And now, Palm Sunday without the Extravagance

I was going to reprint as I often do on Palm Sunday, my post, Palm Sunday, Triumphalism and Leadership, but when well over a hundred of you have already found it in the last week, it seems a trifle superfluous. But because it’s message is timeless and may be more pertinent in this time of plague than even when I wrote it (2013), I will share a bit of it.

What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks, or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our founders but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.

But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages he died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week he went from the darling of the populace, to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.

The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as he did, the fate that awaited him. But he never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith, if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.

Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality.

And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:

First the Mission

Second the People

Last Yourself.

That’s all very well, and I hope you read (or reread) it but there is a follow-up. Jessica wrote a piece that flowed from this article (as often happened with us, and is beginning to with Audre as well. It tends to strengthen both). Here’s what she said in Leaders and Non-Leaders.

One theme of this blog is the importance of leadership. Those of us who read today’s Gospel for Palm Sunday (though where I live it is more like Arctic Sunday, and we are dreaming of a white Easter) will have seen a perfect example of its absence – and the results.

Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judea.  It wasn’t one of those top notch jobs, and like most Romans in such posts, Pilate had two priorities: keep things quiet and make money for himself.  The Romans were pragmatists. Gods? Heck, they had hundreds of them. So it was irritating that those Jews insisted there was only one of them. What was worse is they wouldn’t bend the knee to the gods of Rome. Live and let live was Pilate’s motto. He went to Judea in about AD 26, and had been there a few years when the Jews brought Jesus to him. He couldn’t see much wrong in the fellow, and he tried to find a way of avoiding blatant injustice. He was quite willing to have the fellow flogged, but crucifying him – that was another matter.

But there, blast it, went those Jews again. They wanted the fellow crucified. Pilate didn’t want any trouble, and you can almost hear him: “Come on guys, give us a bit of wriggle room here, the guy’s basically harmless, c’mon, cut me a bit of slack.” But they wouldn’t.  On the one side the pragmatic politician looking for a way through; on the other men who knew what they wanted and would stick at nothing to get it. If you didn’t know, you’d be able to tell who was going to get their way, and you’d not put money on the first guy.

Enter Mrs Pilate, telling him that she’s had a dream and that he should let the man be. That was all he needed, the little lady putting her oar in. Didn’t she realise he had enough trouble with those stiff-necked Jews?  Clearly not. Well, only one thing to do, wash his hands of it and let it be. And it all went off well in the end. There weren’t any riots, and although there were the strangest stories that the man had not died, it caused Pilate no problems for a bit. Politics is the art of the possible. You can see him afterward with Mrs P: “c’mon, what do you want? I did my best. Now what’s for supper, not more larks’ tongues?”

Small men, large events. Churchill said that in his father’s day there had been great men and small events, but during the Great War it had been the other way round. But really, we only see the real size of men when they are faced with great events. Cranmer just quoted some recently released papers from 1982 and the Falklands Crisis. Nearly every member of Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet was for a quiet life and giving in. We remember none of them. She was for doing what was right. We remember her.

There’s a lesson in Pilate for us all – small men never get to grips with great events – and without vision the people perish.

And so we are seeing once again in our midst, the difference that leadership makes to the people. Jess is correct in quoting Proverbs that without vision the people perish. But perhaps we might remember the rest of the chapter, for it applies well today, I think.

Proverbs 29:18-27 King James Version (KJV)

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

19 A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.

20 Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

21 He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.

25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.

26 Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord.

27 An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.

About Neo
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8 Responses to And now, Palm Sunday without the Extravagance

  1. audremyers says:

    Excellent article. Thank you. You are far kinder to me than I deserve.

    All of Lent is a challenge. Examining one’s soul is a bitter thing. Memory of failures, unkindnesses we’ve spoken or performed, lack of devotion to God – these are not pleasant things to contend with. Even more unpleasant and depressing when we compare our own thoughts and behaviors against the unachievable model, Christ. He knows we can’t do it, but He expects us to at least try.

    When I became a ‘real’ Christian (I was baptized when a baby), I started to really read my Bible. I knew all kinds of ‘biblical stuff’ but I hadn’t really read the Bible. Pilot’s question to Jesus haunts me. “What is truth?” I find that question popping up in my head many times in any given year because it so basic, so human, so real. What IS truth? The last twenty-thirty years in America, how many times have we asked ourselves, “Is that true?”. Where do we find ‘truth’? Not in the newspapers – they offer a skewed kind of look at events local, nation, and worldwide. Certainly not on television where we see reflected other people’s idea of what truth may be. Movies have always been meant to be fanciful – even stories based on “real events’ leave a whole lot to be desired if you’re looking for truth in whatever subject is being covered. Songs, especially hymns and country music, come close to truth. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man comes to mind – I have no idea what genre of music that is but it’s very much what I’ve always wished I had said to my son.

    Pilot’s problem – the very same problem we have today – Pilot’s problem was he didn’t know Truth when he saw it. Do we? Sometimes I wonder about us Christians. It’s alarmingly easy to talk the talk – it’s an entirely different proposition to walk the walk. But I’ve found Truth; to quote C. S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Excellent post yourself, Audre!

      My experience says that common sense and the Bible will most often reveal the truth. I think Pilate knew the truth as well, but lacked the character to act upon it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Oh Lord, spare me the temptations at this time, Holy Week and the Plague. Well, BrodyHorne be discounted for Saturday or Sunday funnies, not holding a shootin’ iron of any sort. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Lazy Sunday LVI: Movies – The Portly Politico

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