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Blessed Are the Prophets

Chris Glaser

So was Jesus and his followers streaming through the streets of Jerusalem a parade or a march? Were the palm-waving crowds welcoming a demonstration against Rome or simply enjoying a party? Are we talkin’ political movement or Mardi Gras? (This will be familiar to those of you who hear the same conversations about annual Pride observances!)

The answer to me in both cases is “yes.” Both a Jesus parade and Jesus march were an affront to Rome, the political authorities who ruled Palestine. Both a Jesus demonstration and a Jesus party would have been a challenge to the cultural “powers that be.” Both a political movement and a Mardi Gras celebrated at Passover time would have disconcerted the religious authorities of Jesus’ time.

I can hear the politically powerful saying, “What’s this guy up to?” I can hear the culturally influential wondering, “What’s this low-life trying to do?” I can hear the religious elite crying, “This is no way to celebrate Passover! We’ve never done it this way before!”

Yet at the same time we hear, “Hosanna!”—which literally means “save us,” first said as a prayer and then as an acclamation. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God!”

Hope and fear, love and disdain, joy and grief flowed on the streets of Jerusalem that day when Jesus, with palm-waving flourish, humbly rode in on a donkey over the garments and palms laid out before him.

Oh, if his friends in Nazareth could see him now!

What PR firm came up with this plan? What marketing company staged this event? Which campaign consultants organized this photo op?

Jesus gives us a clue in the Gospel of Luke, when asked to calm the crowd down: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones themselves would cry out.”

In other words, this is what happens when God’s Spirit moves, whether upon the waters of earth or the blood of the human heart. This is what happens when people know a truth that will set them and others free. This is what happens when our spirit in union with God’s Spirit rises up and says: “Never again!” or “I am a man.” or “I am woman.” or “We’re here, we’re queer, get over it.”

Think what all the people felt following Jesus into the city! Surely their day had come! What pride to see the turnout! What joy to believe that they were going to send the powers that be running! What elation to know of a certainty that this was the one who would be the solution, political and personal.

What was Jesus like in this moment, we might wonder.

At the rally following one of the first LGBT Pride marches in Los Angeles, I heard Harvey Milk speak. I was surprised how loud and raspy his voice was, and how abrasive he was in his demands of the culture.

Was Jesus like that? Probably.

I met Cesar Chavez during one of his fasts for migrant farm workers, and I was surprised how gentle and loving and spiritual he was when he spoke of his cause and his people.

Was Jesus like that? Probably.

I encountered feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether in a committee meeting and I was surprised by how unassuming yet straightforward she was, even as she spoke with clarity about injustices against Palestinians.

Was Jesus like that? Probably.

We encounter every prophet for change with a mix of fear and gratitude: fear of what they might require of us, gratitude for speaking their truth.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem may serve as metaphor for how we too have welcomed prophets or been welcomed as prophets. On that first Palm Sunday, as the crowds cheered Jesus into the holy city, their welcome did not mean they would not struggle with this Christ. Jerusalem was to question Jesus’ authority, doubt his orthodoxy, ask trick questions, question his belief in resurrection, demand to know when the fulfillment of time would come, betray him, deny him, place him on trial, judge him, mock him, torture and crucify him. Toward the end of the week it would be hard to remember that this same city also welcomed him with a 21-palm salute.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Haven’t most who identify as Christian and even those who no longer identify as Christian welcomed Jesus with joy only to struggle with him, question his authority, doubt his truth as well as his assurances of God’s eternal love, demand answers, betray him, deny him, judge him, mock him, even crucify him?

And haven’t most of us treated prophets or been treated as prophets similarly?

May the day come when we welcome every prophet with “Hosanna! Blessed are the ones who come in the name of God!”

Reprinted with permission from Chris R. Glaser.

JesusEnterstheCity

“Jesus Enters the City” from artist Douglas Blanchard’s series, The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision, and the book with author and blogger Kittredge Cherry. Copyright © by Douglas Blanchard. Used by permission.

Chris Glaser has a ministry of writing and speaking. Since graduation from Yale Divinity School in 1977, Chris has served in a variety of parish, campus, editorial, and interim posts. He has spoken to hundreds of congregations, campuses, and communities throughout the U.S. and Canada, and published a dozen best-selling books on spirituality, sexuality, vocation, contemplation, scripture, sacrament, theology, marriage, and death. You may visit his website at http://chrisglaser.com/ and his blog at http://chrisglaser.blogspot.com/.

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  1. Chris, I saw the painting and knew it was Doug’s work. I use to follow him on Blogger until that account went Belly up. His paintings are so wonderful! :-)

    April 13, 2014

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