Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Weeping King: A Palm Sunday Meditation

"The Triumphant Entry" by He Qi

Luke 19:29-44 is here...

Here it is: Today is the day when it all begins, when the first domino is tipped over and events fall into place, one after another after another.

Jesus is approaching the holy city, Jerusalem. The celebration of Passover, the holiest week of the Jewish year, approaches. The moment is now.

For those who follow Jesus, who have been following him from the beginning, we almost can’t conceive of their anticipation. This is the moment on which all their hopes are set, on which their world will pivot. Jesus will enter Jerusalem triumphantly, proclaimed king by the people, hopefully upsetting the applecart of that petty tyrant Herod and certainly giving a good kick in the shins to that enormous, dreadful superpower, Rome. Jesus is king. The people are singing it, echoing the angel-song from the very day of his birth. Even the stones are ready to shout it. Jesus is king. Now is the moment.

But…it is a smallish procession, really. A man on a donkey, some people waving palms at him. Like us. Hopeful, but uncertain. There are naysayers, those who would hush the exuberance. “Can’t you shut this thing down?” they demand. Jesus is steady. “Nothing can stop this,” he tells them. The first domino is tipped over, and one after another, after another… events will unfold.

But then, even the steadiness of Jesus evaporates, like mist on the Mount of Olives in the heat  of the day. As he approaches the beautiful, the holy city, the city where his ancestor David sat on the throne, he begins to weep. “If only,” Jesus keens. “If only…”

David wept too. That mighty king, that flawed man through whom God gathered the people together. There came a moment in David’s reign… and it was near the end, his power was waning… there came a moment when David wept over Jerusalem and all it meant to him. Difference was, David was fleeing the city as the rebels made it their stronghold. And David wept for the loss of his own power, for betrayal at the hands of a son. And for his own failings, too. For the very actions that had put him in that position, things undone that should have been done, things done that could not be undone. David fled up the Mount of Olives and he wept for the loss of his kingship.

Jesus is not weeping over his betrayer… not yet, at least. Jesus is weeping because he knows well that he offers a model of kingship which will not be embraced, will not be understood, and which, in a very rapid series of angry responses, the human powers and principalities will do their best to crush.

Jesus looks at Jerusalem and he sees a time when the temple will be nothing but rubble, and the people, like David, will try to flee to the hills, to no avail.

Jesus looks at Jerusalem, and he sees the end. Jesus looks at Jerusalem, and he sees a world that is not ready for a God who is love.

And yet. And yet.

There is a tiny little video that is making the rounds these days… The music behind the images is John Lennon’s “Imagine,” one of those songs so familiar that we sometimes can’t hear the lyrics. But it is not the music of the video I want to share; it is the images. They all take the form of news stories. They all say, one way or another, “If only.”

Someone unfolds a newspaper, and it reads “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 84, Champions Immigration reform.” And there is a picture of an 84-year-old Martin Luther King.

And then a magazine spread. “Anne Frank wins Nobel Prize for her 12th Novel.” And a photo of Anne Frank, who also happens to be 84 years old.

And then a white-haired, 83-year-old Harvey Milk, with a caption telling us that he is “expanding LGBT rights globally.”

And on and on. A 49-year-old Daniel Pearl winning the Pulitzer Prize. A 63-year-old James Byrd, who, instead of having been dragged to his death behind a pick-up truck, has rescued a girl from a burning building. A 36-year-old Matthew Shepard leading an anti-bullying coalition. A 90-year-old Yitzhak Rabin, honored for ushering in a 20-year-era of Israeli- Palestinian peace.

Imagine a world, the video ends, without hate.

Imagine a world, Jesus might say, where God is love.

Imagine a world, Christians all over the world say, today, in which Jesus is ruler.

Now is the moment. Today is the day when the first dominoes could tip over, and events could fall into place, one after another, after another.

Imagine a world in which that weeping king rules our hearts and our lives and hate is no more.

Just imagine.

Thanks be to God. Amen. 

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