Satirical Jesus, Mocking Pilate, Ironic God (1/3)

There are many ways to explore Easter week (known as Holy Week). One thought to consider is the primary actions of Jesus, Pilate, and God.

The week kicks off with the satirical actions of Jesus in his "triumphal entry" known as Palm Sunday. 

When it was time for the festival of Passover, there would have been a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There you would see Jewish people from all over the Roman empire coming together to remember the story of how they were enslaved by the Egyptians and freed by God through Moses.

With such a great number of people coming to recall how they were once enslaved but became free, you can imagine that someone would have said, “Hey! We are still enslaved by Rome and right now we outnumber them here in the Holy city! Let’s liberate our people like Moses and wipe out Rome!”

These thoughts might have been why every Passover it was the custom for the Roman ruler of the area to create a militaristic triumphal entry to Jerusalem. This huge procession was called a Roman triumph.

There seems to be a standard order to the triumph parade:

  1. The captive leaders, allies, and soldiers (and sometimes their families) usually walking in chains;
  2. Captured weapons, armor, gold, silver, and exotic treasures were carted behind them,

  3. Rome's senators and magistrates walking in

  4. The general's bodyguards in their red war-robes,

  5. The general in his four-horse chariot

  6. The general's unarmed soldiers followed

  7. Two flawless white oxen were led for the sacrifice to Jupiter, would have been located somewhere in the procession

All of this was to remind everyone that Rome was bringing peace to the world - by killing those who resisted.

In Spring of 2003, Vintage21 Church in Raleigh, NC had a four week series on Jesus Christ, taking a deeper look at what He said and did. It was difficult at times to get past our preconceived notions that had been developed by staunch, starched Sunday School classes of old.

So when Jesus comes in donkey, you have Jesus making a highly visible bit of satire. Jesus rides in on a female nursing donkey with her little colt walking alongside her to bring Peace. Jesus is using satire to make a point: peace cannot come by way of Rome - Peace by way of the sword is peace in name only.

This bit of political satire was not lost on the crowd who shouted the very same things the Roman crowds would have shouted when the Roman armies came into the city: "Savior! King! Hosanna!" And rather than using flowers and incense to bring in the leader, the Jewish people there used palms and cloaks to pave the way for this satirical demonstration. Think of it something like the original flash-mob - this was theatrics in order to make a point.

Needless to say, the satirical drama made its way to the powers that be: Pilate. The next post explores the mocking actions of Pilate as a direct response to the satirical Jesus. 

Source: By Pietro lorenzetti - ...

A Church Full of Lucifers and Crucifers

At the church I serve, each Sunday during worship young people carry lit candles down the sanctuary aisles. They carry their candles and use them to light candles on the communion table. We commonly call these young people "acolytes". Perhaps that is a better name than the earlier name of this role -- lucifers. 

Lucifer means "light bearer," which is exactly what we are called to be in the world. Christians are not the Light, but only bearers of the Light. Of course the problem with calling Christians lucifers is that through non-Biblical literature, that title has been given as a proper name to the Devil. While we may be called to be lucifers, we don't use that name. 

Another title that Christians have is one of "crucifer". If we look to the procession in the Church, there are those who carry in the light and there is the one who carries in the cross. The one who carries the cross is called the "crucifer". Oddly enough this title has not been appropriated to the Devil or anything else. Frankly, the language of crucifer is lost in the Protestant tradition and very limited in the Catholic tradition. 

It is a shame that we as Christians are hesitant to take on the titles of lucifer and crucifer, because we are called to carry the light and to carry the cross into the world.

Dysfluency: A case for making the Bible difficult to understand

There is a lot of work these days to try to make things easier to understand. Preachers are not immune to this trend. Pastors are encouraged to make the Bible easy for people to understand. Making the Gospel message more accessible to more people is a worthy effort. However, I wonder if in our efforts to make things easy to understand could unintentionally make them easy to forget? 

When I was in college, my university gave laptops to all incoming students. In part this effort was to make note-taking easier. Years later, studies have shown that taking notes by hand rather than typing them is better if you want to retain the information. Likewise, using slightly difficult to read fonts promote better recall. Sometimes when things are easier to do, they are easier to forget. 

There is a push in some areas of the world to promote something called Dysfluency. This is the process of making something slightly difficult in order to promote greater recall, retention and integration. (Clarification: dysfluency is not the same as disfluency).

I wonder what it would look like for us preachers to embrace dysfluency when it comes to preaching and teaching the scriptures. 

Pink Used to Be Yellow

Recently I read that the color that I call pink (light red), was not long ago not labeled as "pink" but as yellow. You can read some of the history as to how it became that pink and yellow are related here. The leading theory is that Queen Elizabeth loved carnations (which were originally only in light red/pink color). Carnations were commonly called "pinks" and thus associating the label "pink" with the reddish hue we know today. Fancy people might know the color "Dutch Pink" is yellow.

This silly example is just to point out the need to be suspect with any claim that assumes the current statement has always been interpreted the way it is currently being interpreted. 

If we have changed our minds on what we interpret to be pink, then rest assured we have changed our minds on what we interpret the scriptures to mean. Just as there has never been an unchanging understanding of the color pink, so too there has never been an unchanging understanding of Scriptures.