An alternative perspective on Palm Sunday

Originally one of my sabbatical tasks had been to write and direct a community Passion play. Got the writing bit done, but for various reasons the wheels came off actually staging it this year. Given the weather I'm fairly glad not to be contemplating a production that was to culminate in a semi-naked actor on a cross in the open air.
Instead, we've scaled things down and are staging 3 of the monologues within the play as a devotional event on Maundy Thursday night at East Belfast Mission. The first of these offers the perspective of a Roman centurion watching the events of Palm Sunday (I also used it as part of the Palm Sunday broadcast)

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:37-42 (ANIV)

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Call that a king!? Where’s his army? That rag-tag bunch of misfits and malcontents!? Oh I’m quivering in my boots. One platoon of proper soldiers could take that lot out in a matter of minutes. That’s what’s needed to keep the peace in this God-forsaken province – a firm hand… and a sharp sword…
Though why the Emperor could be bothered with this place I don’t know… The weather is lousy… the food is awful… and the people are obsessed with religion… They’re convinced that their God is the only God and that he has given them this land… I suppose in comparison with some of the other desert wildernesses around here it’s not a bad bit of real estate, but to hear them talk about it you would think it was the centre of the universe…
Because they think that their God has given them this land they don’t want us anywhere about the place. The only thing is that as much as they hate us, they seem to hate each other even more… They fight among themselves over their religion… Don’t understand a word of it myself – but if they’re fighting each other they’re not bothering us…
Mind you, messiahs are still two a penny in this province. There’s always someone ready to throw off the oppressive yoke of the empire… But they all end up the same way… Nailed to a cross so that the people can see what happens to the enemies of the empire.
But the Emperor needn’t be worried about this so-called King… He doesn’t seem up for the fight… 
We keep an eye on all these rabble rousing rabbis…We’ve got informers following all of them… reporting back what they say. With this one its all sorts of talk about loving your enemies and forgiving those who hurt you… Hardly the words of a revolutionary!  And his entrance there today bears that out… Not exactly a triumphal entry…
Now the Emperors… they know how to make an entrance… A golden chariot… Slaves captured in battle dragged along in chains… Soldiers in their parade ground best…
But this King… All he had was a bunch of northern fishermen, and some women and children… Singing old songs about salvation…
No… you mark my words… in a few days, weeks at the most, we’ll have forgotten about this guy and will have moved on to the next saviour…


Prayer:           
Lord Jesus Christ…
King of Kings and Prince of Peace
Forgive us where we forget that your Kingdom is not as the kingdoms of this world, where we follow the way of the world in seeking to overpower and dominate others to get our own way;
Forgive us where we cheer and celebrate when things are going our way, but forget that you call us to follow you along the way of sacrificial service;
Forgive us where we do not see or work for what makes for peace, the real peace that comes about through reconciliation with God and others,
The peace that you came to bring.
Hosanna! We are saved!
Blessed are you who came in the name of the Lord our God, AMEN.

Selah

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