Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday in a time of pandemic


video     Palm Sunday in a time of pandemic

The traditional Palm Sunday service is filled with song and symbol as we are reminded of the beginning of the end, or what seems like the end, you and I know it’s really not, but I get ahead of myself. The song we sing is All glory laud and honor, to thee redeemer king! to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring. We wave our palms, parade around, and give thanks for Jesus.

We remember that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is an occasion for celebration as hundreds, maybe thousands of people entered Jerusalem for the huge community gathering, the Passover. This was a community gathering, everyone was there, from the shopkeepers and artisans, to the wealthy and the temple priests, to the Romans and centurions. Among the throngs, there was a relatively small group that hailed Jesus’ entry as something special, something unusual, something revolutionary.

I have always loved the pomp and circumstance of Palm Sunday, the waving of palms, the parade, all the while knowing that as we leave church on this day, we enter into a holy week. In any other holy week we would be gathering together in the quiet church observing the events of the last days of Jesus’ life. It is Jesus’ gift of his very life, Jesus’ suffering and brokenness that creates the reality for us to be made whole, to be healed, to be made new as the body of Christ.

So not gathering together is really weird, it challenges our very understanding of community, and body of Christ. We will gather again I believe. But I think it’s important to consider Jesus’ presence in our lives and in our world when our very understanding of the gathered church changes. When we gather together, we trust in God’s presence. But when we are the church deployed, when we are the church dispersed, we also trust in God’s presence. You see, this is our call, to do the work that God’s calls us to do, in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities. This is the paradox of church, we gather together to be the body of Christ, and we are sent into the world to do the body of Christ, both aspects, equally important and vital for the mission of God in the world.

Palm Sunday is filled with paradox. The paradox of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, not on a warhorse. The paradox of expectation that this king will save them all from the tyranny of Rome, but instead he dies on a cross. Palm Sunday presents to us the great paradox. That wholeness of life comes not through power or perfection, but through a body broken for us. The great paradox that what looks to the world like loss, death on a cross, death to our very comfortable and social lives as we know them, is instead the greatest gift of life humanity can know. The great paradox for us, at this particular time, is that in physical separation one from the other, we find deeper expressions of care, and compassion, and love. In the midst of this vulnerability, we find the kind of strength that binds us together.

I’m not sure we’re all that more faithful, all that much less fickle, than the crowds who play significant roles in both the Palm Sunday and Passion readings. Which is not to condemn us, particularly, but rather simply to remind us that God chooses another way. God chooses to meet us in our vulnerability, to accept us in our weakness, to love us in our un-lovability, to redeem us amid our sin. God chooses to love us no matter what, and no matter where we are.

Our holy week will be nothing like any we have ever experienced. We will walk this road with Jesus in our own homes. I encourage you to find your sacred space, mine is at my kitchen table. Light your candle, gather your people. Jesus will show up, not in the raucous parade, but the quiet of quarantine.

Peace be with you.

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