Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week following Palm Sunday
March 20, 2016
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9, RSV)
Sooty and black in February, they are better suited to a fireplace hearth than a repentant forehead … Fresh and a bit green in late March, with sharp edges that can slice a finger if you’re not careful, they are the preferred narthex weapon of little boys everywhere … dry and forgotten in December, for months they have been clipped to mirrors and car visors in cross shapes, to serve ironically as reminders of an Easter season that is now long forgotten … the palms of Palm Sunday.
This mixed bag of piety elicited by a Palm Sunday palm, is a perfect window through which we can view the Lenten season as a whole, and Holy Week specifically. For the season offers a landscape of liturgical and emotional variety. Darkness and repentance frame the season in the Ash Wednesday-Good Friday bookends, as we begin under the sign of dust and conclude with the death of Jesus and the burial tomb. In between we have six Sundays that while “in” Lent, are not “of” Lent, and which, while carrying a liturgical spirit of restraint, are still celebrations of the resurrection. Palm Sunday is its own manic mess with an opening palm party of Hosanna’s and “coming King” talk, that is then followed by the reading of the Passion story filled with betrayal, judgment and death. Maundy Thursday points us to the Last Supper and foot-washing, and Easter Vigil gives us a foretaste of the Easter feast to come. Are you feeling a bit liturgically schizophrenic? Well now add in birthdays and anniversaries from your family life, funerals and hospitalizations, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and the lost hour of sleep precipitated by the start of Daylight Saving Time. One wonders what kind of purpose can result from such a chaotic mess….
… and maybe that is just the point. Life is not neatly compartmentalized, is it? We cannot control all aspects of our lives, no matter how regimented and structured a chosen life-style may be. So this messy chaos of Lent and Holy Week, may be just what the doctor ordered. If God can fashion a modest little project like salvation for the human race out of this mess, then your chaotic life and mine should be child’s play. The big picture of life-giving grace that God offers doesn’t negate every bump and scratch of this world. It simply reminds us that they are part of life, and that in spite of them (and sometimes because of them) God gifts us the faith vision to see the world differently … to see grace and goodness where others see judgment and evil. My prayer for you this week is that the rhythm of Holy Week will offer you a liturgical window through which you view your world. Allow the highs and lows of Jesus’ last days on earth to interpret the highs and lows you experience in your life. Read Jesus’ words offered to a world that needed a bigger and broader view of the blessings and curses of life. And ponder how those very same words might help you interpret the good and the bad in your life. Consider attending Holy Week services later this week, and find both companionship for the journey, and a worship environment in which your struggles are addressed and honestly engaged. In short be a child of God, and look to the one who parents you with love, wisdom, and faithfulness.
God of Life, increase my faith in you, and graciously hear my prayer, that as I hold high these palm branches to hail Christ in his triumph, you may grow the fruit of faithful living in a world that is unfaithful at times. For I ask this in your most holy name. Amen.