Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year B, Liturgy of the Palms, Second Reading

Psalm 118:19-29
Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD . This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD , save us; O LORD , grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD . From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD , for he is good; his love endures forever.

Reflection on Psalm 118:19-29 by John Gibbs, PhD

Makers of lectionaries see connections (usually) between the texts that are read together on a particular day. This psalm shares a theme with Palm Sunday: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (111:22). No first century earthly ruler would prefer a donkey to a chariot for use on coronation day. Minor League player Israel would not be used in the Big Leagues. But the Builder of the universe saw things differently. The psalmist saw God already making Israel to be the "chief cornerstone" in God's building project.

What the powers that be regard as useless and nave turns out to be the "sine qua non," the absolutely essential component, of ordered dependable existence ("righteousness," 111:19-20). What really holds the world together is not struggling contesting powers (military, economic, psychological), but the truly "righteous" person whom Judaism prizes, or to put it another way, the person of true "humility" whose unassuming genuineness glues together what has been wrongly torn asunder.

Palm Sunday is a time to reflect on relations between power structures and the strength of genuine humility, between appearance and reality, between what is transitory and what endures. A major challenge for us in the 21st Century is to make the move from charisma to institution building without diminishing or losing the originating charisma. That is true of churches no less than political and other institutions.

Let the spirit of beggar Jesus on a donkey pervade corporate board rooms and government regulatory agencies and ecclesiastical bureaucracies until justice flows down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream-until what has been widely rejected becomes the chief cornerstone of new environmental safeguards, merciful social safety nets, and economic justice for all.

To Reflections on other Readings for the Liturgy of the Palms:
Palm Sunday Readings
Psalm 118:19-29
this page
Gospel Matthew 11:1-11a

John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2002. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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