I have heard and read the story of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem from Luke’s gospel dozens of times. The story has deep roots in my brain extending back to my childhood. This past Sunday in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, I joined a sea of people for whom the story is not just in their minds, but also implanted in their bodies.Thousands of us processed on fennel-strewn streets surrounded by doors and windows decorated with flowers and ribbons. Garlands of palms arched from one side of the cobblestone streets to the other. A drum and bugle corp played a triumphal march but also the foreboding notes I associate with an impending execution.
We waved elaborately woven palms and paraded behind crosses, statues, and banners to the center of town and the spectacular parish church called the Parroquia San Miguel Arcangel. Processing together through the narrow streets of San Miguel was a visceral and sensory experience of communal worship. So many legs, feet, arms, ears, eyes, and faces collected to form this big moving Body of Christ.
As recently as a couple of decades ago, my reserved Protestant leanings would have made me think this parade was childish, maybe even idolatrous. What educated person needs colorful symbols and pageantry to exercise their faith? But being a part of the colorful Palm Sunday mob felt almost like an act of surrender—a giving up of my low threshold of embarrassment and an unlocking of the maximum security cell where I keep any display of religious zeal. As I grow older I don’t want my worship to be just an intellectual exercise in beautiful words and correct theology, I want my whole body to celebrate and experience the story of God’s saving work in the world.