Palm Sunday, Year B
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Faith from the Margins to the Web Contributors: MaryAnn and Kayu
Conversation came easily to MaryAnn and Kayu, even though they had never met until that afternoon of our Faith from the Margins bible study. They had chatted together and solved many of the problems of the world before the tape recorder was even turned on. But after they began taking turns reading this Palm Sunday narrative began to hone in on this idea of “obedience” as it emerged in the Gospel lesson.
Kayu shared what stood out to him. “I have to come back to that word, obedience. It wasn’t easy to be obedient. It look a lot. Coming from Japan, for the first 18 months I was fighting every day because its what I had to do. But once I started becoming obedient, I learned not to fight back. They had seen me fight, but there comes a point in time when you have to let it go; when you have to let that control go to God. Where would it have gotten me in life to stubbornly keep that control? It would have made me a not very nice person. A fighter, street person, always in jail: anything could have happened. Then, at some point, when I stopped fighting that’s when people got curious.”
“So it really took a different kind of strength to stand than it did to fight.” said MaryAnn
Kayu agreed: “Yes, spiritual strength.”
“I’m not a physical fighter” said MaryAnn, “but I fight a lot with the way mentally I want things to be. I can wish that life was different, or that someone else hadn’t done something. I can fight verbally sometimes and that same lesson applies: we can choose to just stand.”
“I had a good teacher!” noted Kayu.
MaryAnn chuckled. “I was just going to ask how you learned that!”
Kayu share his story. “It was my Grand-father. He was a musician, and the first African-American allowed to walk into the white house to play a private concert. It was for Theodore Roosevelt. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame and he was a great man, but his words were always, “No matter how big or how small, you need to make a mark in life. If you can touch one, it makes up for the thousand. I decided that was what I wanted to do. I started fighting for homeless people in 1992. I asked God: what can I do? What kind of mark can I make on this earth? And that is what God told me.”
Mary Ann was genuinely curious: “But, how did you do that? I mean, what was it like to hear God?”
“Well, it was easier than you think.” said Kayu. “I was praying…I had just come home from the war. And one day, I went walking and I was just struck by seeing so many homeless people in parks, on the streets. I thought, “This is not what I fought for; this is not what I should be coming home to.” I realized that I had to do something about this; I didn’t almost die for a country where people were homeless and dying and other people could look at the window and see it and not do anything. I’m a Marine…we are supposed to do things that help make a path for change. And to do that and come here and think: what are we doing? Why are we, in this country, having people who are homeless and who have skills and degrees. I said to God, “I’m a nobody, what can I do?” and God said, “Just do.” I had to obey and as I did, the ways I could make changes become clear to me. It is about knowing your calling, and also being willing to do it. There are both in today’s story. People need to hear: don’t try to do it on your own. Listen to God. God will tell you what you need to do.”
MaryAnn built on this, “Wonderful answers come through prayer. If I’m praying consistently about something, it isn’t that the situation changes but I change.”
“And that DOES change the situation” said Kayu.
MaryAnn echoed that: “Right, exactly! That is the way that God can be working, changing us which makes us and the situation change.”
The final sharing about this Gospel came through an exercise in which they were asked to share “I wonder” sentences about the reading from perspective of any of the characters in this Gospel lesson. MayAnn and Kayu both entered deeply into this exercise and took turns in a free flow exchange of questions and thoughts:
“I wonder if Jesus knew that the disciples would obey him?”
“I wonder what the people who were watching were thinking?”
“I wonder what the disciples thought Jesus was going to do with the colt.”
“I wonder why the people who say this guy coming in on a colt decided to shout Hosanna?:
“I wonder why they decided to lay down the palm leaves when they really didn’t know who he was?”
“And, I wonder if the Colt thought, “Why does this man want me? Is it because no one has ever ridden on me? Is it because I’m pure of heart?”
“I wonder what the rest of the Colt’s life was like? After that day, all those palm branches and all of those crowds…what happened after that?”
“I wonder how Jesus knew just where the colt was?”
“I wonder why they allowed the disciples to take the colt?”
“I wonder if they actually knew who Jesus was?”
“I wonder if people had the sense that there was something different about this event, this day, this person.”
Kayu became reflective as they shared this exercise of wondering. “You know, when I did this, I put myself right back there. What would I have done, if I really didn’t know Jesus as Lord, but the man Jesus came up to me and asked me to do this. I wonder if I would have been so obedient?”
Mary Ann nodded, “Yes, I wonder: what made them obedient? What compelled them to listen?
“Faith like a mustard seed.” said Kayu. “God moves our hearts, but we have to move our feet and follow.”
Thank you, Kayu and Mary Ann, for sharing your stories and your wonder with us. I wonder, after reading this reflection, where God is moving our heart to see new opportunities to serve, and moving our feet to follow?