In his book The Last Week, Marcus Borg suggests that Jesus carefully scripted what we call the Triumphal Entry, arriving Jerusalem from the East at the same time Pontius Pilate’s entourage entered from the West, attended by all the pomp and flourish of the Roman Empire.
Jesus knew Pilate would be coming from Caesarea Maritima just before Passover to make a show of force that would discourage dissidents from fomenting rebellion while the city was filled with pilgrims. Jesus, says Borg, was offering a counter-parade to Pilate’s, and asking the folk in Jerusalem to make a stark choice. On the one hand, the elegant trappings of power supported by brute force, on the other, the countercultural peace, simplicity and self-denial espoused by an itinerant preacher from Galilee.
Pastors who have been in ministry for some time may begin to wonder what became of the parade they thought they joined. They signed on to be preachers of peace and justice, teachers of the Word, feeders of the hungry . . . but that’s no longer the parade in which they’re marching. Now they’ve fallen lockstep into some denominational road show with its attendant clichés, politics, DVD’s and church growth formulas. And as the health of local church ministry degrades, so does the pastor’s. Wrong parade, going the wrong way. What went awry?
In times of spiritual disquiet, it can be powerful to remember that those angels back in Bethlehem were singing about the incarnation: the Word taking up residence in our faith and in our doubt, in our moments of clarity as well as those of spiritual confusion. Our sense of marching in the wrong parade is a Word from the Incarnate One, calling us back to the graceful procession we entered at our baptism. He does not will our unhappiness or our spiritual desiccation.
Where, in all the busyness of life and ministry, is that place where the Word made flesh stands in stark relief against all the other parades that ask us to fall in line? Where, for you, is the intersection in which the shouts of “Hosanna!” drown out Pilate’s brass section?
Name that place and visit it fervently and without fail. Healing is there.
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity