In the Throng

Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
– Psalm 118: 25-26a

Festival season. Who needs it?
The city packed with visitors
(Okay, the vintners and the innkeepers: they need it).
Just throngs of throngs of throngs.

The throngs are noisy, just not quite
this noisy. What’s amiss?
They’re piling up along the road
from Bethany toward the Temple gate.

Good heavens. Now the trees are waving
as they strip the branches down,
to lay them in the road. I see
the hues of cloaks and coats as well.

“Hosanna! Save us!” now they shout,
a cry both pious, quoting of the psalm,
and eminently timely in these times.
“Blessed is the one who comes!” – but who?

Oh, dear. This doesn’t look so great.
No horse. No guards. No retinue.
A dusty teacher on a colt,
escorted by rough peasants.

A glance to one side or the next
reveals that not all shout or celebrate.
The priests, the guards, the noble ones:
They watch with faces set and grim.

And I would make my way away
from this, for I have things to do
that will not muddle me in symbols
of revolt, of pitiful defiance,

Yet the throng still presses, holding me
in place to watch the colt’s slow steps,
to listen as they shout, “Hosanna,” and
to wonder if such saving could arrive.

I fear, however, that the only route
from this display leads not into a royal seat,
but to the tender mercies of
a Roman governor.

Such mercies are not tender, no.
Such mercies lead beyond the Temple’s court
to where the hill is crowned too oft
with human figures writhing on a cross.

I watch the colt-borne teacher ride away,
followed by the throng, releasing me
to find my path again. My road will be
much easier than his.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 11:1-11, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Sixth Sunday in Lent, Liturgy of the Palms. 

The image is Einzug Christi in Jerusalem by Wilhelm Morgner – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=155912.

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