March 29 – An Unsettling Hosanna

March 29 – An Unsettling Hosanna

An Unsettling Hosanna

As a kid I loved going to parades. Or rather, I loved being in parades…

There are pictures of me my sister, and some of our neighbor friends parading around the cul-de-sac as toddlers, playing our little toy drums. It would be a precursor to the many parades I would be in as a member of the marching band in high school and college.

I remember being on vacation at Disney world and getting to a spot on the street an hour before hand so that we would have prime viewing for when all our favorite characters came marching down main street dressed in their Christmas costumes.

My dad tells stories of another parade. One we went to in downtown Baltimore when I wasn’t even three years old yet, to celebrate our Orioles winning the World Series.

We throw parades for presidents, and before football games. We enjoy watching them on tv and from the curb gathered with neighbors. Parades draw us together as communities around causes we care about, or just for the pure joy of watching a young childs face the first time they see a giant balloon float down the street.

But not all parades are positive ones. Sometimes hate groups march in parades as well. My friend, David LaMotte, an international rotary peace scholar, and singer songwriter, tells a story of two parades taking place at the same time together in 2007.


The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be

In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee

A dozen men put on their suits and quickly took their places

In white robes and those tall and pointed hoods that hid their faces



Their feet fell down in rhythm as they started their parade

They raised their fists into the air, they bellowed and they brayed

They loved to stir the people up, they loved when they were taunted

They didn’t mind the anger, it’s exactly what they wanted



As they came around the corner, sure enough the people roared

But they couldn’t quite believe their ears, it seemed to be support!

Had Knoxville finally seen the light? Were people coming ‘round?

The men thought for a moment that they’d found their kind of town



But then they turned their eyes to where the cheering had its source

As one their shoulders crumpled when they saw the mighty force

The crowd had painted faces and some had tacky clothes

Their hair and hats outrageous, each had a bright red nose



The clowns had come in numbers to enjoy the grand parade

They laughed and danced that other clowns had come to town that day

And then the marchers shouted, and the clowns all strained to hear

Each one tuned in intently with a hand cupped to an ear



“White power!” screamed the marchers, and they raised their fisted hands

The clowns leaned in and listened like they couldn’t understand

Then one held up his finger and helped all the others see

The point of all this yelling, and they joined right in with glee



“White flour!” the clowns shouted, and they reached inside their clothes

They pulled out bags and tore them and huge clouds of powder rose

They poured it on each other and they threw it in the air

It got all over baggy clothes and multi-colored hair



Now all but just a few of them were joining in the jokes

You could almost see the marchers turning red beneath white cloaks

They wanted to look scary! They wanted to look tough!

One rushed right at the clowns in rage and was hauled away in cuffs



But the others chanted louder, marching on around the bend

The clowns all marched on too, of course, supporting their new friends

“White power!” came the marchers’ cry, they were not amused

The clowns grew still and thoughtful—well, perhaps they’d been confused…?



They huddled and consulted, this bright and silly crowd

They listened quite intently, then one said “I’ve got it now!”

“White flowers!” screamed the happy clown, and all the rest joined in

The air was filled with flowers, and they laughed and danced again



“Everyone loves flowers, and white’s a pretty sort

I can’t think of a better cause for people to support!”

Green flower stems went flying like small arrows from bad archers

White petals covered everything, including the mad marchers


And then a very tall clown called the others to attention

He choked down all his chuckles and said “Friends I have to mention

That what with all this mirth and fun it’s sort of hard to hear

But now I know the cause that these paraders hold so dear!”



“Tight showers!” the clown blurted, as he hit his head in wonder

He held up a camp shower and the others all got under

Or at least they tried to get beneath, they strained but couldn’t quite

There wasn’t room for all of them, they pushed, but it was tight!



“White Power!” came the mad refrain, quite carefully pronounced

The clowns consulted once again, then a woman clown announced

“I’ve got it! I’m embarrassed that it took so long to see,

But what these marchers march for is a cause quite dear to me!”



“Wife power!” she exclaimed, and all the other clowns joined in

They shook their heads and laughed at how erroneous they’d been

The women clowns were hoisted up on shoulders of the others

Some pulled on wedding dresses, chanting “Here’s to wives and mothers!”



The men in robes were sullen, they knew they’d been defeated

They yelled a few more times and then they finally retreated

And when they’d gone a kind policeman turned to all the clowns

And offered them an escort through the center of the town



The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be

In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee

People joined the new parade, the crowd stretched out for miles

The clowns passed out more flowers and made everybody smile



And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?

Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?

Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use!

So here’s to those who march on in their big red floppy shoes![1]


Jesus didn’t have on big red floppy shoes, but to those expecting a triumphant entry, by a powerful king, when Jesus comes riding into town on a donkey, probably looked at him the same funny way.

But for all those funny, unsettled, looks he got riding the donkey into town, I can’t imagine the look on his followers face, or those money changers in the temple when Jesus, as his first action in that holy city Jerusalem, started flipping over tables.

How unsettling it must have been, to see their friend and teacher in a blind rage. Yet, some of them must have seen it coming. They knew the status quo couldn’t stay the same. So maybe, even though they knew he would come in and start changing everything… even though they knew he was coming into the city in order to die… even though they had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, it had. Yet as he rode that donkey into the city, they still shouted. Hosanna! They shouted “Hosanna!” because they know that Jesus will provide them with a future through salvation.

We shout “Hosanna” because there is still much we need to be saved from. We need to be saved from tragedies far from our borders where a pilot purposefully crashes a plane. From kids who find a gun in the house and then shoot one another, and then themselves, over an argument about food. From state legislatures that pass laws in the name of “religious freedom” so that intolerance and hatred can become the law of the land. From those who would write letters to Presbyterian churches threatening to burn them to the ground because they do not agree with how we interpret scripture.

We have so many things we need to continue to be saved from, least among them ourselves. Our drive for power, for perfection, for our dreams of being the Messiah that can save the world from all her problems.

But before they were shouting Hosanna, before we shout Hosanna, there had to be a donkey, there has to be a donkey. That very thing that starts to overturn, to unsettle all of our previously help perceptions and notions. Of all the ways we think things will happen.

Earlier this week Maren Tirabassi shared this beautiful poem on Facebook:

First, untie the donkey

the one that’s standing at the gate

waiting to be untied –


from some sorrow

or some guilt,

from somebody else’s judgment —

too young for the ride

or too old,


too much ink on the skin,

parkinsons in the hands,

pregnant in the belly.


First, untie the donkey,

the one that’s standing at the gate

waiting to be untied –


from some abusive relationship

or some really intricate

self-made knots,

because what binds

always pretends to be a blessing.


This is just the donkey God wants

for the ride –


this burro with no documents,

or others not-yet-ridden

because they are —

gender-outside, recovery-thin,


So, first untie the donkey –

this one —


the one who needs a parade,

the one willing to carry 
both joy

and the premonition of cross,

the one embracing

a day of song and danger,

fetlock deep in palms,

and a life

that will echo, Hosanna.[2]

Because we have been called by the one who did some unsettling. Who rode a donkey instead of a royal steed. Who overturned the tables, while preparing to set the table where all are welcome.

We continue to be called to join the parade, the one that unsettles the world around us, as we help in the building of, even while we wait with urgency to see, the kingdom of God, and God’s love shown for all.

To that, might we shout too, Hosanna – and Amen.



[1] White Flour by David LaMotte

[2] Accessed on Maren Tirabassi’s Facebook page, March 27th, 2015.