Tomorrow is Palm Sunday (one of my favorite church days) but since there are no Lenten blogs on Sundays, I’m going to sort of bend my rule of writing about the current day’s discovery. Hope that’s ok with ya’ll! =)
Palm Sunday is a unique and interesting day in the church year. It’s a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where people were throwing him a spontaneous parade. They believed they were welcoming a revolutionary hero who would lead them out from under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire and into national independence. They threw their coats along the road and shouted “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!” while children waved palm branches as he passed by – riding on a young donkey, no less. Can’t you just picture it? It must have been quite a spectacle!
In commemmoration of that day, every year we have some sort of palm branches for kids to wave as they process around the sanctuary until they finally lay the branches at the base of the communion table. We’ve had all sorts of “palms”, usually donated from someone’s yard or sometimes ordered from a florist. There was one year where the branches were huge and the kids kept poking themselves with the spiny thorns….followed by the infamous year of the plastic palms….but no matter what form they may take, you can always count on there being waving palms of some sort on Palm Sunday! In fact, just today the church was bedecked with beautiful, huge slender palm branches on the comumns that line the sanctuary as well as the outside courtyard in anticipation of tomorrow’s celebration. So beautiful!
But the reason I’m so taken with the celebration of this long-ago event in the church today is because……we know the rest of the story – what happened when the parade was over. And it wasn’t at all what the crowd expected that day. In fact….immediately following the parade where Jesus was being lauded as the clear hero of the Jews, everything went terribly, terribly wrong. They didn’t know it at parade time, of course. But we know the whole story now….and still we celebrate with “Hosanna”s and palm branches. Have you ever wondered why? I have…..
And this is what I’ve come up with – why I love the celebration of Palm Sunday, even knowing that it kicked off a horrible week of preparation and suffering for Jesus – a week that would eventually find him hanging and ultimately dying on a wooden cross.
I see Palm Sunday as a celebration of……sacrifice. I know that’s crossing into Easter territory, but I think this day deserves special attention because it’s pre-resurrection! Jesus’ entire life of ministry was that of sacrifice. From the time he was baptized, spent his 40 days in the desert, did his first miracle, called his disciples and led them on a journey of transformation….(whew!)….until this singular, short parade of celebration, Jesus poured himself into humanity. He gave up all that was safe and known – and every security was abandoned to fulfill this mission from God. And the whole time…….he knew how it would end. He knew how he would end. And yet he faced each new day with determination and grace to fulfill his destiny. Wow……I can’t even conprehend that kind of faith and pure….love.
So tomorrow when children wave fresh palm branches as they process about the sanctuary and we sing our “Hosanna”s, my praise will be ripe with the knowledge of Jesus’ sacrifice, not just 2000 years ago, but this mysterious sacrifice that stretches out across time to reach even me. And that, my friends, is totally praise-worthy!
Can I get a “Hosanna!”? =)