Politics and Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday 11They heard that he was coming, and so they gathered by the thousands. They lined the road to welcome him into the city. While their cries were filled with hope, they were fueled by other things too, like anger and frustration. For too long they had felt oppressed. For too long they felt that the wrong people had been in power over them. They longed for freedom. They yearned for change. They wanted their nation to be restored to them. And so they passionately cried out, “Save us. Save us.”

You may think in this Holy Week that I’ve just described Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. But what I’ve actually just described is a political rally right here in twenty-first century America. It doesn’t matter who the candidate was or what their party affiliation is. That’s what it sounds like and feels like in an election year in America, doesn’t it? We’re getting revved up to elect a new savior. Two thousand years ago the people wanted a military leader who would, dare I say, “make Israel great again”. Some things just never change.

If we learn nothing else from Jesus, especially in this Holy Week, it’s that love is God’s way of changing the human heart, and ultimately the world in which we live. Which is why Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday with swords and shields. He came with love, a love strong enough to endure the cross. What the crowds dismissed as weakness on Good Friday was actually the power of God to change the world. In the end love saves us. In the end love really does win.

If you listen carefully to the language of our political discourse in this election year you’ll discover that it sounds a lot like that first Palm Sunday. We are filled with angst and anger, fear and frustration. Sometimes it sounds as if we are crying out to our candidate of choice, “Save us” as if we are electing the next savior. But God has already sent us a Savior. And that Savior once said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This Holy Week we’re going to see just how Jesus overcame the world.

I encourage you to engage in the political process of choosing a leader for our nation. Thank God for that freedom! But remember that we’re not electing a savior. We already have one. The fate of our world does not lie in the hands of human beings, no matter what office they hold or how much power they wield. Jesus has overcome the world, and love wins. Which means, among other things, that we can let go of the fear that drives so much of the divisive, angry tone of this election season. No matter who you hope sits in the White House, or who you pray doesn’t sit in the White House, let go of fear. Fear destroys. Fear doesn’t breathe life. Instead, embrace trust. Trust in the promise of the cross and the empty tomb, the promise that love will change the world. The hope that love wins.

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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