Monday, April 10, 2017

Death on Palm Sunday

I was sitting in church when I heard news of the bombing of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, killing 44 people as they worshiped on Palm Sunday. 

Pastor Lynn Cheyney was reviewing the serious events of the past week: the gas attack in Syria and now the suicide bombings in Alexandria and Tanta.  (Did she mention the US bombing?  I'm not sure.)

We had just observed the traditional procession carrying palm branches--adults standing in the pews waving their palms as the children marched and waved.  

We heard the news, and then we sang:
All glory laud and honor 
To thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

It was incongruous, but in her message a few hymns later, Pastor Lynn spoke about Palm Sunday as "A Most Perplexing Day," containing both joy and ominous tension.  

The procession is a triumphal parade but also a march toward the execution in Jerusalem that Jesus knew was coming.

She quoted Fleming Rutledge, one of the first woman ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church:

"Palm Sunday has always been a crowd pleaser: the festivity of the procession, the stirring music, the repeated 'Hosannas.'  And then we are plunged into the overwhelming drama of the passion... It is not for the faint of heart."

In Egypt 44 people paid for their faith on Palm Sunday by following Jesus into martyrdom.  They join many other Christians killed by the Islamic State and others in the last ten years.

They join Muslims killed in their mosques and Jews killed in their temples.  

For a few decades after the Holocaust, we did not hear about people being killed because of their religion.  Wars were fought for territory, for political beliefs, and for control of natural resources.

Territory and power are still the root causes of killing, but today religion is being used to cover up the true sources of conflict.  

Priests and imams bless those who kill in the name of God, as God grieves.  

"In this week of sorrows, grant us tender hearts, that they might break over the things that break your heart," we recited in the "Prayers of the People" at Westwood Presbyterian Church.

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