The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival
heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
So they took branches of palm trees and
went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel!”
Palm Sunday has always held a wonderful place in my heart. It conjures up the sights and sounds of memories and traditions I hold dear – children processing, palms waving, choirs singing hosannas. Like many of you, I have enjoyed making little crosses out of the palms. It is a familiar and cherished moment of the festival seasons of the Church of Jesus Christ. Our congregations show renewed signs of life – as the “saints” prepare their hearts in worship for the events that follow in the week ahead. Palm Sunday beckons us to follow the “great crowd” – as the crowd follows the man on the donkey.
As Jesus enters the gates of the city of Jerusalem, we also are invited to meet him. We are invited to sing, “Hosanna,” as he makes his way through the city streets on a donkey, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. We are invited to be swept away by the energy of renewed hope and possibilities that God has for each of us in the One who “comes in the name of the Lord.”
And yet, Palm Sunday in all its grandeur also invites us to embark on a complex discipleship journey. The celebration energy shifts as we all-too-soon find ourselves in a labyrinth that leads us through a series of dark nights. As we cross the city gates, the sounds of hosannas will too-quickly give way to more sinister images and sounds. The hosannas are too-quickly replaced by the whispers and sounds of suspicion, distrust, and conspiracy. The light of day too-quickly gives way to shadows that seem to get darker with every passing sunset until ,at last, betrayal, denial, and the sounds of hammered nails echo uncontrollably in our ears, hearts, and minds.
This painful complexity of the journey makes Palm Sunday that much more meaningful for us as a people of faith. As we are once again beckoned to follow Jesus through the city streets, it is a moment to acknowledge that our Lord is indeed before us – even in the shadows of our lives. It is an opportunity to lift up our voices in acknowledgment that our God has been faithful throughout human history – even when we do not ‘see’ that faithfulness with our human eyes. It is a reminder that even two thousand years later, those who come in the name of the Lord are indeed blessed – even if that blessing is often hard to discern.
May this joyful entry into our often-confused and complex walk to the cross be filled with Christ-like courage – a courage that shapes how we do ministry in this time and place; a courage that reflects our awareness that neither the shadows nor the whispers in the darkness will ultimately have the final say in our lives. May our voices continue to triumphantly sing with boldness and conviction – Hosanna – “God Save Us!” – blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.