Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
John 12:9-19

9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

12The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord —
     the King of Israel!”
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
   Look, your king is coming,
     sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”
When I was in my 20s, the senior pastor at the church I served participated in a tradition where he would walk around town with a large wooden cross on Good Friday. Other clergy would join him in this, and for most of the day on Good Friday there would be someone walking around town with a cross on their back. Many people found this to be a powerful remembrance of Jesus’ last moments, but I found it to be a little strange and it made me very uncomfortable.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of a week-long remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we celebrate Palm Sunday it isn’t a simple commemoration of a past event, but a liturgical remembrance through which Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem becomes real for those worshipping. We have really perfected these kinds of remembrances as a worshipping community. Baptisms and communion are sacramental remembrances. Different people may have different interpretations of remembrances, but I believe that when we participate in a remembrance we’re not just ritually mimicking Jesus to dramatic effect. I believe we do these things with an expectation that we are actually ushering in the kingdom of God by reforming ourselves for the transformation of the world.

I think what made me most uncomfortable about the cross-bearing sign action was that it seemed (to me) like a dramatic reenactment of the Gospel story without any compelling message to usher in radical change in the world. It seemed like showmanship. 

Watching Bryan Stevenson’s lecture via livestream last week (thanks to Temple EmanuEl!), one of his final comments brought this home for me. He said, “I don’t think the threshold question of the death penalty is, ‘Do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed?’ I think the threshold question is, ‘Do we deserve to kill?’” As we remember the execution of the Son of God this week, it is hard not to think of all the ways God’s children murder each other every day, in body and spirit. Is this the kingdom of God?

Another clergy friend of mine told me this week that she is uncomfortable with the way the church often takes such great joy in retelling the Easter story. Yes, resurrection is cause for joy, but it also changes everything. Death does not have the last word! Is our world so vastly different now, with news of the resurrected Christ? Do we really allow the remembrance of Jesus’ execution and resurrection to embolden us to transform our world? If we did, my friend said, we wouldn’t confuse acts of charity with acts of justice. We wouldn’t be satisfied with setting up food pantries, we would just solve food insecurity. We wouldn’t be satisfied with homeless shelters, we would build homes.

However you choose to mark this Holy Week and whichever remembrances you embrace during this week-long journey to the cross, it is my prayer that they bring you closer to the kingdom of God.
Living God, bring our remembrances to life in our daily lives where we strive to not just be followers of the Risen Christ, but to transform the world. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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