the triumphal entry

Yesterday morning I was in Denver, so I went to church with a friend. I was excited. For the first time in a while, I was excited about church. I wanted some palm branches, some kids in robes with towels tied to their heads. Some "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." A little "Hosanna to the Son of David!" I wanted to be caught up in the momentary majesty of the King of Kings, for a few days. Until it all unravels on Thursday and the scourging begins.

Every time there is something magical about Holy Week. How it could have been. The anticipation, the promise, and then the heartbreak all over again, resounding with the "I am who you say I am." The rebuke of Peter, the healing of the guard's ear. The not-so-holy greeting of a kiss that sealed it all. The precedent of pacifism and nonviolence, even to the point of wrongful death. I wanted the beginning of this yesterday. I craved it, like the beginning of a favorite movie, when what is about to happen washes over you with its reverberating intensity, even before it has gotten there.

What I got instead was disappointment. I have been aware for some time that many churches completely ignore the liturgical calendar. I thought Palm Sunday would some how be exempt from this sort of gross American personalization of everything. I was wrong. Never once in the hour long service was the triumphal entry mentioned. The only thing reminiscent of palm branches were the potted ferns sitting in the lobby. I wasn't asking for a live donkey, as is often present at my parents' megachurch, though the touch would have been nice. There were no Hosannas. The little kids were in a different part of the church, tearing up plastic furniture and playing with felt boards, no doubt. The sermon was on "Only 100 years to live," and was basically about making the most out of your life time. Jesus was mentioned in passing, as perhaps the key to this room full of lifetime goodies, not really all that important once the door was opened.

I sat there through the service and felt bitterness rising in myself like bile. The problem is, I don't want to be a cynical person. I don't want to be someone who is always down on everything that is going on in the church. But somebody has got to stand up and say this isn't what it's all about! My savior wasn't scourged so you could wear an N'sync style headset mic over your flouncy hair and bounce around on stage, shouting, "I love to rock out!.... for Jesus!!!" Or so that you could become a stand-up comedian instead of a pastor. I want radical redemption here, not entertainment. Paul certainly wasn't about entertainment. A kid once fell out of a window and died because of Paul's lack of keeping the customer satisfied. That's probably because Paul realized, however, that the Church is not customers. Something that the American Evangelical church trusts and believes in. And we have more empty people sitting in our pews, that will be sorely disappointed when the few of us jump up and cry "Hosanna!" on the last day. The church is missing its mark. When will we wake up and realize that if we fail to cry out, the stones will do it for us?

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