Sermon preached on Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012
|Rev. Dámaris E. Ortega,|
Today Christian communities around the world will reflect around the Liturgy of the Palms. The fact is that a profound great deal of reflections can be made around it and many will comfort themselves by telling the story in this matter: ¨Jesus went to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday because it was God’s will that he be crucified and die for our sins on Good Friday and rise from the dead on Easter Sunday. Hallelujah! God had this all planned out and told the prophet Zechariah all about it centuries aforetime. A future King will ride into Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey.¨
Why did Jesus enter Jerusalem on a donkey? There were big expectations. People were expecting a political leader, a king, so for such personality, the entrance could have been a little more pompous, riding a war-horse. Instead, Jesus enter riding a donkey. He deliberately planned it and choreographed in that manner. Jesus had his disciples get him a lowly donkey. He would ride in to Jerusalem not as a military conqueror, but as a ruler of peace.
"In their book, The Last Week, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan put the final days of Jesus in the context of the clash between the power of empire and the kingdom of God. Two processions into Jerusalem, one a peasant gathering to welcome Jesus and the other an imperial, military procession that brought Pilate to the city where trouble was always expected at the Feast of Passover.
These two processions reminds us of the struggle between those who enjoy easy access to food, clothing, housing, and various of life's pleasures and those who must make do without almost everything; between those who live at the center of things and those who exist at the margins.
Earlier today we marched in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin, who on Feb. 26, the 17-year-old was walking to his father's girlfriend's house outside a gated community from a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, called police to report a "suspicious guy" and then followed Martin against the advice of the dispatcher. Neighbors said they heard a scuffle, cries for help and then a gunshot.
Why was Trayvon suspicious? Because he was a young black man, wearing a hoodie in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I’ll tell you that it disturbs me greatly! In fact, to know that Zimmerman has not been charged with this crime makes me really angry!
Zimmerman has not been charged, thanks to the recently passed law known as ¨Stand Your Ground¨ which states that you can kill any suspect that seems to threaten your life.
To make this whole story even worst, Geraldo Rivera, a Latino Jewish political commentator for Fox News said that Trayvon’s hoodie killed him as much as Zimmerman did! Are we really that naive to think that a piece of clothing is to blame for the death of this young black man?
Last week my friend Manny Santiago said from the pulpit, reflecting on these events: “I am tired of people in suits who stand high and look down at us, as if being young and with the wrong skin color and with the wrong accents, and with the wrong pieces of clothing makes us less human. I am tired of people like Mr. Rivera and Zimmerman, Latinos who have bought into the oppressive majorities way of thinking that our way of dressing and the way we look determines our worth and our place in society. These are the things I am more concerned about. I am more concerned with well dressed women in Arizona who approves laws that stripped human beings from their rights because of their place of origin. I am more concern with well dressed politicians who cheat repeatedly on their wives and then turn to us to tell us that they are the examples of morality. I am more concern with well dressed presidents that sign discrimination into laws and sign approvals to war to kill people.¨
It seems very clear that the way people dress is not the problem!
People’s clothes or appearance has nothing to do with their character!
Here on the edge of Holy Week, we will as a congregation stand for what we believe in our heart is right.We have a responsibility to model the way of justice and peace for our children and cannot wait for another tragedy like this to tear the fabric of our families and communities apart.
This week the Collegium of members of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered at UCC Church House in Cleveland, OH for a prayer service and March in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin and released this statement:
¨We cannot support or defend carrying lethal weapons in our neighborhoods and communities under any circumstances, but more particularly in the name of preserving safety and security." "We must interrupt the hostile and paranoid attacks on young people. We must dig deep into our hearts to better understand how racism is scarring our souls."
During this Holy Week to come, there will be many processions. I only hope that we are we could follow the invitation of Jesus, as he turns around on the donkey and tells us: ¨Follow me.¨ We have been invited to follow the way of Jesus, processing for peace, processing for justice, living in solidarity with those who ridicule and resist systemic violence, racial and economic injustice. Following Jesus could mean joining the “race against racism.” Following Jesus could mean that we lift up our voices demanding justice for Trayvon Martin! fFollowing Jesus could mean to lift our voices against homophobia, and bullying. Following Jesus could mean to demand human rights for ALL and in so doing we can raise up our palm branches on this Palm Sunday and make a real substantial connection to Jesus’ own political parody. Then, and only then, those who welcome justice and peace in our cities will shout, “Hosanna! Hallelujah! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Amen.