A seminal date in Christian observance, Palm Sunday is observed this year on Sunday, March 25th. It marks the day Jesus of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem, carried on prophecy’s donkey. Approaching the Gate of Mercy, he was acclaimed by crowds of the hopeful casting all they had before him.
It may have been the day Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, also entered Jerusalem. Marching through David’s Gate, bestride a horse of war, amid a phalanx of legionnaires, asserting possession of the pilgrim-swollen city. The crowds watching him more sullen than celebratory.
On that day, in Jerusalem, two faces of peace showed themselves for all to see. The “Peace of Christ”, as a man named Paul would write subversively in his letters years after, and the “Peace of Rome” as Emperors and their ambassadors were wont to proclaim whilst subjugating ‘barbarians’ with sword, fire, cross and death.
This moment fascinates me. This Sunday of Palms and Pilot, when two possibilities exist. Like Shrodinger’s Cat, the world poised between.
One, from the east, offering the peace of revelation. Love’s peace. The peace of certainty and abundance in an uncertain and scarce world. The peace of enough for all. The peace of blessing, of grace, of beloved-ness insisting on love. A Creator revealed not as condemning head of the human family, but as loving Abba, joyful Papa, sweet Mother, gentle healer, wonder-filled, sorrowing, compassionate One. One who wills us into our kindest, most forgiving selves. One walking always in the weak, the imprisoned, the sick, the infirm, the down-trodden, the poverty-stricken, the margin-dwellers. One calling the power-filled, the capable, the wealth-amassing, spear-wielding to walk there too.
One, from the west, offering the peace of power and might. The peace of certainty and sacrifice in an uncertain and scarce world. The peace of armed aggression, the peace of war waged upon enemies and their children’s, children’s, children. The peace of social order, the peace of knowing your place within the system. The peace of rules demarking who is in and who is out. The peace of the power-filled having their way with the power-less, the peace enforced by steel and fist. The peace of freedom to change the air itself, to raise the waters, fire the forests, litter the oceans, waste the rivers. Peace enforced by will. The peace of wealth sequestered, hoarded and barriered against all comers.
For a moment, we were poised between. Held in Shrodinger’s possibility.
Voices speaking with the marginalized, the abused, the overpowered, the held down. Prophetic voices speaking truth to power, calling upon rulers to stand with people, asking for weapons to be laid down. Voices lifted for the earth that nurtures. Voices seeking mercy for the creatures of the sea.
Voices proclaiming might is right. Voices speaking of ‘over-reaction’, asking the abused to quiet their testimony in the name of peace. Voices demanding we override the elder’s counsel in the name of the good of the greater. Insisting the wounded no longer speak of their wounds or cry out against the weapons that caused them. Voices raised to end poverty by ending support for the poor, by imprisoning the fallen, by blaming the homeless. Healing the earth by pouring more oil into her lungs. Voices sounding the war horns in the name of ‘stability’.
In this ‘Palm Sunday’ moment we are poised in the balance. Voices are raised within each of us, just as they are raised outside of us. Now, as then, a time of choosing will come. Which peace will you choose?
When Pilate comes asking, how will you respond?
Keith Simmonds is in ministry at Duncan United Church, where folk are engaged in seeking justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with the Creator. He blogs at keithsimmonds.ca.
You can read more articles fron our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday March 24 2018