After the parade

There is an art to the big event. Anyone who’s planned a wedding knows it, and that should be enough to give hives to anyone thinking back and imagining what it took to get George Bush’s inauguration off the ground. The US president was sworn in for a second term with great ceremony—A$53 million worth of it. There were nine balls on the one night, some military pomp, the odd arrest and a parade. And there was Bush’s speech too just in case anyone’s wondering ‘what happens next?’ Because really, how do you follow up a parade?

At Easter the Church remembers a kind of parade—the deliberately ironic ‘triumphal entry into Jerusalem’. Something considerably daggier than what the Bush administration pulled together, but a standout celebration in its context. A borrowed colt’s not the kind of thing we’ve come to expect in parades, but you’ve got to love the spontaneity of the crowd with branches or coats and all that joyous yelling.

So all that attention on the big events, but has this to do with the life that comes afterwards? The word ‘inauguration’ itself comes from the tradition of releasing birds (or augurs), in the hope of discerning an omen from their flight path. Well, as far as I’m aware there were no birds released at the inauguration, but it is still tempting to read the future of George Bush’s influential leadership in the unfolding of the celebrations.

There are no birds in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem either, but the whole thing gives a pretty good insight into the turn things end up taking. When he could conceivably still be on a high from his enthusiastic reception, Jesus weeps for the people—that they do not recognise ‘the things that make for peace’. And the joyous shouts turn to ‘crucify him’ with alarming speed.

So Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the Church’s Palm Sunday remembrance of it, is inextricably linked to Easter. Partly because, of course, a parade does actually go somewhere. For Jesus, it leads straight into the Temple, where he overturns the moneychangers’ tables and upsets an established scam. It leads into days of going into a community’s heartland and offering a prophetic vision. And the vision excites the crowds, but moves the powerful to plot against him. While Jesus grieved about peace, Bush focused enthusiastically on freedom. The Age reported that his inauguration speech made use of the word ‘freedom’ 27 times and ‘liberty’ 15 times. Peace and freedom—not so dissimilar. But the tricky thing is recognising the things that make for peace and freedom. It’s the kind of thing a parade might offer an insight into, but it only becomes real afterwards.

And it becomes hauntingly real for Jesus after the celebrations wind up and he’s in Jerusalem. Those who plot against him are worried about the trouble he’s stirring up. Maybe they’re just worried that someone will get hurt. Maybe they think their way will be the best for the most. But their use of secrecy reveals their error. It turns out you cannot trick someone into the ways of peace, or of freedom for that matter. They work against the crowd, quietly, secretly, until they’ve convinced the crowd to call out ‘crucify him’ with them.

It was a big night out, Bush’s inauguration—glitz and glamour and staggering expense. And maybe we could read something into it. But the real question is, what really happens after George’s big parade? 

Kylie Crabbe studies at the United Faculty of Theology as a candidate for ministry in the Uniting Church.

 

 

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