Friday, March 30, 2012

April Fools

Our texts for this final Sunday in Lent--a Sunday with two names, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday--are a reprise of Mark 11:1-11 (which we read the first Sunday in Lent), Philippians 2:5-11, and the story of Jesus' final day, now called Good Friday, which is recounted in Mark 15:1-39. These texts can be read here--and I would encourage you to read the two Mark passages using the Philippians text in the middle as a sort of interpretive bridge. How does the song from Philippians hold these two stories--separated in time by only 5 days, but marked by very different feels--together?

When I saw that Palm Sunday fell on April 1 this year, I laughed out loud--"Perfect! Palm Sunday is April Fools' Day this year! That's appropriate." That may seem like a weird reaction, but honestly, few days in the Christian year make me feel like more of a fool than Palm Sunday. It is one of the days I wrestle with most as a worship leader...what to do with the contradiction that is so strong, it makes our actions of waving palms feel a little bit like parody, our beginning of worship with celebration seem like a joke? We begin this Holy Week with a parade--and end it with a sort of parade as well. Only while the first parade has Jesus clomping like humble royalty over cloaks and palm branches cheered by a crowd, the second one we read of on this day has Jesus stumbling like a criminal down another path, beaten and surrounded by jeers. We cry "Hosanna! Save us!" to begin the service and "Crucify him" to end it. How can we be so foolish as to think our Hosannas are worth celebrating when they are going to so rapidly disappear? It all feels darkly comical to me.

It seems like a horrible prank--this one greeted like a king and killed like a criminal. This one hailed as a savior and mocked for not saving himself. This one blessed as Son of David and then crying out abandoned by God. A sick, sick joke. But this is not April Foolery--this is the deep truth about the king and savior we claim. He is the One about whom Paul wrote:

"Though he was in the form of God,
[He] did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).

What kind of a foolish king is this? One we must follow on this paradoxical Palm/Passion Sunday, all the way to the cross--where we see the truth about who he really is. Whether we feel faithful or foolish, we walk this road together as we enter this week called holy.

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