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Full to the Brim - Even the Stones Will Shout -- Luke 19:28-40 (Palm/Passion Sunday)

Artwork: "Even the Stones Will Cry Out,"

created by Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman,

used with permission via SanctifiedArts

This morning’s scripture is full of sights and sounds and movement. There’s so much going on. It’s one of those handful of scriptures that we actually enact in worship. Jesus enters into Jerusalem with the people waving palms – and we wave palms too. “Hosanna, in the highest!” We read this scripture not only with the words on the page and the story spoken aloud – but with our bodies – we proclaim Hosanna – just like they did – with the whole of us. It is an embodied and visceral moment.

The excitement builds as the procession moves forward.[1] It starts with two disciples, sent quietly ahead to untie and retrieve a colt – a donkey. They find the colt just as Jesus had promised. They untie it. The owners stop them, but as instructed the disciples say, “The Lord needs it,” and the owners let the colt go.

The disciples put their cloaks on the colt, and then they put Jesus on the colt. And they start to move toward Jerusalem. Maybe it starts with a murmur – folks see this odd procession – “What’s going on?” They see Jesus, and they remember – the healings and the miracles they have seen, and word spreads, and the crowd begins to gather. And the volume builds. Scripture says that they begin to “joyfully praise God in loud voices” for all the miracles they had seen.

As we know from the other gospels, they then begin to shout: Hosanna! Hosanna! (which means Save! or Deliver!). Hosanna! They shout praising Jesus as king: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of our God!” They shout for peace in a world of empire and violence. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” It is a full-on parade by this point. Praising. Shouting. Hosanna! Hosanna! The noise of the crowd builds as they head toward the city – so loud that it can be heard on into Jerusalem.

And the Pharisees wake up. Wait! Shhhh! This is dangerous. Don’t forget where you are – and who we are. Rome will hear you. Shhh. “Jesus,” they say, “make your disciples stop.” And through the cacophony of the crowd, Jesus says, “If these keep quiet, even the stones will shout.” This moment is so full to overflowing – all the joy, all the anticipation, all the pent-up longing for freedom. If you could somehow silence and bottle up this crowd, even the stones will shout.

Even the stones will shout. Now, the first thing you might say is – “but stones can’t shout.” Well – exactly. But beyond that, the question I want to ask is this:

Even the stones will shout. What will the stones shout?

What will the stones shout?

Will they shout Hosanna?

This is a celebrating, liberating moment. Will the stones shout out, joining in the praise? What’s happening here isn’t random. Everything we see and hear in this moment reaches deep into the history of Israel – deep into the history of a people longing to be free. In Zechariah, the prophet writes: “Rejoice greatly, Daughters of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”[2]

And the Hosannas and the blessing! They echo the Psalms:

O give thanks to God, for God is good;

God’s steadfast love endures forever!

19Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them

and give thanks to God.

21I thank you that you have answered me

and have become my salvation.

22The stone that the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

23This is God’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

24This is the day that God has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25Save us, we beseech you, O God!

26Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God.

This is a salvific moment.

If you silence these voices, even the stones will shout.

Even the stones will shout. What will they shout?

Will they shout in protest?

Because let’s be clear – shouting for the raising up of a new king, means the bringing down of the current one. To the ears of those in power – it is beyond protest – it is sedition – it is treason.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crosson imagine two processions.[3] On one end of town, they imagine the procession of Pilate into Jerusalem. Pilate is the representative of Rome – sent to this backwater of Empire – as the crowds are flowing in for Passover – to make sure those crowds don’t get out of hand and to stop any uprising from rising up. Imagine the horses and the troops and the armor and the weaponry – as Pilate processes in, in what someone has called, “the gaudy glory of empire.”[4]

And then here, across town – this Jesus comes riding in on a colt – a peoples procession – as the crowd spreads their cloaks in the road, shouting: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of our God.”

The Pharisees get this. They know why the imperial presence in Jerusalem has been reinforced. They know what happens when crowds gather, shouting, proclaiming a new king. They know what the powers do.

Stephanie Buckanon Crowder points out that as the visibility of a protest increases, so does the threat to the powers, and so does the danger that the powers will react with violence.[5] She points to how that was true for Martin Luther King, Jr., and for Medger Evers, and for the Freedom Riders.

To that, I might add that the Pharisees are like those liberal white pastors and rabbis in Birmingham, who wrote to Dr. King and said – don’t come to Birmingham, not now. You will provoke the powers with your protest. Don’t come here, with folks shouting so loudly. The time isn’t right. To which, we know, Dr. King responded – from the cell where the powers jailed him: “I have come to Birmingham because injustice is here... Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... The time is always ripe to do right.” [6]

If you silence these voices, even the stones will shout.

