Yesterday was Palm Sunday. I read the story in Matthew 21 about the day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. The people proclaimed him a king, the long awaited Messiah. They sang jubilant songs, spread palm branches and cloaks on the road ahead of him, and cried out to him to save them from their oppressors. Within a week, they had killed him. Well, maybe not those particular people, but still, within a week of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was dead, on a cross, crucified.
My sense of Jesus that day was that he was far from comfortable with the attention. Yes, he submitted to the attention itself, even, according to the story, playing into the expectation that the Messiah would ride into town on a donkey, to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah 9. But he was not willingly accepting the title of Messiah, because he was not going to save those people from the Roman Empire.
I was supposed to write a sermon about that story, but all I could think about was our current politicians. In our days of distress, with the COVID-19 virus on our news feeds, and controlling our comings and goings, we look to our politicians with the same cries for deliverance. We listen with bated breath for what might be the next gift of government money. We ask them to be prophets of the future, wondering when we might be back to normal. We praise them for their leadership in these trying times.
But not a one of them, as far as I know, would have wished themselves in this position. They are reluctant Messiahs all. I expect they grind their teeth in the night, worrying about how little they really know, and how easily the tide will turn, and turn it will. Already the crowds are grumbling on the edges about how this pandemic could have been dealt with differently, as if we, the public, know more about the future than any of our politicians.
I feel for them, even the ones I tend to have the least respect for. Can I say that I think they are all doing the best they can? How hard it is to be in such a position!
I was talking to someone recently who has lots of good ideas and opinions. I told them they should run for politics. “No way!” they said. “I am not going to expose my 17-year-old wild days to public scrutiny!” None of us are perfect, and few of us are willing to face crucifixion even if our ideas might save our lives, our country or our planet.
So, my heart aches for each and every politician whose face comes onto my screen. EVERY politician. I pray for them. I pray for us. I pray for you. May we come through this time of seclusion inside what might feel like a tomb, into a renewed understanding of each other, and a renewed appreciation for the gifts we are freely given every day of our lives.
(If you’d like to hear my Palm Sunday sermon, where I play the role of a woman watching the King’s Parade, click here for the Youtube video.)