There was a time, not that long ago, when we held all manner of parades.
Pride parades, St. Patrick’s Day parades, July Fourth parades, sports championship parades, and, back in the day, ticker-tape parades for the heroes of the hour. Pilots who had flown great distances, soldiers returned from war, foreign dignitaries visiting America, Olympians still basking in the thrill of victory, astronauts returned from the moon, and others were promenaded down New York City’s Broadway while bands played, spectators cheered, and what seemed like entire forests’ worth of paper rained down upon them.
In other nations, and in other times, parades have reflected both the homegrown culture and power of a particular place: military parades in authoritarian regimes, fashion parades down the runways of Paris, movie-star parades down the red carpets of Hollywood. Perhaps you saw the recently (and strategically) resurfaced 2012 photos of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, seated on elevated throne-like chair-platforms and carried on the shoulders on black men in the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu.
We celebrate and even glorify whom and what we put on parade. We parade and glorify whom and what we value.
And so it was, that with Jews from all around the known world pouring into Jerusalem for the Passover festival, the occupying Roman forces put on a parade, a show of force intended to, if not inspire glory, laud and honor at least instill fear: horses and chariots, soldiers armored for battle, all the pomp and power of the emperor himself.
And so it was that Jesus, having emptied himself of his divine form and been born in human likeness and laid in a manger; Jesus, who, as a human infant became a political refugee and then, for protection, was raised in the backwater of Galilee; Jesus, who left home to become an itinerant teacher, healer, and religious rebel who ate with outcasts and caused trouble wherever he went . . . entered Jerusalem riding a borrowed donkey.
As if to say: This is God’s parade.
And the people went wild—lining the cobblestone streets to get a glimpse of him, tearing branches off the trees and the coats off their backs to make a carpet, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name! Blessed is the coming revolution! Hosanna!
But the people were confused. The people thought this was the beginning of Jesus’ glory, not the end. The people thought glory was about power, that glory was the result of achievement and success, that glory came from climbing up the ladder, winning the battle against evil on the world’s terms, and then lording it over one’s enemies.
We would like to think we are more sophisticated, but the people then were no different from us now. Like them, we want to believe that doing things the world’s way will produce godly results. Or maybe we know in our heads that not even the best president with all the best people and the best policies will succeed in ushering in God’s realm—and yet we’ve got to do something, and so we still put almost all our eggs in that one political basket. Even though God tells us and history confirms that laws are not enough, that hearts must be healed and minds must be changed for justice to take root and God’s realm to take shape.
Meanwhile, the seemingly endless parade of refugees from Central America claws its way north toward El Rio Grande and the United States.
Meanwhile, the list of those killed by gun violence grows ever longer.
Meanwhile, the tentacles of white supremacy and voter suppression spread across almost every state, making it harder for the poor and people of color to vote, making it a crime to give a drink of water to a would-be voter waiting in line.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to snuff out life and shut down our ways of living.
Meanwhile, God suffers and dies and is born again.
Meanwhile, God lives among us, riding not at the head of the parade, but working in the trenches; receiving not our glory, but often our disdain.
And so it is that, still, always and everywhere, Christ Jesus is found in human form: working endless hours in hospital ICUs and vaccine clinics, standing up for people of color, weeping with the families of shooting victims, walking beside those who live in fear, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, working for justice and equity, and holding the sobbing mother of a 9-year-old Mexican girl who drowned while trying to cross the river.
We are saved not by climbing up to the pinnacle of human achievement but by following the way of the God who comes down to live in solidarity with us.
So let the same mind mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus—who does not glory in his power over others, who does not regard citizenship as something he earned, who does not understand his wealth as a sign of God’s blessing, who does not regard his privilege as something to be protected, who does not value his own freedom more than the life, health, and well-being of others, who does not close his heart to the cries of the poor.
Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, who, instead of saving himself, died a criminal’s death that we might see that the path to glory and new life is made by solidarity with, and selfless caring for, the least of these.
Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, who loved us with an everlasting love long before we were born.
Let us be in the same mind, which is presence.
Let us be in the same mind, which is tenderness.
Let us be in the same mind, which is mercy.
Let us be in the same mind, which is longing.
Let us be in the same mind, which is bearing the pain of others.
Let us be in the same mind, which pours itself out for the sake of justice.
Let us be in the same mind, which counts the costs and accepts the consequences.
Let us be in the same mind, which is love.
That we and all people and all creation might know the God who is love.
That we, all people, and all creation might know the fullness of life.
That we, all people, and all creation might know the love that heals, transforms, and makes new.
Let us not glorify human power but rather the vulnerability of our crucified God. Let us follow the way of Jesus and let his life and love transform ours.
That we might know that Jesus Christ is Lord, that love is the only way, that love is what we were made for, and that love is what will save us.
That our lives might bless others and glorify God.