Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday on the Plains

My spouse wrote this response to Mark 11:  7-10; I thought it was a different take on Palm Sunday and it fascinated me; thus I share it here.

First, the Bible reading:

Mark 11: 7-10

7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Now, my spouse:

I was raised in a unique environment when the twin towers of cinema were John Wayne and Bruce Lee. Blockbuster films were westerns and martial arts films with revenge masquerading as the final and only appropriate just outcome. The suffering and injustice wreaked upon innocent men, women and children was graphically presented with the torching of houses, cold blooded murders from hired gunmen and rapes of widows by clans of men.

There could be no doubt about who was the oppressor and who was the victim. Similarly, there was little doubt about who would be the hero, the savior, who would set things right and exact violent revenge on the cruel and powerful. The only questions were how long the injustice would continue before the presumed hero rose to the occasion and what means the savior would use to vanquish the cruel.

Raised in that context, the scene in this reading is one of exceedingly high drama. It is a moment of anticipation which rivals the entire season of Advent. This is where we would see the all important preparation for righteous conflict.

In this reading we see the colt being dressed for the grand and final entrance. This simple act of dressing seems insignificant given what is ahead. Notice, though in cinema, we still watch as the ninja pulls on his black face mask and secures his swords, the western hero straps on his colts, or the reluctant western hero picks up his blacksmith’s hammer or whaling harpoon. The dressing preparation detail brings strong visual evidence that the saving hero accepted the life or death challenge to face the powerfully corrupt even when the powerful were backed by the accepted law of the land.

In the western, the conquering hero mounts his enormous stud, which should have a name like “hell bitch” or “Diablo Blanco” and begins his methodical march to the scene of confrontation. He knows what he must do, but takes no delight in it. The gun slinging hero is finally soon to make his entrance into the sleazy town -uncertain of the outcome. The audience has the full and complete expectation that while the odds are stacked against the hero, good will triumph.

The audience knows that if wounded, the hero always survives. Not uncommonly the bullet is stopped by a good luck charm carried from a loved one, a Bible carried in the left vest pocket, or contemporarily by Kevlar. We clear his path, salute him, and sing his praises as he makes his way toward what proves to be a final show down whereupon all of the corrupt forces that have been terrorizing and unjustly persecuting the righteous will be slain.

But here there is no enormous stud, no sleek, prancing, Mexican breed Paso fina, only a puny colt still innocent and wet behind the ears which isn’t even “broken” until Christ receives it. This pathetic looking creature with no gatling gun or even scythes rides an even more pathetic excuse for a horse. He has only a colt, not a .44 Colt Dragoon.

This is the moment in the western where the tympanis would build to a great crescendo as we hear the people of faith making noise and rejoicing in this moment of anticipation. Here is the King of the Jews, the Savior, the Messiah, the one who will destroy decades of oppression and injustice suffered by the Jewish people. How “in the world” is He going to pull this off and come out relatively unscathed as we have come to expect?

This is as far as the current text takes us. At the end of this reading we are left optimistic and in exceedingly high expectation but not at all certain until the rest of the story is told which side the law will support, who will find sufficient confidence to support the savior when called upon, who will find sufficient indignation against the un-righteous to fight, and whether justice will somehow prevail.

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