Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hosanna! (Palm Sunday 2015)

Mark 11.9: 

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’  

Mark 15.31: 

In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. 

 This morning, as the passion narrative was read, my mind was drawn to the remembrance that "hosanna" has something to do with salvation. There seems to be something lost in translation or vernacular, because the way the crowds used it in welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem doesn't precisely make sense---it doesn't seem to be a cheer of praise or adoration in the way, say, "hallelujah" is---but it does seem these crowds were expecting of Jesus, the healer and teacher and disciple-gatherer, to restore the kingdom of David. Basically, "save us from this Roman occupation!" 

 So, as often happens with my in worship services, I was pondering one specific thing---in this case, salvation and the classic questions like "saved from what, for what?"---and not necessarily paying attention to everything going on. 

But I was jarred back to the service before me as I heard the above verse from Mark 15 read. "He saved others, but he cannot save himself." 

 It jarred me because it was another instance of expecting salvation of a particular kind and not seeing the salvation before us. 

Even more, the second Bible quote reveals something about us and how we expect power to work. If the priests and scribes really believed that Jesus saved others (it's possible, they were mocking Jesus with the first half of the quote), the second half of the sentence reveals their own view on power---what's the point of having it if you don't use it for yourself? 

Except our other reading this morning held this bit (one of my favorite pieces of scripture): 

Philippians 2: 6-7

. . . who, though he was in the form of God,
   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.

What the priests and scribes didn't know---and we much too often forget---is that salvation doesn't come to the one doing the saving, not in the instant. Salvation comes after the one saving, indeed, the one with power to save, is spent, poured out, emptied. 

It may be the hardest lesson to learn, one that the church has failed at both teaching and modeling through the centuries. 

I offer this as a place to begin our Holy Week reflection upon the Passion of Christ. 

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