The Other Way
Lent 6 – Palm Sunday
March 24, 2013
Luke 19: 28-40
Reverend Jan Wiley
Jesus’ journey is coming to a close. For many weeks he has been traveling. But he was traveling with a destination. He reaches that destination – Jerusalem – on the day we now call Palm Sunday. The scripture from the Gospel writer Luke is filled with details. These are details that not only describe the action of the day but there are 5 images from the Old Testament which call to mind the coronation of Israelite kings and the covenant between God and the royal representative of the Israelite people.
It is clear to the Jewish people that line the streets that Jesus is fulfilling the kingly role. But this puts Jesus and those who support him at risk. The Pharisees, seeing what is happening, urge Jesus to silence his disciples because if the Romans should come to understand the symbolism of the occasion, the whole Jewish crowd could be in danger. But Jesus says if the disciples were quiet, the very stones would cry out.
Jesus is now claiming who he really is. No more telling the disciples to be quiet about his identity, the miracles and healings, the preaching and teaching. Jesus now claims who he is. His journey has prepared him to enter into this next step of his life and all that is to come this Holy Week.
In the movie The Way that we have been using for inspiration this Lenten season, Tom’s journey is coming to a close. For many weeks he has been traveling. Like Jesus, he too, had a destination – the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Tom and his three companions, Youst, Sara and Jack , having left their stones on the pile with other pilgrims last week, start the last of their journey to Santiago. Tom’s companions, declare that they cannot walk beyond Santiago but must return to their lives and Tom will need to walk the last of his journey alone all the way to the sea. But first they enter Santiago.
There are no parades to welcome them. No crowds shouting Hosanna. But there is a tradition for the pilgrims who arrive in Santiago. They go to the Cathedral Square first. The clip you will see in a moment is when the four are in a Cathedral office to receive their compostelas – their certificates for walking the journey. They show their stamped passports which document their journey and answer the question of why they have walked the journey. Tom stumbles for an answer and finally says “I thought that probably I should travel more.” Watch as he receives his compostela and then as the four friends near the entrance to the cathedral.
Show Clip 1 now (receiving their compostelas)
Each of the four has a meaningful reaction when they enter the cathedral. We see Tom who prays at the altar of St. James with his son’s ashes in the box he still carries; Jack, the one who has declared no need of church, sitting alone in a pew, crying and praying; Sara, who seems genuinely touched by it all; and Youst, the last of the four to enter the cathedral, who follows the ancient pilgrim’s method of entrance – on his knees.
Then comes the incredible moment of the Catholic mass – the burning of the incense – but done in a altogether majestic way in Santiago.
Show Clip 2 now (swinging of incense thurible)
Tom has had yet another sighting of his dead son Daniel in the cathedral working with other faithful ones to swing the huge metal thurible – the incense burner for worship. Daniel’s presence no longer surprises us for Tom has been seeing Daniel all along the journey. This time it seems like a moment not only of recognition but a kind of thank you from Daniel to his father. For moments earlier Tom has had the compostela changed to honor Daniel’s successful pilgrimage to Santiago. As he sees his son swinging the thurible, having a purpose, perhaps that is the moment when Tom knows that he is forgiven by his son Daniel for their estrangement and for not being the father he wanted to be. And perhaps it is the moment when he realizes that Jesus, God’s own son, forgives him as well. Standing in the cathedral, Tom makes the sign of the cross, recognizing a holy moment, a blessing from God.
In the movie, we have no sense of the time in the Christian year. We don’t know if it’s Advent or Lent or any Sunday, say in August. But perhaps theologically, Palm Sunday is any day that we recognize that Jesus is King. That Jesus, God’s son, is more than just a man but the divine face of God come to walk the journey with us, a companion on the Way, much like the walking stick, that accompanied Tom on his journey. Perhaps Palm Sunday is any day that we are willing to publicly claim that Jesus is God’s son, and to stand up and declare it no matter the risk.
And the risk to claim and follow Jesus is sometimes a political risk as it was in Jesus’ day. But it is also an emotional risk to follow Jesus who calls us to forgiveness, to healing, to caring, to being compassionate, to work for justice, to welcome the sojourner, to take up one another’s burdens. To declare that Jesus is King and Lord of our lives means that we are called to walk the Other Way – to journey from bitterness to joy, from anger to forgiveness, from guilt to redemption, from apathy to passion.
So coming out of the cathedral and that powerful experience, Tom’s companions Jack, Sara and Youst, surprisingly change their minds and accompany Tom past Santiago and all the way to what is called the end of the world so that Tom can sprinkle the last of Daniel’s ashes in the sea. And they walk together the last of the journey and the four stand a ways back from the powerful waves hitting the rocks. And then Tom moves forward on his own, for this poignant last act as a father for his son.
Show Clip 3 now (sprinkling Daniel’s ashes to sea and finally walk to credits)
At that is the end of the movie. It ends with a p.s. I didn’t get the p.s. the first time I saw the movie. In fact, the ending felt a little jarring as it moved from the silence as Tom stood on the seacoast, called the end of the world – to a noisy, bustling city. And then I realized. Tom was no longer in Spain. He was in an entirely different part of the world. And then it was clear. Tom was still traveling. His son Daniel had wanted to see the world and Tom had not valued that choice. Now, after having walked many, many miles to Santiago and beyond, Tom has made a decision to go The Other Way. Maybe he’s heading home but it will not be a direct route. He too now wants to live his life. He doesn’t seem to be chasing or following Daniel any longer. Now he is free to set his own destination and to see the wonder and the glory of the world. Now he goes forth, still sad, but with a measure of joy, ready to embrace his life.
And Jesus, he has chosen The Other Way as well. He made that choice when he set his face towards Jerusalem. And now having entered the noisy, bustling city, it will end with his life given in love for Tom, and for Daniel, and Youst, and Sara and Jack and for each one of us.
Jesus knows that the parade and the shouts of ‘Hosanna’ will fade away. Even his followers will soon deny him. But he will not deny us for he has chosen The Other Way – the Way of Love.