A Sunday of Palms

Reflections on Holy Week

I had finished the morning chores, made coffee, eaten breakfast. I had the timing down. I would be about ten minutes early, time enough to settle down, pray, and reflect. I took a quick glance outside before I dressed, only to see Hilda with her new twin lambs outside my door. Exit, stage right. By the time I’d put the flock in the barn, those extra ten minutes were history.

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I arrived as the bell chimed. I beat the processional by seconds and found a pew. Palm Sunday had begun. You simply can’t beat a liturgical church during Holy Week. Mine is a small country parish, the oldest Episcopal parish in Maryland. My ancestors worshiped here. Some were even priests here. That I’ve been able to come back after a four year absence is a testimony to the quality of the people I worship with, many who’ve known me since I was a boy. It’s not been an easy path back.

We have a new interim rector, Rev. Mariann. Today’s homily was a work of art, a reminder of the fickleness of the human heart. The morning “Hosannas” are soon drowned by “Crucify Him.” The acknowledgment that the Savior we want is often different from the Savor we get. And that’s the sticking point.

The Jews of the first century were pretty sure what their Messiah would look like. He would be a political liberator, kicking the Romans out and restoring the Davidic kingdom. This was the fever-pitch anticipation of the crowd as they waved palm branches and laid their cloaks on the path before His donkey.

But there was a problem. Instead of an army following Him into Jerusalem, there was this rag-tag band of misfits – fishermen, tax collectors, zealots; and women – some of means, others of questionable reputation. Not a following that would have given the impression of an insurrection. In fact, the procession into Jerusalem failed to make the notice of the occupying Romans.

So, what kind of a Messiah was this if he was not going to fulfill the expectations of his followers? Within a week, some of these same people who’d declared Jesus their Messiah would be calling for his execution. Many others would simply be bewildered at the strange turn of events. No one realized what was taking place in real time.

“The God who suffers with us.” More than a political liberator, a revolutionary, a road to success guru, God offers us a Messiah of suffering to meet us in our suffering and identify with us. It is in the Garden of Anticipation that Christ agonizes with his Father’s will and embraces the suffering of redemption. Many times, the only way out is through.

The joy of the Resurrection can only be experienced after the agony of the Cross. I lingered longer today. Spoke to many friends I’d not seen for a while. My Palm Sunday. A day of welcoming, acceptance, and understanding. A day to reflect that you can be broken and humbled by life’s circumstances; that God will meet us in our suffering if we allow him; that you can go back, changed.

+Amen