Luke 19:28-40, 45-48
Author: Chad Hyatt
There’s something about the table-upending Jesus, the one who refuses to let us go about business as normal. Table-tossing Jesus is the one we human beings shout both ‘hosanna’ for and ‘crucify’ against. Imagine my surprise when I realized our Palm Sunday liturgy at Mercy has always included Jesus marching into the temple and toppling tables, sending coins and birds alike flying—but the lectionary doesn’t. In fact, only once in the three year cycle of readings for worship does it make an appearance: the Third Week of Lent, Year B. I don’t think there is a lectionary conspiracy afoot or anything nefarious like that. But I do think our choice to always keep these texts together and its general omission is telling. Our reading has always seen the liturgy of the palms as a street action, a protest march from the overlooked outskirts to the very center of power. It is worship, but it is a very radical and subversive kind of worship. There’s a reason the powers that be wanted to nail Jesus to a cross, after all. Flipping tables in the temple, calling out the institutional exploitation of the poor and reminding us what true worship of the liberating God ought to be, is a natural extension, even an intensifier, of the palm-waving celebration that ushered Jesus into Jerusalem. Our community Palm Sunday practice has often included marching together in the streets toward our worship space, palms moving like flags and home-made protest signs raised together, as we sing civil rights anthems and shout throaty hosannas. As we study the scriptures together and unpack their meaning for us, we inevitably see ourselves as part of the movement Jesus was leading. Isn’t that what church really is, after all—a movement for freedom that Jesus is still leading? I remember a member of our community remarking in bible study: ‘It seems to me like Jesus knew his conflict with the authorities was unavoidable, and so he’s turning himself in. I’ve had to do that before.’ Our own holy table isn’t excluded from Jesus’ indictment of the way all of our communities can turn inward upon themselves and forsake God’s call of liberation and radical welcome. Yes, we have actually overturned our own communion table as an act of worship. Because it’s important to remind ourselves that even we are not excluded from Jesus’ TFE (Table Flipping Energy). Maybe it would do all of us good to include some table-tossing in our liturgies and worship and especially in the lives of the communities we are called to lead with one another toward liberation.
Prayer Jesus, overturn our tables until we make a prayerful home for all.