Palm Sunday & Good Friday: A better (truer) passion narrative

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash.

In churches on Palm Sunday and Good Friday a “Passion Narrative” will be read or communally recited. Passion Narratives are the accounts, drawn from the gospels, of Jesus’ last days: his struggle and arrest in Gethsemane, his trial, and his death and burial. Like the gospels in which they appear, Passion Narratives were composed primarily to help early Christians remember and reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Secondarily, they were intended to exonerate the Romans for Jesus’ death by blaming “the Jews.”

We have very little historically verifiable information about Jesus.  One of the few details for which we do have some reliable historical sources  is that Jesus’s execution was most likely ordered by the Roman official, Pontius Pilate and carried out by Roman soldiers; not “the Jews.” It is a lie that Jesus’ fellow Jews were responsible for his death. That lie, woven into the Passion narrative, has resulted in the death of millions, even before the Holocaust of the 20th century.

“If to get a good message you need to make Judaism look bad, then you don’t have a good message.”

Amy-Jill Levine

It is time for Christians to stop telling and re-telling the lie.  Let’s skip the references to Judas. Even if he really did exist, the Holy Week story does not need a betrayer. As Jesus said himself, he lived and taught publicly.  The Romans didn’t need Judas to find Jesus.  Then we can leave out the references to Caiaphas, Annas, the High Priest, the Sanhedrin, the elders, the scribes and the Pharisees. Just edit them out. Their roles and their words were made up to perpetuate a terrible lie.

One of the reasons to remember the story of Jesus’ death is to reflect on how it is that good, innocent people get crushed by unfairness and injustice – not because it happened once 2000 years ago, but because it happens daily, and because we want to keep trying to change that.  Let’s do our remembering and reflecting in a way that honors the Jew whose life and teachings we call good news.

Lent 5C: Extravagant gifts

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Timing is everything.

Monday afternoon, my 92 year old father fell over a second-floor banister to the first floor about 10 feet below. Nothing broke his fall so he landed hard and flat on his back. He has massive bruises, internal bleeding and seven broken ribs. He was in ICU for three and a half days.  He is now in a step-down unit hoping to get the chest drain removed so that he can be transferred to a sub-acute rehab because that’s the next step before he can go home.

I live 260 miles away – 4-1/2 hours by car if there is no traffic.  My partner and I drove down to see my father in the ICU Tuesday morning. We tried to help out a bit. He knew we were there but he was only vaguely oriented and couldn’t really talk. He was in a lot of pain and heavily medicated.

My brother lives about 1200 miles away. He has three school age children at home (and a dog) and he and his wife both work at demanding full-time jobs. A few weeks ago, he took a few days off from work and flew out to spend the time with his parents. He didn’t try to fit in visits with other friends or family members while he was home: he just wanted some quality time with his father and mother.

I went home because of a crisis. My brother went home simply because he wanted some quality time with my father while he was capable of enjoying and appreciating the visit.  I made the expected and appropriate visit — kind of like giving roses on Valentine’s Day. My brother’s visit was like a gift of roses on an ordinary day: extravagant.

In the gospel for this Sunday, (John 12:1-8) Mary’s gift is extravagant not so much because it is expensive, but because it is given on an ordinary day during an ordinary dinner.

Timing is everything.

As I was looking around to see what other folks were thinking about these readings, I found this marvelous meditation by The Rev. Rick Morley called, “There He Was…”    Give it a read.