March 26, 2018
March for Our Lives
11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'"
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"[b]
10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
This past Saturday, an estimated 1.2 million people gathered to march together for gun control in 450 cities from L.A. to Washington, Chattanooga to El Paso. People from different schools, backgrounds, and walks of life stood together in a series of protests called March for our Lives. It was very likely the largest youth-led protest since the Vietnam War era.
One of the most powerful moments of these marches was a speech given by Emma González at the Washington, D.C. protest. Emma is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida which took place on Valentine's Day. In her speech, Emma recited the names of the seventeen students who had been killed at her school and included an ordinary detail about each person. Carmen complained about piano practice. Alex walked the school hallways with his brother Ryan. Helena hung out after school with Max. Joaquin played basketball with Sam and Dylan. Somehow, those very small and human details made the sense of loss even more profound.
Emma's presence was powerful and moving. Without warning, she stopped speaking and gazed out into the crowd. With tears silently streaming down her face, she held the crowd in silence for six minutes and 20 seconds. In video footage of this moment, some people in the crowd fidget, others call out, "We love you Emma!" "Never again!" But most people present are held spellbound by the silence, and are together in that moment. Together, the crowd felt the weight of loss, the lives silenced.
Six minutes and 20 seconds. That's all the time it took for one young man to kill 17 classmates and wound 17 others.
In the profound moment of silent solidarity and remembrance, all the people gathered shared a unique gift. Crowds of strangers were united for a moment of shared pain and shared hope.
As we gather together as a community this morning, we also began with a march of sorts, because today is a special day. It is the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week of the year for Christians. Christmas is great, but the beating heart of the Christian faith is right here in this week. This is the week when we remember the many intimate, ordinary, and extraordinary details leading up to Jesus' ultimate act of love.
Today, we reflect on Jesus' journey and arrival in the Jewish holy city of Jerusalem. On Thursday, we focus on Jesus washing his disciples' feet and eating a fellowship meal together that will become the Eucharist. On Friday, we remember Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. And, during our Monday Easter service we will celebrate the defeat of death in Jesus' resurrection.
Holy Week involves these unique moments of re-enactment to help us stand in solidarity, remembrance, and hope.
Holy week is about solidarity. Whether it be in procession, march, or protest, a remarkable thing happens when we stand side-by-side and walk together. We recognize our oneness in the struggle. Side by side, we look upon whatever issue or difficulty we face and know we are not alone. Side by side, we encourage each other to carry on even when the way is hard and our feet are tired. It is no wonder that walking together can be one of the most helpful ways of clearing our minds and working through conflict with another person.
The passage of scripture from Mark's Gospel is also about a march. It describes a scene that is both familiar and foreign. Crowds gather together because they are ready for change, they are hopeful about this Messiah's promises to set the oppressed free, heal the blind, and proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). This group of strangers gathered around Jesus as he enters Jerusalem is thrumming with excitement. They shout hopeful rallying cries, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11:9-10)
The people who gather around Jesus as he rides a donkey into Jerusalem are united by the same two things that united thousands of people in March for Our Lives: the desire to do something about the pain and suffering all around them, and the hope that perhaps this will be the beginning of change.
Each of the special services during Holy Week seek to accomplish a similar moments of solidarity. As a community, we stand in solidarity with Jesus and for the promises that Jesus stood for: promises of justice, healing, and peace. We remember the remarkable way he faced death while giving others new life. But, we also stand in solidarity with others who are striving and hoping and working for justice, healing, and peace in our world now.
Moments of re-enactment during Holy Week also help us to fully remember and better understand these incredible events in Jesus' life.
Emma González understood the power of re-enactment and remembrance when she drew the crowd into thoughtful stillness on Saturday at the DC March for our Lives. By creating a space for people to come together, Emma helped all those gathered around her to appreciate the profound impact 6 minutes and 20 seconds can have on a community. She made room for people still reeling from the loss of family members, friends, and neighbors to have their pain recognized. In those few minutes, she created a space for healing to begin.
The Holy Week services we do in this community foster this kind of remembrance, by creating a space that the Rev. Jim Friedrich beautifully describes as allowing one to both "remember and transcend suffering." By pressing into the memory of our pain and loss as a community, we can begin to both let those wounds heal and together find a way to walk forward.
Finally, the re-enactment of these key moments leading up to the cross also help us to live in hope.
A paradoxical thing happens when we stand in solidarity with one another, while remembering both the pain and failure. Instead of leaving us in the rubble of our shattered lives and apathy, our hearts can be lifted to hope again.