Perceptions of Spring – IV: Getting on the Donkey

     Today is Palm Sunday. I'm imagining what it was like to get on that donkey to ride into Jerusalem. I think Jesus knew he was sticking his neck out farther than he ever had before.
     Time out – I know this Christianity seems sudden. Let me explain where it comes from. While I no longer ally with a big-R religion, Christianity was the first major block of spiritual wisdom that I studied.  I grew up going to church, but as an adult I realized I didn't really "get" Jesus. So, I did some in-depth study to learn more about the man in the context of his time. In more recent years I have been exploring other major wisdom traditions, mostly Buddhism and native American; listening to the earth; and – most sacred of all - listening to the stories we share with each other from our daily lives. Now, back to musing about the action Jesus was about to undertake... 
     A little scene-setting from when I studied the historical Jesus will help. Jerusalem was a walled city with several gates. Every spring just before Passover, the Roman governor rode into the city in a display of power via the West Gate - every symbol of Imperialism blazing in gold, and hordes of armed Roman soldiers accompanying him. Jesus knew this. Reading the story of Palm Sunday carefully, it appears that Jesus set up his entry into Jerusalem as a challenge to power. He told his disciples where the donkey would be and how to requisition it. And then he, the peasant radical who preached justice, non-violence and peace, rode into Jerusalem via the East Gate at the same time as Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. (As we find out a week later, Pilate didn't think much of Jesus' stunt and sentenced him to crucifixion.)
     But I'm not thinking here about Jesus-as-son-of-God. I'm thinking about the man Jesus. What was it like for him when he got on that donkey?
     I got on a bus once. Ten years ago, I left my young children and husband at home, and rode to New York City overnight, coming in at dawn. We fifteen Mainers joined two hundred Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarians, blue blazers, saffron robes, birkenstocks, children, men, and women to march to the United Nations as people of faith in witness to the tragedy of global warming. Drums beat the pace as we sang and carried signs and walked. Police held the traffic at corners so we could cross without stopping. People stared. One man with a big mustache watched us with a bemused look from the top step of his brownstone. A finger tapped my shoulder: “See that man?” the guy behind me whispered. “Kurt Vonnegut.” Oh.
     Outside the UN, we held a Service of Repentance and Renewal. President Bush had refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. I prayed for him. Afterwards, I and a few others met with Ambassador Enele Sopoaga of the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. He told us that changes in storm patterns threatened the very existence of their 4,000 year old culture. He told us that as a nation, they were beginning to plan for total abandonment of their nine-island ancestral home within 40-50 years.
     Twenty-four hours after I left, I was back home in Maine. I wrote articles and spoke to congregations about what I heard. I can't say that my actions accomplished anything; but then again, when Jesus-the-man was crucified, I'm not sure he would have said he had accomplished anything either.
     I do believe that our actions have ripples that carry beyond our knowing. They don't have to be big actions; baby steps are good. Because when we stand in the place of Spirit, and get on the donkey – or the bus – or sign a petition – or say something when it would be safer to stay quiet – or even whisper about love and peace and courage into our children's ears at night when the lights are out, that is when we send ripples of hope into the world.
     Happy Palm Sunday. Happy spring.