STLT#260, Oshana, Shira Oshana

Good news, everyone!

After a week of wreaking havoc in the house, the little squirrel finally found his way into the have-a-heart trap where he enjoyed a feast of peanuts and peanut butter around 5:30am… and then found himself dining al fresco as we moved the trap outside. It’s quiet in the house now. We will rest better knowing the critter won’t be climbing the drapes and scurrying across our bodies as we sleep.


So now, on to our hymn – a fun-to-sing chant from the Jewish tradition, composer unknown (as many of these little chants are). It’s a refreshing change from all of the Christmas songs – not that some of them weren’t amazing, but it was a long month, and I’m glad to moving on to Holy Week.

With a little Jewish chant.

Oshana, shira oshana!
Oshana, shira oshana!
Oshana, shira oshana!
Oshana ha navi hava vshem Adonai.

So why is this listed under Palm Sunday?

It helps to know that in English, it’s “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” which is from Psalm 118:26 and is directly referenced in Mark 11:9, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem, a move I find wildly interesting.

Now this next bit has very little to do with the song, but I rather like this part of the narrative. Here’s how I explained it to the congregation this past Palm Sunday:

Here’s this man, from a faithful Jewish family, who’s got an incredibly radical and inspirational message. He has gathered people around him to learn, and to help him preach his message and share his story. He reveals in what we call miracles the healing power of love, compassion, and hope. But because he’s telling the establishment – which is simultaneously church and state – that they’re missing the point of their own faith, and because this radical spiritual message is a radical political message too, his ministry is becoming a bit of a problem for the establishment.

 Who live, work, and rule in Jerusalem.

So here’s this guy, with all these pieces – a message and a call he can’t deny, all of these lives he’s changed, all of these people following him, this sense of destiny, an angry government breathing down his neck, and he’s probably wondering why he didn’t just stay quiet and do whatever it was he was doing before he met John the Baptist.

I can tell you, no matter who you are, ministers have moments wondering why they ever answered the call. And then we remember that we could do no other.

 Anyway… while the gospels paint Jesus as this all-knowing deity, what I think is more likely true is that he arrived at this moment, with all these pieces, and yet having this vision of bringing truth, hope, healing, and love to all of “his” people. And so, he put them in motion, and played the game out in his head a bit.

In the days and weeks prior to this moment, Jesus starts playing eleventh-dimensional chess: He’s still teaching, to be sure, and we are getting some of the more political parables, like the workers in the vineyard who all get equal payment because God’s love is available to all, like the rich man who is told it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. And we also get hints from Jesus that he is seeing the costs of his ministry, that he might die, that it could be hard for him and for his closest followers.

He sees the whole board – how the moving of one piece will cause another piece to move, and another, and another.  He may not know exactly what will happen next, or what piece will react more aggressively, or what the surprise moves might be.

He may not know exactly how, but he knows he must move the first piece.

In this case, it’s saying “I have an idea! Let’s observe Passover in Jerusalem.”

Now some might argue the whole ‘riding in on a donkey’ thing was a storytelling device to connect Jesus to the prophesy of Isaiah. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus was schooled enough as a faithful Jewish man to know that the iconic image of his riding in on a donkey would make some people cheer and others uncomfortable.

And so he does, riding in with people in celebration mobbing the streets to see him, and singing a first century version of “oshana! Shira oshana!” Jesus plays the crowd a bit, cheering them on, which provokes his opponents’ next move.

Eleventh-dimensional chess indeed.

Anyway. This is a sweet, fun chant to start off Holy Week.

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