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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40, "After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, 'Why are you untying the colt?'

They replied, 'The Lord needs it.'

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!'

'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!'

'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'" (NIV).

Palm Sunday sort of breaks my heart.  I know that doesn't make any sense.  Not really.  If you're reading the gospel narrative for the first time, it appears to finally be the culmination of events.  I can only imagine what those who were actually living this story must have thought.  There have been ups and downs, to be sure, but finally... mercifully... Jesus is identified as who he really is.  It's not how they thought it would be... a colt and some cloaks spread out on the road.  But that's OK.  The time has come.  The king is here!  I don't think it was quiet... subdued.... submissive.  The Pharisees sure didn't think so!  This is a celebration... a celebration so relentless that if the people stop shouting, the rocks will start!  It's like the part of a movie when you hope the credits will roll, but you know not quite enough time has passed.  It's like the part of a book when you are ready to close it for the last time and then realize there are still too many pages to turn.  We want this to be the resolution, and we don't quite grasp that we have not even reached the climax...

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord"

Oh... in all of our enthusiasm, we have forgotten what Jesus says it means to be blessed...

While, "The Lord needs it," is reason enough to sacrifice anything on this celebratory day; in a matter of mere hours, so many people will turn their backs, shut their eyes, close their hearts.  Those palm branches that are wildly waving in the air?  They will be good as nothing but ash to remind us of these events at another time... in another year...

Perhaps our perspective is clouded, because we know the events that are to come.  We have heard the passion story so many times.  I know it's difficult for me to resist the temptation to jump ahead to the last supper... to the crucifixion... to the resurrection...  to the 50% off Easter candy sales... to the morning when whatever we gave up for lent is fair game again... to life without fasting and sacrifice and remembering...

Let's not rush that this year.  And, believe me, I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else (maybe more).  It seems that in the regular rhythms of life, celebration gives way to pain and heartbreak, which gives way to celebration, and so on.  That's alright.  Take it all in.  Even embrace it.  This is life...


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