The Null Set

palm sunday imageSix days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home
of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead…

When the great crowd of the Judeans  learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Judeans were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
12The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — 
the King of Israel!”
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

Save us!

That’s what “Hosanna!” means you know.

God save the null set.

The world was going after Jesus, that’s what they said.  Didn’t John Lennon boast the Beatles were even more popular than Jesus?  I bet it didn’t seem like that to the Pharisees.

God save the ones who didn’t come.  

Somewhere  a woman stayed home with her aging and infirm mother, or a sick child.

Somewhere a man born blind sat on the corner, begging someone to tell him what the fuss was.

Somewhere a Roman legion settled into barracks in the Antonia Fortress, tired from a long march from Caeserea Maritima, tired from parading the strength of Rome through the gates of Jerusalem lest anyone rise up during the Freedom Festival and pray for God to liberate Israel again.   legion

Somewhere a man threw a wedding banquet for his son, and wondered why the invited guests did not come.  They were at the parade.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Antonia Fortress, shackled prisoners could not come, and waited in dread for the arrival of the Procurator and the finality of his sentencing.


Somewhere in the fields, slaves could not come in, yet low they sang their hosannas, a silent null set.

Somewhere the hungry were in line because someone said there was food, and they did not come for fear of losing their place if they broke line, and having nothing when they returned.


Somewhere a young man wearied of his load, the sick one laid across his back, wearied of trying to make his way through the crowd, and knelt down, knowing his last chance for a miracle closed around him in the crowd.

african palm sunday

God save the nobodies who could not come, because all the somebodies were lining the streets with palm branches and their palms stretching hosannas skyward.

God save the null set, the nobodies who remained to claim Jesus, Son of Joseph,  who taught them to pray to the Father, while the crowds shouted for Jesus, Son of Abbas, the Father.  The Other Father.

God save the null set, the do nothings who stand aside neither confirming or denying, the politicians who shrewdly calculate when to do something so that it will cost them nothing or less, the ones who know the price of everything , whether it’s ointment for the feet, or the price on the head of a friend.

God save the null set, those of us who were untimely born and wait long after the street sweeper has cleaned up the mess.

God save the null set, as we raise our palms skyward from way beyond the crowds, and pray:   God save us too.

hands in the crowd


Blessed is He .

Blessed might we Be.


palms sunday 2





About Pastor Betsy Williams

I am a mom. And a wife. And a Friend. And a homeowner. And a dog ...uh....owner? Actually make that two dogs. Two kids. One husband. I'm an ELCA Lutheran pastor of a beautiful downtown church. I am the third senior pastor in a century, so my 10-12 years here may feel like an interim to some of the folks here. Recently I have had no spare time. In my spare time in the future, my imagination inhabits a novel I am writing, The Funeral Preacher. My primary blog is a personal reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary...mostly: "Not All Who Wander are Lost." A few years ago I was on a team of writers who produced a little book for Augsburg Fortress in the Washed and Welcome series called "Living the Promises." It's 101 ideas for helping parents and godparents nurture their children in the faith of their baptism. I am developing another blog, more about worship at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Newark, Ohio and including a summary of the past week's preaching. Otherwise, I imagine myself to be a musician, liturgical artist, cook in a five star restaurant where the patrons keep ordering chicken nuggets, but never a bottle washer. I know how to delegate and share.
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