Are we there yet?

A sermon for Palm Sunday at the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, after another week of back-to-back mass shootings in America

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you,
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10)

Someone said on Twitter this week that the United States seems to believe in human sacrifice. They were talking about the back-to-back mass shootings that have upset our news feeds in the past couple of weeks; or maybe about the report that while we were spared such coverage during a year of pandemic crisis, our gun violence did not, in fact, take a break. Instead, gun-related deaths and murders rose by record rates.

Are all those deaths defended by my right to bear arms? Is their sacrifice worth it? 

Jesus rode into town on a donkey, the foal of a donkey, a joke of a mount for a king, for a messiah. He did not ride in on a fine Arab war-horse, hatted and holstered up, ready for justice like the hero of an old western movie. He was not aggressive. He was not arrogant. He was not armed. 

The people were delighted. They hailed him as their saviour: “Hosanna!”

But the systems of oppression and suppression were not ready for the Prince of Peace. The machinery of violence and the machinations of power were too strong, too embedded for this uprising of nonviolence to take over the city, or the empire, in the moment. We know how it ended.

Are we ready yet to try another way?

Every year we tell this story, and we tell it as though we are sure that if we were in the crowd, we would be crying out “Hosanna!” rather than “Crucify!” 

But unless and until we are ready to lay down not only the palm branches and coats before his feet, but to lay down our weapons to be trampled in the dust, then, my friends, we are blowing smoke.

Violence feeds on all sorts of sin. We have seen it fuelled by racism, misogyny, the supremacy of self.

Jesus has shown us the way of the Cross, the way that elevates love over all other claims upon our humanity. And yes, he died for it. But his death brought forth resurrection, and life.

There is nothing in Christ’s story that would justify our sacrifice of children, women, grocery shoppers, police officers, and passers by to defend our right to reserve weapons of violence to ourselves. On the contrary, the resurrection is God’s ultimate judgement on the violence that nailed Jesus to the cross. The resurrection is God’s utter negation and reversal of all that would kill the beloved.

Rejoice; … your king comes to you,
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding …
on a colt, the foal of a donkey….
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations.

He shall command peace. And what will be our cry?

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
This entry was posted in current events, gun violence, holy days, homily, sermon and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s