Called to Deep Hope

Palm Sunday

Four Crowds 

I’m just another face in the crowd.

We are coming up to the holiday of joy.

The city gates are open, the walls of Jerusalem swell.

Day after day people pour in from the village.

Fifty, a hundred, two hundred thousand people

Bustle in the streets.

Dishes are plunged into the depths of

boiling water, the steam rises into the air.

Women at home prepare food carefully

for the celebration to come in

days ahead.

Soon the crowd will pass

blood smeared on doorposts

above our heads the reminder of

Death passing over

cries of grief, wailing in the night

For us, a breath of relief, the blood has done its job

morning will come

with hope. Exodus. New life.

 

I’m just another face in the crowd.

Eagles flying overhead. Banners flowing in the wind.

Clank of armor, the beating of drums.

They scream power, power, power.

Pounds in my head.

I stumble. Get away. Don’t be seen.

Don’t make a scene.

They are here to scare us. Afraid that in our

rejoicing of a day that marks

Exodus

Freedom

     Hope

       New Life

We will think differently of our situation.

We will gain our confidence back.

We will fight back. And so they come screaming

power with their parades of might and strength. Showing us that we cannot fight

back. We have no weapons. No might.

There is no hope. Continue on as we were,

mice scattered away from the Master’s farmhouse.

 

I’m just another face in the crowd.

Masked faces hold signs. If there’s not one today

there will be next week.

March. Riot. People pour from their homes of isolation

into the streets. For the climate.

For the queers. For the blacks. For the right to life.

For the women. For the land. For freedom of speech.

It’s predictable, it’s exhausting, it’s hard to keep up.

My social media feed cries out for me to care, I wonder how

many of those hashtags are just people

along

for the ride.

Despite my cynicism my heart still cries and hurts

for both those that surround me and those that represent

the signs we hold so angrily.

“Why can’t we get along, is that so hard?” Apparently,

it is.

I look around amidst the selfies and high-waisted jeans

and wonder- is hope here?

 

I’m just another face in the crowd.

Caught up in the shouts of blesseds and kingdoms

Four hooves move slowly, the weight it bears almost too much.

It’s unaware of the shouts that surround it, annoyed at the

Coats that are thrown before it.

The crowd is full of faces that bear the dust of

hard-working people. Some are hungry, others long for a drink.

Hosanna, Hosanna! Save us, Save us, Save us. From what? Hell?

No.

Salvation from these walls that surround us, these shackles that stick

on our soul.

The apathy of those who long to burst free of their energy-less

nights and days. The night is long,

coins put in the pockets of those whose pockets are

already filled with the weight of selfish evil.

First Pharaoh, now Caesar- our people cry to know the freedom of

a promised land.

The crowd is two-sided. One with the pain of living, reflecting

on a story like a woman recalling labour pains. The other

sees hope in the new life that comes after the night is done.

The crowd surges along with the drama

the whole thing choreographed, from the colt on the parade route to the

coins on the floor. Intentional, to provoke

an event that the crowd doesn’t suspect will come.

The colt tosses its head, a branch waved in its face.

I wonder if it knows that on it sits

the Hope of the world.


As we follow Jesus into Holy Week, we sense the rush of the crowds and seek the deep steady current of God’s steadfast love, calling us to deep hope in the One who comes in the name of the Lord. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, we feel the pull of seemingly competing currents. There’s the pull of crowds and their lofty expectations, the lack of understanding of the disciples, and the inevitability of the journey to the cross, which we follow through Holy Week. As competing expectations swirl on the surface, what is the deeper current that carries Jesus along? May we find a steady current that gives us hope that closed tombs are never the final word of the story.

In some ways, I wish that we had a lot more Holy Week services because it is jam packed full of events. But, we don’t and so we go from Palm Sunday, about half of us to Good Friday and then to Easter not fully grasping all the events that happen in between. In Mark, there’s four chapters of stuff that happens between Palm Sunday and the resurrection! All the events that happen add to this sense of rushing, of the overwhelming feeling of getting caught up in a crowd.

I based my poem on four crowds:  the crowd at Passover. A time of joy and rejoicing. A time where people are revelling in the celebration of their ancestors breaking free from the oppression of the Egyptian armies. Because Jerusalem was such a popular place for Jews celebrating the Passover to come, the city would be bursting full of people.

Jerusalem is under Roman occupation so, it was common for the Roman military to make an appearance just to show their power and might, in case the Jews were feeling like they had some power. The Romans come in with a big parade on big, military horses to show the Jewish people that they have all the power in the land. This was the second crowd in the poem.

These bouts of might and power were common in ancient Jewish literature. When the heroes come back from war, the crowds would cheer along as the victory enters the city. In these types of parades, the victor would parade right up to the temple or religious shrine and make an offering to the gods in thanksgiving for the victory.

This is the type of parade that the people were expecting of Jesus.

In fact, because it was Passover and the city was filled with Jewish people, it’s likely that this type of parade was going on in the west side of the city while Jesus enters into the city in the east meekly, on a colt- certainly not a big, military horse.

In Mark’s gospel, the Palm Sunday narrative has the least amount of pomp and circumstance. Jesus does parade in, and people shout praises to him but when Jesus parades up to the temple, he doesn’t go up and make an offering as would be customary. Instead he gets off his colt, walks around, looks around, picks up their stuff and leaves the city.

And the people in the crowd are left wondering what just happened.

In the third stanza of the poem, I put in a contemporary crowd. It felt like last year, there was a march for something going on in our community almost every month, sometimes every week. I was reminded of this when I thought about the crowds of Passover, of the Roman army, of Palm Sunday. In our society that calls for us to march for…. (fill in the blank), it can feel really overwhelming. The pull of the crowd calling us to care for all the hurt that surrounds us in the world, in our own community here in Cambridge.

I think, that when we follow the pull of the crowd- whether in a march, in our grief, or even in our everyday life, that is what overwhelms us. The pull of shame that if you don’t care about this situation as deeply as others, you are a terrible person. The pull of ‘going along with the flow.’

As competing expectations swirl on the surface, what is the deeper current that carries Jesus along? May we find a steady current that gives us hope that closed tombs are never the final word of the story.

It wasn’t the crowd on Palm Sunday that was pulling Jesus along. It wasn’t the crowd that drove Jesus and his ministry. Whether or not people were in favour of what Jesus was doing, he was going to minister, he was going to further God’s kingdom here on earth.

That is the steady current. The steady current of kingdom come that we have been taught to pray. It is God’s kingdom come that gives us hope, deep hope, that closed tombs, militaristic parades and violence are not the final word of the story. A kingdom come that crushes evil. A kingdom come that does teach us to care for those who are oppressed, for those whom we march but it’s also a kingdom come that teaches us to care for ourselves.

What is your steady current that is pulling you along? Is it “peer pressure”? Is it heavy expectations that you put on yourself? Is it shame of apathetic feelings?

Or is it the promised Hope of the world. Hope that Jesus has come. Hope that Jesus has made and is still making a kingdom among us. Hope that we do not need to depend on ourselves or our governments for the kind of power that can and will change the world.

The Passover celebration commemorated liberation of Israelites from Egypt. Those crowds, and that of Palm Sunday and the current crowds in our life that follow us around are pulled by the same current- the same promise of liberation that God’s kingdom come promises.

So, as we find ourselves pushed and pulled along with the crowds that fill our minds, our email inboxes, our hearts, make space for the hope that comes with the promise of resurrection, the promise of new life, the promise of an exodus, the promise of Kingdom come, the promise of hope.