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SHOUT

Texts: Mark 10:47-48; 11:9; 15:13-14


Holy Week starts with a shout. But it is not the familiar shout of “Hosanna, loud hosanna!” heard from the expectant crowd as Jesus approaches Jerusalem. No, “Hosanna, loud hosanna” is not a harmless enthusiastic shout of people cheering on an outstanding athlete; it is a shout for vengeance, a shout for retribution, a shout for an end to the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. It is the shout of expectant people who are fed up with being put down and are looking for someone to restore them to power. So, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem the people shout “Hosanna, loud hosanna” confident that Jesus is the mighty military leader for whom they have long awaited.

         As Mark tells the story, though, Holy Week starts with a different shout and one that is heard before the frenzied shout of the Jerusalem crowd. For Mark, Holy Week starts just outside of Jerusalem when a blind beggar shouts to get the attention of Jesus. The blind beggar shouts, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” The crowd tries to shut him up, but he shouts all the louder, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” It is the shout not for someone to set things right through violence and political machinations; it is the shout of someone who knows that Jesus is all about healing and hope and restoring all that is broken.

        To the crowd’s great surprise, Jesus hears the blind man, restores his sight, and tells him to go on his way. Instead, Bartimaeus will go on no other way than following Jesus, shouting about this healing and hope-dealing Messiah all the way to the cross. In Mark’s Gospel, Palm Sunday does not start with the shout of the crowd trying to silence Bartimaeus or the military shout of “Hosanna, loud hosanna,” it starts with the faith-filled, expectant shout of Bartimaeus, who, though blind, sees who Jesus is. 

         Early on in my education, English teachers taught me to avoid repetition in writing. If Mark learned the same lesson, he ignored it. Mark often repeats the word krazo as he tells the Holy Week story. Oftentimes translators, no doubt remembering their English lessons from youth, render this Greek word in multiple ways, as “called out” or “spoke up” or something similar, but for Mark, krazo means one thing: SHOUT. It is not a timid or tentative cry for attention. It is loud and forceful, a cry intended to make yourself heard.

         So, yes, Holy Week does start with a SHOUT, but it is not the familiar military, political shout of “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.” Nor does Holy Week start with the shout heard late into that week when the crowd is vocal again, but this time in a malevolent way. In response to a question from Pilate who gives them a choice of releasing the insurrectionist, Barabbas, or the sorry excuse for a political Messiah, Jesus, they choose Barabbas. When Pilate asks, “Why?” they shout even louder than the Palm Sunday crowd, shout for all the world to hear: CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!

         In between the Palm Sunday shouts and the Jesus before Pilate shouts, Jesus proves to be one great big disappointment. The crowd is poised to be led in the storming of Pilate’s headquarters, to overthrow Roman rule, and to reinstate the rightful Jewish rule. Jesus does nothing of the sort. Instead, he largely ignores Pilate and he stares down the religious leaders in Jerusalem, refusing to tell them what they want to hear. He also stares down his closest friends, accusing them of betrayal, denial, and cowardice.  

           Nikita Gill, the Irish-Indian poet and playwright writes:

         Your ancestors did not survive        

everything that nearly ended them        

for you to shrink yourself        

to make someone else        

comfortable.

 

         This sacrifice is your warcry,        

be loud,        

be everything        

and make them proud.

 

         When Jesus finally steps foot into Jerusalem, he shouts his “warcry” against religious rules that keep different religious groups at odds with each other. He shouts his “warcry” against religious institutions that care more about self-preservation than acting with compassion for those most often forgotten. He shouts his “warcry” against those who watch every penny rather than spend every penny to bring about health and wholeness. He shouts his “warcry” against those who know the Bible by heart but refuse to put its truth into action. His is the transformative “warcry” of nonviolence even in the face of relentless violence.

         One of the world’s great shouters, making his own “warcry for peace,” is Father Elias Chacour and he often does so without ever raising his voice. He is a Palestinian Orthodox priest who has spent his life working to reconcile Israeli Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He has created secondary schools throughout Galilee for youth of every religious tradition to learn together across religious and political boundaries and Cove gladly supports this ministry of learning, reconciliation, and peace.

         Father Chacour began his ministry in the small Galilean village of Ibillin. He soon learned that before reconciliation and peace can happen in Israel or even in his small village, it must happen in his church. So, on his first Palm Sunday, he looked out on a congregation that was at great odds with each other. At the end of worship on that Palm Sunday morning, he went to the two exit doors not to greet the congregation, but to lock the doors. He then told them that he loved them but was bereft at how divided they were as a church community.

         He then began the second sermon of the morning, telling them that there is one person among them who can work the miracle of reconciliation and his name is Jesus, the man who entered Jerusalem not on the back of a majestic stead but on the back of a donkey. His sermon ended this way, “So on Christ’s behalf, I say this to you: The doors of the church are locked. Either you kill each other right here in your hatred and then I will celebrate your funerals gratis, or you use this opportunity to be reconciled together before I open the doors of the church. If that reconciliation happens, Christ will truly become your Lord, and I will know I am becoming your pastor . . . That decision is now yours.”

         Father Chacour’s Palm Sunday “shout,” his “warcry” for reconciliation, was met by a long stretch of silence. After ten minutes passed, a member of the church dressed in his Israeli police uniform stood up and faced the congregation and said, “I ask forgiveness of everybody here and I forgive everybody. And I ask God to forgive my sins.” His words were met with tears and hugs and other words of reconciliation. Then Father Chacour writes: “After everyone had been hugged, I shouted, ‘Don’t listen to gossipers and to people who are only interested in seeing you dispersed, divided from each other again. Now you are one community’ (Elias Chacour, We Belong to the Land, p. 31).”

          Sometimes when you and I shout for Jesus, shout for reconciliation, shout for mercy, shout for justice, shout for love for those we have been taught to hate, miracles happen like what happened on that Palm Sunday in Ibillin. Read on in Mark’s Gospel, though, and you realize that the Palm Sunday story for Jesus does not end that way and it is not Bartimaeus’ shout of expectant faith, but the fierce shout of a disappointed and angry crowd that prevails. Sometimes our extended hand of forgiveness is met with frozen hearts, clogged ears, and hateful behavior. If you think I am too pessimistic just ask Jesus.

         Even so, the Palm Sunday miracle in Ibillin reminds me of a miracle that happened centuries before when even torture, humiliation, and the tools of death could not stop God from resurrecting Jesus and reminding us that while violence and hatred are powerful and prevalent, in the great arc of God’s mercy, they are passing away.

          Read on to the close of Mark’s Gospel to see how God writes the ending to Jesus’ story. You will see why you and I will gather here next Sunday to celebrate God’s “warcry” against every instrument of violence and death, gather to celebrate and to follow a “dead man living.” And we will gather here not just next Sunday but the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that because in our faith, every single day is Easter.

         And so, every single day is reason for us to SHOUT.

                  Alleluia!

                           Amen!

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