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“Occupy Jerusalem”


April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday

Our Former District Superintendent and now Bishop Elaine Stanovsky posted on Facebook a picture of herself wearing a hoodie; in response, of course, for the killing of 12 year old Trayvon Martin in Florida some weeks ago.

The story is not entirely clear; young black man, Trayvon went to the store and was returning to his father’s house carrying tea and a bag of Skittles.  A man on Neighborhood Watch thought he was suspicious so he called the police and followed him.  Police told him not to follow him but he continued to. He was concerned that he was holding something suspicious in his hand. There may have been some sort of scuffle the result of which was that Trayvon was shot and killed.

This is a tragedy, but what really bothered me – was Geraldo Rivera saying that he shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie? Implying that if he was wearing a hoodie he was inviting trouble? Even if one were to concede a minor point, it was insensitive and it was a trivialization of the event.

What is human life if a man wearing a hoodie is reason enough to be killed?

I have an image of a modern day Palm Sunday where Jesus is coming into Jerusalem riding a bicycle and his followers are all wearing hoodies; they take them off and spread them on the ground before Jesus.

You know that the gospels differ on the details of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem:

  • In Mark and Matthew, the crowd lays their coats and leafy branches on the ground ; no mention specifically of what kind of branches. (There is not apple in the Adam and Eve story either.)
  •  In Luke, they just lay their coats down.
  •  In John, they are carrying leafy branches but there is not mention of what they are to do with them

 So it would be just as biblically correct if we celebrated “Coat Sunday” today instead of “Palm Sunday”; which makes the “hoodie” biblically appropriate. (Could this be “Hoodie Sunday”?)

 The feel one gets when one imagines the crowd spreading their hoodies on the ground in front of Jesus is that it was a kind of protest which is exactly what it was – Jesus came to Occupy Jerusalem!

 Marcus Borg in his book The Last Week imagines that there were two processions entering Jerusalem that day. One was Pilate who always came to Jerusalem for the Passover; otherwise he liked to stay away. Of course, this triumphal entry was very different than Jesus’.  While the Jesus crowd was waving leafy branches, (I concede it makes for a better celebration to wave them!) Pilate is surrounded by banners and flags regaling his power! The “Jesus Crowd” had hoodies, the Romans had armor. Jesus road in on a donkey, Pilate on a white stallion, for sure! Jesus came in on a dirty, muddy road, thus the coats and branches and Pilate road in on the main street. By coming into Jerusalem on the Passover, Jesus was making a statement of resistance to Roman power and all their Jewish cronies and that got him into trouble; and they killed him for it! It didn’t help that one of the first things he did was to go to the Temple and turn over the tables of the money changers.

I was sharing with one of the groups I have been leading (probably confirmation) about the story of “turning the other cheek”. The way we hear that is as passivity! Someone hits you once, don’t fight back, don’t resist – almost cower. In the Roman world, the way to hit a slave was with the back of one’s hand. One strikes one’s equal with the palm of one’s hand.  By saying, “strike the other cheek” Jesus was saying, don’t get violent revenge but don’t just be passive. If you strike me you will have to strike me as an equal. Likewise, Roman soldiers were allowed to force anyone to carry their pack for one mile only any farther and he could get into trouble. Jews wore two garments so when Jesus says give your second garment to the soldier he would be naked and thus shame him.

 In each case there is resistance – it was almost “in your face!”

 Jesus came to Occupy Jerusalem…to make a statement and to resist the evils of those in power who used their power to subjugate the people.

Martin Luther King Jr. occupied Washington DC one day and told America that he “had a dream”; a dream, perhaps that we need to hear again?

Gandhi occupied the whole of India; walking to the ocean to make salt and turning plenty of cheeks but with dignity

One of our confirmands asked about how we respond to evil. I shared with them three options to consider:

  1. One was the passivity of the Amish and Mennonites – violence is never acceptable!
  2.  The second is non-violent resistance that of King and Gandhi.
  3.  The third is “Just War Theory” first presented by St Augustine in the Fifth Century in which certain criteria must be met for violence to be justified:
  •  Comparative Justice
  • Competent Authority
  • Right Intention
  • Probability of Success
  • Last Resort
  • Proportionality        

Which means that more suffering should not be inflicted than is already occurring; none of which were met in the invasion of Iraq – Just sayin’

There were two Processions that day in Jerusalem. One was a spectacle – a demonstration of power! The other was humble and carried the truth on the back of an ass.

How can we Occupy Jerusalem today? Maybe we should all take pictures of ourselves with hoodies and post ourselves on Facebook?! OCCUPY FACEBOOK! But then I would have to learn how to post pictures on Facebook!

I recently purchased a book co-written by clergy member of our AC and president of the Starr King seminary, Rebecca Parker in which she says that our churches should be “communities of resistance”. Where we preach non-violence but do not sit idly by when people are hurt or abused or left out. Where we are not conformed to our world but offer an alternate vision exemplified in a different parade.

Wherever we welcome people into our church and in confirmation (which will be coming soon) and when we baptize – we ask those involved and responsible to profess their faith.

The second question we are asked to Profess our Faith in the United Methodist Church is: Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Do we?


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