Holy Week: Palm Sunday

“Hosanna, praises to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Eternal One! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21

Amid enthusiastic crowds and waving palms, Jesus entered Jerusalem on that Sunday and changed his life – and our lives – forever.  Once he crossed the divide from outside the city wall and entered the gate to busy city streets, there was no turning back.

His journey would take him to betrayal, anger, false accusations, wild gossip, loneliness, despair, doubt, and pain.  It was a difficult, overwhelming path. It’s astonishing that he chose to go on that journey.  It’s one more sign of his unrelenting love for us.

One mystery that our faith celebrates is that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.  He could have skipped this hard part; he could have silenced his accusers and destroyed his enemies. He could have called on his divine powers to release him from the need to go through the upcoming agony. Instead, he chose to immerse himself in the very human encounter with loss, pain, and even death. He knew that each one of us will experience these in our lives and he didn’t want us to be alone when we did.

If you are on a difficult path right now, or if you know someone who is, the story of Palm Sunday is for you.  There is great hope here. When Jesus decided to walk on that brutal path toward the Cross, he was choosing to know what it is like to be vulnerable, overwhelmed, and scared – to be human.

When we lift up our prayers in the midst of pain and loss, confusion and betrayal, we are talking to someone who has experienced those very human conditions himself. Whether we are excluded because of who we are, what we look like, or who we love, we can turn to One who has been on this journey before us.

This can offer us hope and maybe the strength to carry on. Life can be brutally painful at times. It is easy to be disheartened and wonder where God might be at this particular, overwhelming moment. Palm Sunday reminds us – God is on this path with us.  When we talk with God – even through gritted teeth, unsure if our prayers will make any difference – we are talking to One who knows. Who understands. Who has been here.

“Hosanna!” means “save us!”  Those prayers for strength, wisdom and endurance are lifted up to God who has promised never to leave us or abandon us.  The message of Palm Sunday is one of hope.  We are not alone.  Let us lift up our voices and sing our praises to God.

 

What does resurrection look like?

In less than three weeks Christians will celebrate Easter, the day that defines the heart of the Good News of hope and new life.  But what does resurrection mean?  And how would we recognize it today?

Early on Easter morning, people across the globe will gather on hilltops, by lakes, ponds, and ocean, and in graveyards and look East to catch the first glimpse of the rising sun.  We will remember that “Early in the morning on that first day, before the sun had risen, the women went to the tomb.”  Those lonely witnesses went to mourn their loss and stand in the solidarity of their grief following Jesus’ death.

However – the story tells us –  Good News interrupted them.  The tomb was empty.  Jesus was no longer dead, but alive!  The long night of sorrow and loss was over. The dawning light invited them to experience hope.

On Easter morning, we will celebrate that long-ago event. But because we believe that God is still speaking, we will also wonder – what is this God of new life doing right now? Where do we experience Easter hope today?

I celebrate glimpses of resurrection in these lives:

  • The woman who is weeks away from retirement after a satisfying nursing career. Leaving the familiar routine behind is both frightening and exhilarating. The future holds yet unknown possibilities. Resurrection includes exploration and discovery.
  • The special education teacher who was brutally attacked by her young adult student. Instead of living with the fear she experiences whenever she re-enters the school, she is leaving her much-loved profession and venturing into self-employment. There is cautious optimism amidst the sorrow. Easter recognizes loss while affirming new life.
  • The grieving widower who can barely get out of bed in the morning. His sorrow feels like a weighted blanket that surrounds him with unrelenting pain. Yet I witness the tender love of his family and friends who gently remind him he is not alone and I hold out hope for him to find his way forward. Jesus’ wounds were visible on Easter. He was forever marked by pain, yet still filled with the renewing Spirit.
  • The man diagnosed with a terminal illness. Knowing there is no cure, he is determined to live each remaining day to its fullest. He has re-ordered his life so it is filled with family and friends, as well as opportunities to volunteer and make a difference while he can. Easter turns all of us into witnesses of resurrection.

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it,” we proclaim on Easter. We stare death, loss, and grief in the face and declare that God is present in those painful places. When the world cowers in paralyzed fear, we venture into sadness with those brave women, searching for signs of new life and prepared to be eyewitnesses of God’s miracles.

Resurrection happens every day.  What will it look like for you?

 

Flower growing through concrete