Raising our Voices & Waving Our Sanitized Palms on Palm Sunday By Rev. Michael J. Crumpler

2020 April 6
by DoMC

Raising Our Voices and Waving Our Sanitized Palms on Palm Sunday
Rev. Michael J. Crumpler, Sabbatical Minister
First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn
April 5, 2010 

Tuesday, March 31st was International Transgender Day of Visibility when we celebrate transgender people around the globe and the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination trans people still face. 

I’m grateful for the many beautiful transgender, non-binary, and agender people in my life who show me every day what it means to own your truth in a binary world.

You show us your courage by calling us to respect your pronouns. Trusting that each one us has the capacity to unlearn the oppressions of the past.

You show us your courage when you call us away from curiosity and toward acceptance. Challenging us to respect your privacy as we would have ours respected.

You show us your courage when you show up to practice your faith in spaces that use faith to deny your existence. Pushing us beyond the limits of patriarchy towards the black trans feminine divinity who leaves no souls behind.

We love you, We see you, We are a better faith community because of you.

On Monday, March 30th the republican governor of Idaho, signed into law two bills that restrict the rights of transgender Idaho citizens. Idaho House Bill 500, requires transgender students to participate in athletics based only on their gender assigned at birth. Idaho House Bill 509, bars updates to birth certificates issued to transgender people. Worse than signing these bills into law on the eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility, is that Governor Brad Little has signed these bills into law amid a global pandemic, that threatens the survival of the most vulnerable, just as the activism of those who seek to protect them has been immobilized.

As we can see, while the Coronavirus has shut the entire nation…it has not shut down hate.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending an International Trans Day of Visibility virtual town hall where I got to hear the poet Xoai Pham (Swhy Pham), along with other trans artists and activists share about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted their community…and their organizing for survival.

In the interview that followed the reading of Girls, Xoai (swhy) attributed the poem to the resilience that lives in the DNA of generations of trans people…and the magic they possess in their bones….and as a challenge to all people to search deep inside themselves for something more expansive than they had imagined.

Let me repeat that:

Girls is a challenge to all people to search deep inside themselves for something more expansive than they had imagined.

I felt that when I heard the words…

In the beginning there was us.

In the end, here we are. Here I am,

made of the same stuff

as my grandmother. And her grandmother.

And the mushrooms that sprouted before her.

Lift your head, close your eyes,

do you hear yourself


This is the resilience of Holy Week!

But before we move so quickly into resilience, which more appropriately will be addressed on Easter, let us take a moment to appreciate where we are today, on Palm Sunday. The day when the prophet Jesus, entered the gates of Jerusalem on a donkey borrowed from a stranger. A day where under ordinary circumstances people of faith would be waving palm branches in churches all around the world.

But instead, today here we sit, not in churches waving palms, but in our homes with just our palms…perhaps sweaty, or clasped, and no doubt clean…obsessively so, not waving palms branches…but only waving our sanitized palms at a friend in another Zoom window.

Two millennia ago the people of Jerusalem were in circumstances not very different than ours. No, they were not in their homes on Palm Sunday, there was no Coronavirus pandemic in 30 A.D….and certainly no Zoom teleconference, bless their souls. But there was political power married to religious hegemony. There were those with privilege and power….and those who were victims of privilege and power, struggling to survive.

There were those living with legislation and taxation on their side…and those whose lives were put at risk by legislation and taxation. There were those whose property and well-beings were irrevocable…and those whose lives were destined to never have any value or dignity or worth, not matter how strong the economy. There were those whose wealth would be wiped out after just one war, one plague, or one pandemic; and those whose wealth and privilege and power would be compounded by wars, plagues, and pandemics.

On the Day that the prophet Jesus borrowed a donkey from a stranger, and processed into Jerusalem’s eastern gate…there was another parade happening on the other side of town, led Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, entering through the western gate….with a much greater procession. On the one side a poor and powerless peasant on a donkey, borrowed from a stranger…on the other side a governor backed by all the prestige and power and might of the Roman Empire.

 Ultimately, these processions would collide, not literally but figuratively, resulting the the murder of a donkey peasant.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of this existential collision.

What does it mean to be confined to our homes on Palm Sunday…with only the palm of our sterile hands to wave at one another? What does it mean for the faithful to be confined to our homes at the beginning of Holy Week?….many without a job, many without food, many without a paycheck, many without healthcare….separated from friends, family, lovers, and acquaintances. Citizens of the wealthiest nation in the history of the world…yet unable to access the wealth that was born on our backs…that could keep us from dying…Such was the fate of those waving their palms at the eastern gate of Jerusalem. 

I would argue that they were not waving to coronate a messiah, but to dismantle a system posturing itself on the opposite side of the city. A system content with the death of many, for the sake of preserving wealth and power in the hands of the few. Which is precisely why the Pharisees in the crowd begged Jesus to order his disciples to stop. It was not a command based in theological dissent…but on existential survival. 

They were not so concerned about Jesus claiming to be god, but rather they were horrified that the praises of the people would be interpreted as Jesus proclaiming to be Caesar!…usurping imperial authority…..to dismantle systems of domination…..which was exactly what he was doing.

This is the spirit of Palm Sunday, the disruption of oppression. 

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