“Pomp and Circumstance – Not!”
March 25, 2018 – Palm Sunday – Year B
Many of you have attended the PNE or Expo 86 or other large gathering of people. There is something about the hoards of people crashing in around you that leaves you feeling off base. Such was the scene 2000 years ago in Jerusalem during the Passover. Thousands and thousands of people were entering the Holy City from every entrance way possible. The Passover was a big deal. It was a “must go to” event for the Jewish people. And so, Jesus and his entourage headed into Jerusalem so that they too could share in that sacred feast.
Imagine a roadway lined with people craning their necks to get a look at the sights. You spot a man on the back of a donkey. You look again. What a peculiar sight! There are a group of about a dozen men and some women huddled around this man on a donkey. Is he the promised King? Surely not! Not riding on a donkey. He would be riding on a magnificent steed. Surely! But the folk around you are shouting “Hosanna! God save the King! Hosanna! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Now – you have to admit – this stranger has your attention. Is he the one prophesied by Zechariah? Remember what Zechariah said: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Yes, this stranger certainly fits the profile.
But why such a public demonstration. Jesus is this quiet, private prophet and healer. He is not one for show and pageantry. The Jesus on the back of a donkey seems to be drawing attention to himself. It is as if he is the Parade Marshall. And talk about excitement amongst the crowd.
Instead of balloons tied around the arms of the crowd, they strip branches off of the trees and shrubs and spread cloaks on the ground. A century and a half before, when Judas Maccabeus delivered Jerusalem from the Greeks, the people waved palm branches. That is what is done for a king. Hosanna! Save Now! O God – break in now and save God’s people now that the Messiah has arrived!
We are entering into Jerusalem with Jesus. I can’t speak for you, but I really don’t want to go. You see, I know the rest of the story. I know that Jesus will come and visit Simon at Bethany and will have his feet anointed with costly oil. I know that Jesus and the disciples will go to a guest room and will share the Passover meal. I know that Jesus will go to the Mount of Olives and will pray, but his friends will all drift off to sleep. I know that Judas will betray his friend. I know that Peter will deny knowing Jesus. I Know that Jesus will appear before Pilate and he will be condemned to death. I know that we will gather again on Friday morning and we will sing and tell the story of Good Friday. This is a week that is heavy. We are called upon to feel. We are called upon to enter deeply into the Holy week experience. We do ourselves a disservice if we skip to Easter Sunday, without going through Holy Week.
Why? You ask. To not enter into the fullness of Holy Week cuts us off from the depth of the spiritual experience that is crucifixion and resurrection. It is the core of our faith. So, to walk the Palm parade prepares us to open our heart and spirit to the fullness of God’s drama. It is a holy mystery, to be sure. But, God walks hand in hand with us. It is a time when prayers seem more intense. Our openness to the everyday miracles seems heightened. And the profoundness of life is sharper.
I invite you to utilize this upcoming week to deeply feed your spiritual senses. Pray daily. Take time to contemplate the faith story. It is identified in our order of service. Go to your Bibles and open to the Gospel of Mark and read chapters 14 and 15. If you don’t have a Bible, there are copies of the reading on the welcome table. Read it in full each day this week. Then, when we gather on Good Friday you will be well prepared to experience the depth of Christ’s love for us. And next Sunday – Oh my, what a celebration we will have! Amen.