This Sunday many Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday. (The Greek Orthodox church will celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9.) Though each gospel differs in its details, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is described as a parade. Most parades celebrate the status quo. Scout troops, kids on decorated bikes, politicians waving from cars, and library floats traffic in nostalgia and highlight what we think is best about our communities. These symbols march before gathered throngs reinforcing that all is at it should be.
Jesus’ parade was different. The palms waved and the cloaks thrown down acknowledged him as a king, but he rode a donkey, a symbol of humility. Though the parade could have looked like a military victory, the gospel writer Luke inserted into the quotation from Psalm 118 a proclamation of peace. Instead of lifting up an idealized version of the world as it was, Jesus’ parade provided contrasting symbols to highlight the world’s brokenness. That doesn’t tend to be popular with those benefitting from the status quo.
Preparing for Palm Sunday during a week in which another mass shooting made the news, my mind went to last year’s 4th of July Parade in Highland Park, IL. A local man shot at parade goers killing seven and wounding 48. A group from our church had just finished our marching in our local parade to hand out seed packets announcing our upcoming EarthFest. I was driving a couple people back to their cars when one of them who had recently moved to Highland Park, scanned her texts and gasped in panic, “oh no, oh no, oh no.” She made quick phone calls and sighed in relief to learn her family had not attended the parade as they had planned.
Mass shootings have become common enough in our country that they don’t always make the headlines. There have been 38 mass shootings (defined by the Gun Violence Archives as incidents in which at least four people are shot and injured or killed, not including the shooter) in the US this month. At least 57 people have died and 133 have been injured. March has not been anomaly. There have been 133 mass shootings this year.
It is time for us to acknowledge that there is something broken in the United States, that all is not as it should be. But this is not how it has to be. Those of us who follow Jesus know that the world can be a better place. Ultimately it is God who will save us. But we do not have to just sit on the sidelines. We can participate in God’s work to bring peace.
There are many organizations addressing gun violence. One that many people in my church are part of is Mom’s Demand Action. If you go to their website you will find a petition to hold the gun industry accountable that you can sign on their website.
Whether or not you choose to sign the petition, I hope you will celebrate Palm Sunday this year by doing something to put God’s way of love into action.