Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11
Most years Palm Sunday tends to focus on the palms. But not this year. This year there is no palm procession. We’re not waving our palms and children aren’t having sword fights with theirs. We’re not walking into the church together singing All glory, laud, and honor and “the lips of children [are not making] sweet hosannas ring.” There are no palms today, at least not like last year, or the year before, or any other year that I’ve celebrated Palm Sunday.
In fact all of Holy Week will be different this year. We won’t wash feet. We won’t eat bread together or share the same cup. And we won’t gather in the dark to kindle a new fire and light the Paschal Candle.
Holy Week and Easter will not happen in the church this year like they have in previous years. But the truth is they never did happen in the church. They always happen in the circumstances of our lives. And this year that’s especially important to remember and hang on to.
As I wrote in a recent article, this year the pandemic is our Holy Week. It will also be the place from which new life arises. This year the gifts, grace, love, and power of Holy Week and Easter come to us, not in spite of the pandemic, but through it. And it begins today.
So what is Palm Sunday without palms and a procession? I wondered about that question as I thought about and prepared for today. And here’s my answer: It’s Palm Sunday. It’s still Palm Sunday.
I’m not being flippant. I mean that in a deep and profound way. Palm Sunday is not about the palms and the procession. It never was. It has always been about Jesus entering Jerusalem. And today we’re all Jerusalem. Here’s why I say that:
“When [Jesus] entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil.”
Turmoil. It’s in the news. It’s in the air. It’s in our hearts. Today our world is in turmoil. America is in turmoil. Uvalde is in turmoil. I feel the turmoil in my life and I’ll bet you feel it in yours. Like I said, today we’re all Jerusalem.
According to St. Matthew, “The whole city was in turmoil asking, “Who is this?” “The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee.’” Yes it is. But I think there is more to be said. So I want to add a few things.
- This is the one God sent because God “so loved the world.”
- This is the one who promises, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
- This is the one who says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying burdens, and I will give you rest.”
- This is the one who says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
- This is the one who says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
- This is the one who says, “I am the good shepherd.”
- This is the one “who calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
- This is the one who says, “I am the light of the world.”
- This is the one who says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
- This is the one who comes that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.”
- This is the one who is “making all things new.”
- This is the one who embodies God’s promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
- This is the one who says, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I hope you hear the echoes of Easter in the list of who this one is because I’m going to ask you to do something. I want you to look around at everything that is happing. I want you to look at what is happening within yourself. I want you to pay attention and take it all in. It will be difficult and painful; Holy Week always is.
Whatever your Holy Week is – whatever it brings you, takes from you, or asks of you – it already resounds with the echoes of Easter. That’s always the tension in Holy Week. It’s the tension in our lives. And it was the tension in Jesus’ life.
So keep awake and be ready. Do not for one minute close your eyes or turn away from your Holy Week, because this one who enters the turmoil of Jerusalem, this “one who comes in the name of the Lord” – this is the one who will rise to new life on the third day.
And he plans on taking your with him.