Rose Parade Jesus

We went to the Rose Parade this year.  It was fascinating.

Thousands of people camp out over night (some of them for several nights) on the sidewalks and medians of Colorado Blvd in anticipation of this internationally known parade.  As you can imagine, things get pretty crazy. When that many people pile into such a small area, humanity shows up thickly in all of its grit and beauty.

We found a good spot on a curb near the boulevard where a little kid was shooting a campfire with silly string.  Besides what I’m pretty sure was toxic fumes from burning aerosol, we were pretty lucky to get our spot.  People around us were kind and open, each of them excited to be connected with the event.  The silly-string kid dissapeared into the crowd at one point, only to reappear clutching several $1,000,000 bill gospel tracts half the size of his body.  He passed the bills out to the people in his family and I quickly tracked down the tract-bearer to score a few bills for us sit on; our curb was caked with pre-parade revelry.  The bills shared their good news of judgment and forgiveness in small, now smudged, print.

Both reflecting, and sitting, on these tracts, I caught a glimpse of a sign making its way down the street.  It proclaimed “Escape Hell, Believe Jesus.” The sign holder cradled the bottom of his handle safely in a holster on his belt, which I  would discover throughout the day was common for these gospel-sign carriers.  I wondered how many people actually turned from their hellbent lives because of signs like these.

As more and more of the sign carriers preceded the parade, I stood up to get a better view.  Surrounded by a conglomeration of people from all over the world, I caught the remark of a native, aboriginal Australian next to me. “So, Jesus is a commodity,” he said, half to himself.  I laughed in agreement, thinking about the implications of his comment.

I wanted to talk more with him, but the midst of a throng is hardly a place for discussion.  I sipped at a  lime Powerade-Zero and, even though I don’t normally like lime, it turned out to be quite tasty.  People continued to show up, pushing toward the front of the crowd, continuously edging their way around us.  One guy was particularly pushy, invading our area with a smug sense of entitlement, eventually making a place for his entourage in front of us where there was no space.  He probably descended from some great pioneer.

Laughing quietly to myself, I looked up and beheld the face of Jesus; a float sporting a giant Bible inscribed with Jesus’ picture moved down the parade route.  While only some people cheered, they cheered loudly.  I started to wonder again if anyone turned to God because of Christian displays like that.

The guy who pushed past us turned to his friends and began telling them about the church he was in the process of planting.

What a pioneer.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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