Joni Grace Powers
April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday is a bookend of high Holy Week, the pinnacle of the Christian calendar: a week that begins with triumph and celebration – ends will triumph and celebration. The days in between are quite the story. I want to speak today about we as lovers of God and our own journeys of Holy Week in this life.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. A crowd of people who had seen Jesus’ miracles gathered to celebrate the arrival. They called him King.
Distribution of palm branches crowd scattered in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem. Many communities now substitute with branches of native trees, Branch Sunday. Jesus rides in on a donkey, as a servant versus a king riding on a warhorse.
In my childhood:
I thought the palm we waved as we marched down the church aisle must be from Hawaii. They were certainly NOT from west Texas! Spent most of our time whacking each other.
The whole thing about finding and taking someone’s donkey, saying “the Lord has need of it”, leading it away. Cannot imagine that in west Texas. Saw a painting of Christ on a bucking blue donkey. Perhaps you’ve never considered that Jesus had this kind of ride through Jerusalem. I always imagined that the animal carrying Jesus did so with the decorum appropriate to his rider.
The week before Resurrection – triumphant entry to betrayal to crucifixion to resurrection. And I think some of my weeks are eventful!
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, the Scripture says He wept over the city. Jesus knew the fickleness of the crowd. He knew the scribes and Pharisees and officials saw him as a danger that had to be stopped. He knew the grief coming and the astonishing resurrection that would turn reality on its head.
The week plays out as a gathering storm.
A last meal with his disciples, a garden where the disciples slept instead of keeping guard, a betrayal by Judas, denials by Peter of even knowing Jesus, a trial, a crucifixion with his mother Mary weeping at the cross…and then…the tide turns with resurrection, with victory of life over death. A FIERCE REALITY.
We live the Holy Week every day our entire lives as God’s beloved, as people whose highest calling is to be fully human, to love God and others well.
We live in triumph and celebration and joy just as this Palm Sunday. We live communing over meals, saying hello and goodbye. We live through the indifference, trials and denials by others and by ourselves.
We live through death: physical death of those we love and of our own earthly bodies slowly, other death of dreams or security or safety or prosperity or relationship.
And we live into Resurrection being real both now and in the time that comes. That redemption happens over and over with every breath we take. In the kingdom happening now and later.
As they gathered for their last meal together, Christ commanded his followers: As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, the world will know you are mine: that you love one another. We ARE resurrection and redemption for the people in our worlds. An Irish saying for someone who you trust: You are the place I stand when my feet are sore.
What is it to follow Christ in loving well? It is a FIERCE REALITY. It is laying my own life down over and over for the lives of others. That may be laying it down in compassion or empathy, in mercy or forgiveness, in believing the best and in being hope when despair reigns. Loving well is always grace: the undeserved, unmerited favor God who loves us and we then in turn extend to others – undeserved and unmerited favor. And it always requires forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Mike Wallens asked in his Palm Sunday reflection:
What is Jesus to you? As He stands overlooking Jerusalem on this day, where does He stand in your life?
Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.