city. Asking their own questions about unfair laws. They missed their chance: Jesus, who might have helped them get there at last, became the scapegoat for their own failures. They missed their chance – and that is where Palm Sunday leaves us, heading into the darkest day of our faith lives – our most horrible of failures. We have made some grave errors – and we have not been helpless puppets in the making of them. Palm Sunday is a day to wave palm branches and shout Hosanna. It is the day that marks Jesus’s arrival in the city, and that indeed was a celebration. But the party of Palm Sunday is not the lesson - the party was only concealing what was already underfoot. - what everyone should have been able to see. What was warned of repeatedly on the journey to Jerusalem? What are we also missing? There is one more week of Lent – and it should be the hardest week of all. If we don’t own up to our mistakes, if we don’t see the world as it is, and not just as we wish it were - as the people of Jerusalem would soon have no choice to do – then we go right back to partying, while the shadows gather. This is the week – this is the time in our communities, and in our country – to see the shadows for what they are. And to get ready for the next step. The people of Jerusalem got their wake-up call – a hero, a saviour they loved, was left to die on a cross. How long will we stay awake? Amen

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