This is the day the LORD has made… This is the day Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a colt, and you won’t even believe it —the people realize who Jesus is!
The crowds began throwing their coats on the ground. Some folks put their coats on the back of the colt, then they picked up the Lord and set him on the makeshift saddle. All through the story, the problem is the disciples don’t understand who Jesus is… until now. This is the day, this is the moment, they get it.
We hear the praises rising up out of the people in the story, and it’s nearly impossible to hear their words of praise and not join in —even if you’re sitting at home! There’s something in us that has to sing the blessing! It is how we are made.
Can you imagine if this is where the whole Gospel ended…
Parable after miracle, the people don’t realize Jesus is the Messiah —now they do. Hosanna and Hallelujah! Now the multitude of disciples echoes the song the angels sang when Jesus was born. Whoever wrote Luke loves the blending the harmony of the ending to the beginning, so this would be perfect!
Look at Jesus and hear yourself sing: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!
Then the Christmas angels sing back: Glory to God in the highest heaven! And on earth, peace to the people. Oh you’ve got to love it!
Only thing is… This is not how the story ends. And I’m sorry.
Right away the Pharisees sense the pressure changing. They exchange worried glances. You know they’re thinking, We better shut down this protest before the Roman soldiers do. The problem is there’s no way to get to Jesus without shouting at him. When they do, he gives them an answer that puts a chill in their blood: If you silence the people, the stones in the walls will begin to crying out…
Something is wrong. The crowds are cheering! The Messiah is riding into town! But once Jesus sees the city, he feels a pit in his stomach. Even you… Even though this is the day the LORD has made… You do not see the things that make for peace.
And you know what, Jesus is not okay. If anyone would have looked at his face, they would’ve seen the tears glistening, but I don’t think the crowd even noticed. They’re so swept up in praising him, they don’t realize that our Lord and Savior is crying and cursing the city.
Two weeks after the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Amanda Gorman stood in the same spot and delivered the inaugural poem The Hill We Climb. She did everything we demanded of her, and if you’re wondering exactly what that cost her, I am too…
Gorman reclaimed the scene. She stood up in her phenomenal mustard yellow coat, and she spoke the words our nation yearned to hear. Get a listen:
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious…
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made…”
She tells us:
“But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.”
And if this is all we knew of Amanda Gorman, the hero who steps up and reverses the violence of white supremacy with rhyming words of healing, this would be beautiful!
Only thing is… This is not how the story ends. And I’m sorry.
Earlier this month, Gorman was walking home when a security officer followed her all the way to her building. As she explained it, “He demanded if I lived there because ‘you look suspicious.’ I showed my keys and buzzed myself into my building. He left, no apology. This is the reality of black girls: One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”1https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/03/06/amanda-gorman-security-guard-apartment/
You have to wonder what the security officer was thinking after this encounter. Maybe he had been afraid, so when he realized she lived there, he was simply relieved. Maybe he truly felt terrible for misjudging Gorman but his training didn’t include apologizing for honest mistakes. He couldn’t apologize! Surely that would threaten his authority, right? I mean… would it?
You have to wonder what Amanda Gorman was thinking after this encounter. Because the problem is not that this officer scared her, and harassed her, and made a mistake.
The problem is that this kind of thing happens. All. The. Time. And every time it does, it reinforces the trauma that our Black sisters and brothers are being required to carry in their bodies, the trauma that white folks don’t even see.
The problem is, the only reason this is getting attention is because we know Amanda Gorman as the hero poet, the one who stood up and made us all feel better. If this had happened to any other Black woman, it wouldn’t be a news story. It would just be a Friday. We wouldn’t even know. We wouldn’t notice her hurt. We wouldn’t see her crying or hear her prophesy.
This year during Lent, Church of Peace has been working to repent from our racism. This isn’t like a project we’re going to tackle and then complete. It’s more like reclaiming the direction in which Church of Peace is moving. I think of Reverend Kuenning’s legacy, and I remember that overcoming racism has long been a commitment of our church. We have not accomplished it, and we’re going to keep at it.
For those of us who are white, it can be constantly surprising to discover just how pervasive racism is. It is baked into every system and institution; it lurks in the back of our memories and hides in the shadows of our own souls even when we don’t want it to be there. We think a person can choose to be racist or not, when it’s not that simple.
So often, we don’t notice how our racism is harming other people. And the greater problem is, we kind of don’t want to notice it. It’s no wonder we deny it, or push it away, or dismiss it as an obsession with political correctness.
If only our Bible story ended with the shouts of praise!
If only all we knew about Amanda Gorman is that she knows there’s always light if only we are brave enough…
If only really looking at our racism would make us feel better. Oh see, we were worried, but it’s not that bad, right?
Only thing is… This is not how the story ends. And I’m so sorry.
When we really dig into the racism in our world and in our hearts, we’ll find it is much worse than you think, it is so much worse than I think. But I really believe, we have everything it takes to do this.
Repenting from our racism begins by taking seriously somebody else’s hurt. When we try this, we’ll see it might lead us right into our own shame, our own confession. It might lead us into our own compassion. As the church, paying attention to how someone else is hurting —this is exactly what we know how to do! It’s as natural to us as singing. It is how we are made.
When Jesus was on the colt heading into Jerusalem, the people were praising him, and he was crying. The crowd was too busy singing —they didn’t even notice his tears, they didn’t hear what he was telling them. And I believe the people in the crowd; I’m sure they didn’t mean to ignore his pain, but they did. And what if we could learn from them? What if we decided that failing to notice is no longer a valid excuse…
We could choose this, you know. Our church could choose to get up and go out and notice how our members are hurting, then take their pain seriously. We could notice how our neighbors are hurting, then take their pain seriously, even if this means we’ll have to take a stand, even if this threatens the pattern of business as usual. Somebody else’s pain might make us do that.
We follow a Savior whose very being threatened the status quo. It’s true that we can’t see the things that make for peace until we learn how to see the tears running down his face.
But once we do, we’ll see that the peace Jesus is bringing is not safe. It threatens the powers with which we’ve gotten comfortable. The peace that Jesus brings knows that conquest is no match for compassion. Indeed,“Victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made.” The peace of Christ directly threatens the forces of evil. And thank God it does.
As Amanda Gorman observed: “In a sense, [the security officer] was right. I AM A THREAT; a threat to injustice, to inequality, to ignorance. Anyone who speaks the truth and walks with hope is an obvious and fatal danger to the powers that be.”
What do you say, we go and prove her right.
The story isn’t over…