East County Faith Directory

A Tale of Two Parades

Rev. Kelly Ryan

It was Passover and the Roman rulers of Jerusalem were uneasy. Uneasy because Passover celebrated the unique heritage of the Jewish people, reminding them who they were, and whose they were. And, it had nothing to do with the power of Rome. Into this climate Jesus arrived, riding on a colt, greeted by the cheers of those who expected him to overthrow the military superpower that oppressed them. It was, according to the Romans, a time of peace – the Pax Romana, and unification. They could claim that everyone in their Empire was on the same page—because those who spoke out were wiped out…crucified. Jesus challenged that unifying narrative. Theologian Marcus Borg describes two different sorts of parades that be-ginning of Passover in Jerusalem.[1] At one end of the city is Pilate, entering the city in a Triumphal parade that would have been curated specifically to remind the Jewish people whose thumb they were under. And then there is Jesus, coming in at the other end of the city, on a colt, playing right into the story of the heroic ruler the Jewish people expected, the anointed one who would cast off of the yoke of the Empire and bring the reign of God. Imagine how, in that climate, a hero from your own people, bringing a remarkable, creative, subversive, expansive vision of how to live. Where Rome would kill any enemies of their rule, Jesus says to love your enemies. When they took extortionary taxes from residents of the Galilee, he said, “There is a whole other richness that is between you and God, a wealth in your soul, that Caesar can never touch.” When the Roman Empire celebrated might, decadence, and victory, Jesus said “Blessed are you who are merciful, hungry, and mourning.” If this story ended here, it would seem so satisfying.—this would just be a great moment to fade to black. But this story has no simple happy ending. It asks us to lose our life as we know it, so that we can find it reborn in Jesus’ governance, this realm of love, this Kingdom of God. This story reminds us that living out this alternative allegiance can cost everything. It faces us with the hard depths of reality. It doesn’t avoid pain, pretend we always make noble choices, or smooth the rough edges of our lives. This story arcs right through the heart of all the terrible things we can encounter, the terrible things we can do, but then goes even past the very end to say that those terrible things do not have the final word. So may you find something that gives life with all its beauty and pain and sorrow and joy. May you find something that speaks truth to your life. May you not settle for comfortable allegiances, but follow a light simply because it is good. Rev. Kelly Ryan [1] Borg, Marcus and John Dominic Crossan, The Last week. HarperOne, 2006. The framing of this sermon owes a large part to Rob Bell’s Robcast Episode 141 “The Thing in the Air Part 3: The Counter Narrative” aired Feb. 26, 2017