Palm Sunday is always a bit puzzling and overwhelming for me. Every year, the questions are the same, just perhaps slightly nuanced in different ways: How is it that we begin the morning in joy and leave in silence? What does it mean—in the pits of our stomachs—when we all stand up and say “crucify him”? What lessons are we learning when some of our youngest church members take on the role of Jesus? Do we hear the story differently? Is this story meant to paralyze us or energize us?
I don’t have answers for any of these questions.
Yet, every year, we gather, sing, process, wave palm, read the Gospel, and leave in silence. In the process of celebrating Palm Sunday, we enter into kairos time—God’s time, holy, sacred liturgical time—and that’s where we’ll stay until Easter. We have passed the baptismal font only to stand in the shadow of the cross.
Holy Week is about spending time in that space between the font and the cross. It is fluid time; time to reflect on our own journey with Jesus. If we believe that Christ is all around us, if we believe that we can see the face of Jesus in the other, how do we treat Jesus? Would we anoint the feet of Jesus like the unnamed woman or would we stand in the shadows like Peter? Would we criticize, rebuke and taunt Jesus? Would we have the courage to stand at the foot of the cross and wait for his broken body to be let down?
Holy Week scares me sometimes. If I hold myself accountable to these questions, it makes me realize that more often than not, it’s easier to be Peter. And when I get scared, I get anxious, and for me, that means “hurry up…let’s get to Easter!” But we are invited into this kairos time not to live in guilt and remorse, but to experience transformation. It is an invitation to reflect, confess, be healed, and celebrate. This is the Christian life.
Last week I shared a bit of a poem, and this week I will again. It is from one of my favorite seminary professors and theologians, a man of many kind words, The Rev. Dr. Bill Countryman. In his poem, “The Learning of Love” he writes:
You know that “yes” does not come easily to the lips of frightened beings standing on the edge of the infinite. And you have become the most patient of lovers and most faithful, drawing us out of our dead ends to your door, inviting us in to break our fast on fragrant bread and your intoxicating cup.
Bill is talking about our relationship with Jesus, and the way I read it, it is the perfect reflection on Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week. It is hard to say “yes” to following Jesus to the cross…to stand on the edge. But Jesus is patient and kind. He has drawn us out, to reflect and confess; to not give in to the anxiety and worry of the world. He has invited us to break bread together, to share in a holy feast, to be healed and to celebrate.
Blessings to you all as you journey to the foot of the cross this week.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.