On Not Leaving It to the Stones
The above is really a Palm Sunday passage, so you liturgically-minded folks will wonder why I’m trotting it out just a couple of days before Ash Wednesday instead of waiting till the appropriate day. Bear with me.
Though the folks in the story don’t yet know it, this passage marks the beginning of the end of Jesus ministry on earth. People are SO excited to see him! They’ve heard about the healings. They’ve heard about the miracles. And here was the man himself, riding into Jerusalem. The people are shouting and singing and waving palms, and the whole thing makes the Pharisees very unhappy and very uncomfortable.
Because those Pharisees had a system. They had rules. They had a lot of rules. And as long as people followed the rules, everything was fine. And then…Jesus. All of a sudden people were doing crazy things like helping people on the Sabbath and touching the untouchable. Women were talking to men who weren’t their husbands and people were starting to skip the ritual hand washings. It was messing up the system. More importantly, it was messing up the authority and the control of the Pharisees.
I kind of picture the Pharisees in this story a little bit like Kevin Bacon at the end of the movie Animal House. When everything has erupted into chaos, and people are running through the streets and stuff is blowing up and falling over, he just stands in the middle of it screaming, “All is well. Remain calm. Remain calm. All is well.”
I can see the Pharisees doing something similar. The crowd is huge. The people are shouting and throwing stuff on the ground and waving their arms, and the Pharisees are whisper screaming, “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Be quiet! Stop it! You’re gonna ruin everything!”
And Jesus just says to them, “Give it up. Even if you could make these people be quiet. What I’m saying, what I’m doing is so amazing, so life-changing, so world-altering that even the stones are gonna shout about it.”
I can’t even imagine how frustrated the Pharisees were at that point. They SO wanted the people to be silent. They so wanted the people to stop singing his praises. They so wanted the people to stop buying in to what they saw as something he was selling.
So this is why I’m rushing and trotting out the Palm Sunday passage early: I want to talk about about who our Pharisees are today. Who are the people who want us to be quiet? Who are the people who keep us silent? Who prevents us from shouting out the Good News of Jesus Christ?
The Pharisees are still around today in the form of people who insist that rules are more important than people.
They are the people who would rather be included because of who they exclude than excluded because of the people they include.
They are the ones who tell women and LGBTQ people that their place in not in pulpit (and sometimes not even in the church).
They are the ones who warn us not to rock the boat or upset people.
But honestly, can you really follow Jesus Christ if you never upset or anger anyone? Jesus upset plenty of people…of course, they killed him for it, so you want to be sure and pick your battles, but my point is that the model of discipleship for Christians is not a socially acceptable, impeccable host who made sure everyone was happy and comfortable.
Called to Shout it Out
We must speak truth to power.
We must cry out for justice.
We must preach the practice of peace.
We must demand dignity for all God’s children.
We must exhort acceptance and welcome and hospitality.
And when we make people uncomfortable or angry, we must continue to proclaim the Good News That God loved us before we even knew God. That Jesus Christ conquered death for us so that we might never be afraid. That there’s this wonderful things called grace and even when we screw up royally, we are given the chance to try again. We cannot let our voices be silenced.
Because we have good news to share. And that good news is for everyone And we are the people called to proclaim it.
And yes, Jesus does say that the good news is so very good that even if we are silent the stones will shout it out.
But for heaven’s (and the world’s) sake, let’s not leave it to the stones.