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A Nursing Donkey

Sunday is Palm Sunday. I hope you are planning to be at church. You, of course, don’t want to be an “Easter Christian,” so by being there this Sunday you will beat the crowds.

At Virginia-Highland Church, we will receive close to two dozen new members. It will be a cause for celebration, which just adds to the confusion of the day. The church has to work hard not to make Palm Sunday a “little Easter.” Waving branches and singing hosannas after the solemnity of Lent feels like resurrecting worship, yet Friday is still to come …

Too bad we can’t make everyone ride into church on a donkey. Matthew’s description of Palm Sunday makes it sound like Jesus rode two animals that day, a mother donkey with her little colt beside her. Jesus rode “them” in the sense of having both as part of the highly visible symbolism of his demonstration. Jesus didn’t ride a stallion or a mare or a mule, nor did he ride simply a female donkey. He rides the most un-military mount imaginable: a nursing donkey with her little colt trotting beside her.

I think every church should hold this image up on Palm Sunday, especially in light of recent political rallies with jingoistic language filling the air. Here is our leader, here is our role model, here is the one whose example we must follow coming to us on a nursing mother with her little one at her side. How did we forget this and become the people of ubiquitous AK-47s? How did disciples of one who was executed by the state become defenders of capital punishment? How did people who call a peasant messiah Lord make tax cuts a sacrament? How did we make Palm Sunday a day of military and capitalistic triumph?

No wonder Jesus begins the day looking out over Jerusalem and weeping, “How often I would have gathered you together like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of that.” Apparently, we still won’t.


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Rev. Michael Piazza

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