"What? This is a joke, right?" But, Pastor Megan was not joking. Tonight, at Community of Travelers, we were going to walk to the Safeway across the street and hand out palm leaves for Palm Sunday. Safeway. A place where I regularly shop for groceries. A place where non-church people were.
The concept was this: we would explore what it may have been like for Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem (which was today's gospel). To be honest, I always pictured his ride on Palm Sunday to be one of triumph. I thought he was welcomed by huge crowds, cheering, singing, and waving. I also thought his followers proudly stood by his side (except at the crucifixion, when they backed away). I didn't really consider these folks to have the same human fears and concerns that I have.
So, we headed out into the cold San Francisco fog with a collection of palm leaves and a cross, and we walked across the street to the Safeway. The big turning point was when we got to the entrance. I assumed that we would stand near the door and offer a palm leaf to anybody that approached. Instead, we walked through the entryway and wondered throughout the store. A place where, I expected, we wouldn't be very welcomed.
In that same way, Jesus rode into town through a gold entryway reserved for royalty. I'm sure there were folks who were upset he had the gall to do that. Although he had followers that greeted him, there were a bunch of people who didn't like him, and they wouldn't have been very happy to see him show up. There were also probably a bunch of people on the streets of Jerusalem who were going about their normal routine- shopping, working, etc- who were interrupted when this guy rode through the street.
With that in mind, it's likely that he encountered some of the same stuff we did. Some people looked at us and wondered what we were doing. Some people frowned at us- we were bothering their normal Sunday shopping routine, or maybe they didn't like us flaunting our beliefs. Some people thought it was neat and gladly accepted palm leaves. Some just ignored us or stayed away.
As a follower in the group, I had a mix of emotions. What if the manager (an authority figure) came over and was angry? Who would stand up to him or soothe him? I hoped that Pastor Megan had a plan and had thought long and hard about what we were doing. What if people around us got upset? Who would calm the crowd?
It makes me wonder about the followers of Jesus. Surely my concern about the authority figures isn't unique, except the punishment back then would have probably been physical harm rather than just being asked to leave a store. Did that stop people from following Jesus? Or did they believe so strongly that they overcame their fear? There were a few in our group who didn't want to be seen by somebody they knew. Jesus's followers were human, too- I bet there were a few who worried about being judged by their peers if they were seen. Some in the group were excited to be sharing Palm Sunday with folks at the store. Something tells me there were a bunch in Jesus's group that fell into this category.
This was Pastor Tommy's last CoT service before his sabbatical. We'll miss you, Tommy!