Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014.03.13 The Palms Have It


Palm trees in Israel gather and wave their own praises.

Christians call this Sunday, Palm Sunday, because we wave palms around, sing Hosannas, and expect our spiritual hero, Jesus Christ, to liberate us all from whatever keeps us in bondage—outside oppressor(s), addiction, mental illness, disability, religion, politics, gender, your neighbor. Our palms symbolize hope. They wave gracefully, especially when attached to trees. They also have sharply pointed tips, and kids are tempted to use them as swords.

To me this day has always seemed like a Jackson Pollack canvas—huge, diverse, disordered, every color imaginable spattered and splattered and slapped ruthlessly onto white space, filling it with bright horror. There’s no order in this startling beauty-in-chaos, yet.....yet what? Everything is represented.  Pollack titles one of his most famous paintings, "Convergence." See how everything is there? See that it is holy?
 
Every emotion, experience, desire and need you’ve ever known is packed into this day of Palms, this convergence of all of life at once. If you come to church for serenity and calm, or joy, stay away on Palm Sunday. 

Palm Sunday begins what for Christians is the most important week of the year, and also the most big fat unmanageable week. We tell the story of the entire week on this one Sunday.

This is the week in which Jesus of Nazareth and his followers entered Jerusalem where Jesus spoke truth to power, lost his life in the process, and died an ugly, ignominious death-by-suffocation in crucifixion—as his offended loyalists fled in terror, betrayal, desertion.

This week is just as dazzlingly diverse as the putative seven-day week of Creation, but this week centers on human flesh, not just created by but inhabited by Divinity. The crashing crushing climax of this week is less securely glorious than Creation. It leaves us with no evidence—only faith, hope, and love, the strength that flows from hope.

It wasn’t God who abandoned Jesus, it was humanity. Except of course for some few women who stayed with him at every step and cared for his dead body after his torturers had left, their dirty duty done. These women are the embodiment of faith, hope and love. In them we see the whole direction and the point of what would become Christianity. They are the gospel. Follow them, and their kind, with your “palms” and your Alleluias.