Even the stones will shout. What will they shout?

Will they shout lament?

Because that’s what Jesus does. Just after this morning’s Scripture – just after Jesus says, “even the stones will shout,” Jesus turns the corner and sees Jerusalem before him – and he cries out in lament – “Oh Jerusalem – if you, even you, had known on this day what would bring you peace...” He sees the destruction that this world of power-over and violence will bring– and he cries out and weeps for Jerusalem and for all the people.

We know the trajectory of Holy Week. Here on this threshold of Holy Week, we know what lies ahead. Jesus will enter into Jerusalem. He will go to the Temple and find it turned into a marketplace, and he will turn the tables over. Jesus will continue to teach and proclaim God turning the world rightside up. He will proclaim the truth of God’s new creation, in the presence of the powers that oppress, and they will close in on him. Jesus will gather his friends at a table – among them those who will betray, deny, and desert him. He will go to the garden and pray in agony. And the powers will come for him and arrest him. They will try him, beat him, and crucify him... as the crowds, caught up in the violence of power-over, will cheer the powers on.

In this moment, as Jerusalem comes into full view, Jesus knows what powers do – he can see the inevitability of the days to come – and even beyond that – he can see the destruction that will come to Jerusalem from continued imperial occupation and war – years later, the Temple burned to the ground. “O Jerusalem, if you had only known this day what will bring you peace. They will hem you in on every side. They will not leave one stone on another.”

If you silence these voices, even the stones will shout.

We don’t have to strain hard, in these days, to imagine the destruction of violence and war and power-over. We have watched the news this week. We see the destruction of in Ukraine. We are witness to the atrocities, to the slaughter of innocents, to the war crimes of an empire gone mad.

Can you hear the stones shouting? I sure can.

As we stand here, in the midst of Palm Sunday,

as the Pharisees try to hush the crowd,

as we see with Jesus the expanse of Holy Week that lies ahead,

as we hear Jesus: “If you silence these voices,

even these stones will shout,”

as praise gets all tangled up with protest and lament --

In the fullness of this moment,

what we see and hear and experience is

Christ filled to the fullness of our humanity,

as we are filled to the fullness of Christ’s.

As we move into the fullness of Holy Week, we’ve brought some stones – they’ll be in a basket in the Narthex after worship – you can take one with you when you leave – to remember and to carry this question with us as we pray this week –

“Even the stones would shout.” What would the stones shout?

I’m so grateful that the Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt could come and preach with us last week. As I mentioned, she is a part of the artists collective that has invited us into our Lenten theme – into an expansive Lent – to consider how, in Jesus Christ, we are Full to the Brim. When Ashley looks at this Scripture, here are some of the questions that she asks (and I share them with you for our prayer this week):[7]

What is it in this moment that can’t be silence?

What must be said?

What is bubbling up in you that you need to give voice?

If these stones would shout, what might they say?

We know the trajectory of Holy Week. We know that Palm Sunday leads on to Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, and then on to Good Friday, and the cross ... and then, hope beyond hope, on to Easter morning.

In the fullness of Holy Week,

what will these stones shout?

Will they shout praise, and protest, and lament?

And then, out of the experience of oppression

in the face of the powers, and suffering,

in the silence that follows crucifixion,

will they somehow shout life?

Out of the depths, just before the dawn of the third day,

will the stones shout life

as they roll themselves away from the mouth of the tomb,

so that the One who has entered into our struggle and our death

might walk us on out into life?

We come each year to this threshold of Holy Week –

and we tell again the story

not just words on a page, but a Living Word.

Amid the Hosannas, and the protest, and the pain, and the lament,

We stand with Jesus and look on into the fullness of Holy Week

and know that, somehow, everything that lies ahead is life.

© 2022 Scott Clark

[1] For general background on the gospel, see Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, “The Gospel of Luke,” in True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008); Sharon Ringe, Luke (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995); R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters’ Bible Commentary, vol. ix (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995). [2] See Jae Won Lee, Commentary in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 2 (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), p. 155. [3] See H. Stephen Shoemaker, Commentary in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 2 (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), pp. 153-57, citing Borg and Crossan, The Last Week (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), p. 1-5. [4] See id. [5] See Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, “The Gospel of Luke,” in True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), p.179. [6] See Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in A Testament of Hole: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (J.M. Washington, ed.) (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1986), pp. 290, 296 [7] See Ashley DeTar Birt, Commentary in Full to the Brim materials, Our worship series this Lent draws from resources created by SanctifiedArt, a collective of artists in ministry, including scriptural commentary by Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt, Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, and Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity.

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