Palm/Passion Sunday 2012, interestingly, fell on the same day that Myanmar conducted democratic elections. Like the triumphant entrance of Jesus just prior to the celebration of Passover, the election to parliament of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace prize winner in 1991, brought frenzied celebration and great hope.
We know that the swell of support for Jesus ebbed as his public ministry of teaching during the week we call holy put him in escalating conflict with religious and imperial authorities. Having “set his face” toward Jerusalem, he will risk all for the sake of fidelity to his calling to announce the inbreaking of God’s Reign, the renewal of covenant in a new form.
We have yet to see what Myanmar’s election will mean for the marginalized ethnic peoples of Suu Kyi’s land—and for “The Lady” herself. Under house arrest for the better part of 15 years, she has suffered for the sake of freedom. Believing that the military regime’s suppression extends the domination of colonialism, she has continued a steadfast campaign for liberative democracy in her beloved land. Her work is far from over. How much change will really ensue because of this election is speculative, at best.
Trusting that the “long arc of history bends toward justice,” in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., requires unflagging perseverance. Jesus well knew that riding into Jerusalem on a donkey still nursing her colt would hardly put fear into the imperial army approach from the other side of town. Waving palms hardly competes with swords and whips; shouts of “Hosanna” can easily be muffled by Roman chariots and the tramp of soldiers with clanging armor.
What is the role of suffering in bringing about a new reality? Jesus challenged all temporal loyalties, proclaiming that God’s Reign transcended any religious, political, or familial claim. The vision he offered of God—forgiving, inclusive, and concerned about “the least of these”—put him in conflict with his contemporaries whose lives were ordered by a different vision of God. And we know that by the end of the week those who had cheered his entry were baying for his blood. Suffering can be creative when undertaken for the sake of love and transformation, but it is suffering, nonetheless.
Suu Kyi’s willingness to voice opposition to subjugating leadership has been costly for her and her family. Not even when her husband was dying would she (with his support) relinquish her place within the country. Wisely she understand that transformation comes from within.
You may think it odd that I would compare the redemptive work of Jesus to a faithful Buddhist woman. As a Christian I believe that salvation comes through no other than Jesus; however, I believe he offers a paradigmatic witness to the larger world—to Gandhi and to Aung San Suu Kyi in their non-violent pursuit of justice. God does dwell in the midst of humanity and sustains every impulse toward human flourishing. Resurrection is not only about Jesus; it grants hope to all. As the old Roman liturgy puts it: “The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world.” In this, victory will be realized.
Molly T. Marshall
At Central we care about innovation, integrity, and imagination—key qualities for Christian leaders. To learn more about how our programs educate toward this outcome, continue visiting our website.