Palm Sunday is the day Jesus went public with being the Messiah. Up until then he had kept it under wraps. It was a well kept secret. He had said to folks he healed, “Go, but tell no one what happened.” He had said to his disciples, “Don’t broadcast what you have seen.” He had said to the multitudes, “Do not praise me. God alone is good.” Now, for the first time in his ministry, he is going to run the risk of going public.
When he entered Jerusalem the people loved him. They were wild, as the public is inclined to be, whenever there is the prospect of a messiah on any terms. In the frenzy, people literally tore off branches from the palm trees, waved them in the air, and cried, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” It was about as close as you could come to a ticker tape parade. This was the day Jesus went public. It was the most dangerous day of his life.
Palm Sunday is the most dangerous day of Jesus’ life because he made himself vulnerable to public recognition. King for a day. This is the most dangerous day of his life and of ours because most of the evil done in this world is done by good people with good intentions who want to do good and think they are doing good because they have public recognition.
Regardless of your politics, there are signs dotting Oak Cliff supporting a number of candidates running for public office. No one knows who, if any, of these people will be the best choice to govern. The only thing we know is that they are all supported by a lot of good people. Whether you believe our intentions for fighting two wars are justified or not, it remains to be seen whether this will produce, in the long run, some form of stability that a temporary, and hopefully, lasting peace may be forged. The only things we know for sure is that a lot of good people with good intentions are part of these interventions.
In a few weeks a group of people in Kessler Park United Methodist Church will participate in a six month to two year process called Holy Conversations: The Way Forward. People will be interviewed, information will be gathered, conversations will take place, information will be shared with the congregation, and recommendations will be made to the Church Council about moving forward. No one knows for sure what is going to happen as a result of reading, prayer, study, conversation, and decisions that will be made. What we do know is that a lot of good people will be faithfully discerning a way forward for the church.
After viewing my ministry of over thirty plus years, I am clear that most of the folks I have hurt or disappointed or let down, I did with, by in large, the best of intentions, and at times, with the affirmation and support of the congregations. How often and how easily we hurt folks we love the most and to whom we think we bring the best of intentions.
When Jesus enters Jerusalem. He goes to the Temple and turns over the tables of the money changers. Clearly, he is keeping his own counsel; he is still his own man. The crowds begin to whisper, his polls begin to fall. The week begins with hosannas, but by Friday, there are cavalcades of “Crucify him!” By Thursday there are only twelve. Following the Passover meal, even the inner circle cannot keep awake as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, on Friday, Jesus dies alone.
The shadow side of Holy Week is that life is a lonesome journey. The ultimate and final meaning of our lives is found, not finally in public recognition, not even in the relationship with folks we love and trust the most. Life finally comes down to one, and we die alone.
But the promise side of this lonesome journey is that our lonesomeness itself leads us to God and, secondarily, to each other. On the cross, Jesus trusts the mystery of the loneliness of his life to God. Part of what it means to be human is to live with a certain level of loneliness and solitude that no one can take away.
This is true for our life together in the congregation. When we join the church, one of the things we have in common is our loneliness. It is in the church that we affirm our loneliness, own it, and build on it in community and ministry and mission as we go into the world to share in solidarity through the cross and empty tomb.
As we move through Holy Week may we give up our dependency on public recognition, our dependency on people that we love the most as ultimate and final meaning givers, so that when this week is over, we may stand naked and alone before the One who is. When that happens, the stone will be rolled away and our lonesome journey will bring us ultimately to God and, then, to one another.