When "Hosanna" Is Only a Word

Our reading for today includes John’s version of the “Triumphant Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12:12-16). This story reminds me of one of our worship services-- people waving their arms, excitedly standing to shout “Hosanna!” and joyfully appropriating praise verbiage from the Psalms, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” OK, so maybe it doesn’t exactly remind me of one of our worship services. But this is a great worship text.

Most of the pictures I have seen depicting the triumphant entry are similar to the one here. The people are all excited and joyful (like the little boy in the foreground) while Jesus looks detached and maybe even sullen. Maybe he looked exactly like that because he knew what was about to happen. The same voices that shouted his praise would be shouting “Crucify him!” in only one week. The worship and praise didn't mean much when the very people doing it would turn around and betray him.

I wonder if Jesus has a flashback (can an omniscient God have a flashback?) during our worship services today. Is there the same detached look on God’s face because he knows the same voices singing his praise on Sunday will be shouting curses, inventing lies, telling off-color stories and spreading gossip during the next week? Does what we say on Sunday conflict with how we live the rest of the week?

Ans what about our witness to the world? I came across the following quotation on Richard Beck’s “Experimental Theology Blog.” The paragraph actually comes from an article by Glenn Greenwald on Salon.

As is so often the case, the Traditional Marriage movement is led by people who discard their wives and get new, younger replacements the way most people change underwear. That's how so many Americans sit on their sofas next to their second and third spouses, with their step-children and half-siblings surrounding them, and explain -- without any recognition of the irony -- that they're against same-sex marriage because they believe the law should only recognize Traditional Marriages. And it's how Rush Limbaugh can hide from his followers that, by demanding state recognition for his fourth "marriage," he himself believes "that traditional marriage should not have privileged status." As usual, all of the actual rules of Traditional Marriage are casually discarded when it comes to the law (all that dreary, annoying stuff about "till death do us part" and "in sickness and in health" and "for as long as we both shall live") and the only one that's maintained is the one that is easy and cost-free for most Traditional Marriage proponents people to fulfill (the one about needing "a man and a woman").

Can the church's talk about "Traditional Marriage" ring rather hollow unless our lives demonstrate that commitment? I’m certainly not advocating homosexual marriage, but the church has certainly compromised its right to stand on the high moral ground when we are weighed down by the millstone of a divorce rate that is as high and higher than that the secular culture. Our talk is drowned out by our walk. Greenwald's article points to the ironic (or maybe moronic) truth that two of the loudest cheerleaders for "Traditional Marriage" (Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich) have seven marriages between them!

If the church is going to point people to God, we are going to have to lead them with our lives before they will listen to our words. We don’t have to be perfect. We do need to be a bit more consistent than we’ve managed up to this point!