“We’ve been waiting for you?” Has anyone said these words to you? Perhaps your parents when you arrived home late, or a time when you arrived late for supper? This question is loaded with supposition. Context is everything.
Asbury CDC was formed as a Michigan nonprofit corporation in the fall of 2011. Earlier that year, on Palm Sunday, our message featured the simple phrase, “Are you committed?” Well, are you committed? Are you all in? Do you plan to stick with us? Are we in this together?
In this case, these are questions of loyalty to an idea, a direction, and a vision. Our series topic was the Abundant Community. It was the Season of Lent, and our celebration of Palm Sunday was reminiscent of past years, complete with palms suitable for waving and setting the mood.
In Eric Nilsen’s book Understanding Social Justify, he defines classism as “the discriminatory treatment and oppression of various segments of the society, merely based on their socio-economic background.” For example, classism means a waitress may be treated differently than a doctor at a store simply because it is believed that there are appreciable differences between the two. Such as the waitress makes less money than the doctor and has less money to spend. While both may be true, the judgment is based on perceived socio-economics.
The libertarians among us would argue that it is the shop owner’s right to treat potentially better customers with more money to spend with more care and attention. After all, the waiter can shop elsewhere unless it’s the only shop in town for what he needs. But what about discrimination that affects access to fundamental human rights based on a person’s wealth?
If we agree that healthcare is a human right, it should be accessible to everyone. Yet, studies show that healthcare quality in the U.S. depends on a person’s wealth. Wealthier persons generally receive better care and live longer.
This Sunday, we celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem to confront the political and religious leaders. If this happened today, who would Jesus confront? Some would point to leaders of institutions that don’t put Jesus first. Others might single out inclusive churches. Some of us believe that Jesus would confront the conservative Christian right.
Honestly, the evidence suggests that we all deserve the wrath of God based on our own merit. However, this is not to excuse us from working on the changes needed for justice. Are you committed?
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and a day when we recall the impact-filled entry of our Lord into the city of Jerusalem. There were two different crowds gathered. First century was steeped in traditions that favor wealth and power over humility and equity. Thus, the difference in the crowds represented two ends of the economic spectrum who lived in different realities. For one group, the elite, life was abundant in comfort and access to resources. For the other, life was steeped in scarcity and lack.
Palm Sunday and the events following happened during the Jewish festival of Passover when thousands of visitors show up for the festivities. Estimates of the size of the crowd vary. René Schlaepfer, Lead Pastor of Twin Lakes Church, uses a number the ancient Jewish writer Josephus calculated. His estimate was over 2.5 Million based on a count of over 250 Thousand lambs brought into the city for the festival. This number is several times larger than the estimated population of Jerusalem during the first century, of approximately 40,000.
Soon after Jesus entered the city, His opponents planned his expedient death. This time he had gone too far. Jesus had the nerve to March on the capital city and challenge the very foundation that powers of domination depend on for their effectiveness.
It doesn’t seem possible for one man to take on both the imperial power of Rome, the largest war machine in history and at the same time, take on the religious authorities of God’s chosen people. But He did and paid for it with His life. Well, at least at first, it appeared this way.
Reverend Schlaepfer connects the dots between a large number of lambs, the festival, and why a large crowd gathered to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. Passover had evolved from a remembrance of the Hebrew escape from slavery into an independence day celebration of Judas Maccabees’ triumphant revolt against the oppressive Seleucid Empire. The Palm branch symbolizes freedom from oppression and a return to justice.
If Jesus was the long-anticipated Messiah, freedom from Roman oppression would come soon. The crowd was hyped up, reflecting the fervor of the entire festival crowd.
Soon after His arrival, Jesus headed for the place where non-Jews were allowed to pray, near the Temple, which doubled as stockyards for the lambs belonging to the temple authorities.
The legally approved and licensed lambs were expensive, but they were the only lambs declared suitable for sacrifice. It was an exclusive market that favored the well-off and well-connected. Pilgrims arriving with their lambs had to pass an inspection conducted by the authorities selling their own lambs. Not surprisingly, many imported lambs didn’t make the grade, significantly increasing the sale of state-owned lambs.
Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes the name of the Lord.
But not everyone could afford a lamb, neither a lamb of their own nor an overpriced lamb offered by the elite. For them, pigeons were offered at a fraction of the cost of a lamb.
Of course, temple merchants only accepted local currency. Therefore, Roman coins had to be exchanged for Temple currency at an exchange rate favorable to the merchants. A perfect scam where theft is legal and protected by law. And apparently offensive to Jesus.
Meanwhile, the Roman governor visited Jerusalem to oversee peacekeeping during the festival. In contrast to the entrance Jesus made, high-ranking officials came into Jerusalem in style amid a demonstration of military power. Residents and visitors proved their allegiance to Rome and improved their political connections through their presence at Governor Pilate’s arrival.
The pieces fell into place in ways that surprised even the closest followers of Jesus. Later, it would all make sense. But Palm Sunday and the days following proved full of surprises. Are you committed?
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by CleanWaterfortheWorld.org.
Content for this series is also based in part on:
Eric Nilsen. Understanding Social Justice. © Eric Nilsen, 2022. Independently published.
Braveman P, Acker J, Arkin E, Proctor D, Gillman A, McGeary KA, Mallya. “Wealth Matters for Health Equity.” © Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, September 1, 2018. Retrieved from: link.
René Schlaepfer. “The Palm Sunday Mystery.” Jesus Journey: 40 days in the footsteps of Christ. © 2012 René Schlaepfer, Twin Lakes Church. Retrieved from: link.