Archive for April, 2016

April 10, 2016

Palm Sunday 2016

Hosanna in the highest!

This is what the church sings on Palm Sunday as they wave palm branches. These words were sung in Jerusalem 2000 years ago as the rabbi rode a donkey into the City of David, then occupied by the Roman Empire. They sang to the rabbi who endorsed paying taxes, even to an occupying regime, rendering unto Caesar his own. This is the rabbi who did not plan to eviscerate the Law, but to fulfill it. The rabbi who saved the prostitute, but told her to sin no more. The rabbi who said, as you have done to the least of these, the lonely, the imprisoned, the poor, you have done to him. This was the rabbi who was riding into the city of kings as a king victorious. He did not ride the warhorse of the invader, but the donkey of him who has already established his kingdom. This is the one who gives free will to his people, because he is confident of his position; their opinions do not change who he is.

2016 is a presidential election year in the US. Election years are growing increasingly macabre. Intelligent discourse is being abandoned for partisan entrenchment, monochromatic analysis of multicolored issues, and mudslinging. Mercy is eschewed as weakness. Love is reduced to ambivalence. Respect is exchanged for blindness.

One of the candidates this year is Donald Trump. I think he is the most dangerous candidate in this election; of all the candidates I do not think there is one less qualified. I think every candidate, even Trump, runs because they think they can make the country better. But not all versions of ‘better’ are actually better. Trump’s language and demeanor effect extremism. He is the embodiment of the Internet Commenter saying that in order to beat terrorists we have to become worst than them. Literally, to do that, we must become terrorists. We become the enemy we despise. It cannot be said more clearly. As the rabbi said, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This is easily assumed to be our enemy’s sword, but I think of King Saul, who perished impaled by his own sword.

It’s interesting to be sitting in a 2016 Palm Sunday service, praising the eternal Kingship of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. This is a paradox, that God can be three in one, that he can be fully God and fully man, that words become material. This paradox should permeate our lives; that is evident in Christ’s incarnation. He was born and matured the same way any human would, with the ingestion of food and the rhythms of wake and sleep. It is easy to pay lip service to this paradox, but in our daily lives attempt to forget forget or ignore its implications. It goes beyond telling our kids to share, telling our kids the parable of the Good Samaritan. It means sharing as adults; it means being the Good Samaritan. Most importantly, it means putting the election in perspective. The Lord God, creator of the Universe is our king. He is our life and salvation. Our personal wealth might be augmented or diminished by the government, but there are literal lives at stake in federal policies, from white to black, from the unborn to the elderly, from the white collar to the blue collar, from the soldier to the conscientious objector, from the poor to the wealthy, the free to the imprisoned, the cis to the LGBTQ, from the citizen to the immigrant, the atheist to the monotheist to the polytheist, from one sinner to the next. But regardless of who you are or what policies it enacts, the United States’ government will not and cannot be your salvation, nor your condemnation.

I am not endorsing a theocracy, a human government basing its dominion on religion. I will vote for the candidates that I think will strive to do what is best for the country and the world, not for their party. But I will also bear in mind that they are humans piloting a human institution; they will, at times, fail. Ultimately, my allegiance is to the King of Kings who rode on a donkey, not a warhorse. The king who commanded me to love the Lord my God and to love my neighbor. The King who said that true religion is to care for widows and orphans, not fluffy platitudes. The king who died to save his subjects, whether or not they acknowledged his kingship.  

Hosanna in the highest!