"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday: A Wrenching Paradox

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a church girl, and with that comes loving to celebrate certain days on the church calendar. One such day was today: Palm Sunday. Very often it is celebrated with the children walking down the aisles of the church waving their palms high in the air while the choir or congregation sings "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna." I remember one particular occasion when my small nephew passed close by the piano where I was playing, but out of the corner of my eye, I was able to catch his swift pop of the palm on the head of the little boy in front of him.

This morning was a sweet processional as 10 little preschoolers walked down the center aisle with small branches in their hands as my brother accompanied his oldest daughter while she sang in her sweet little voice, "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest."

After the children processed down and placed their palms at the front of the altar table, they sang a couple of songs themselves.

Is there anything more precious than children worshiping? (When, pray tell, do we learn to be so "sophisticated" in our worship?)

But Palm Sunday processionals don't have to be for children only. I remember a former pastor gathering us outside on the steps and lawn, and after a Gospel reading, opening the doors for us ALL to enter singing and waving our branches. It was a joyous celebration. And being one who has the propensity to be somewhat "demonstrative" in worship, I tend to wave my palm high and hard. But what always compelled me to wonder were the half dozen or so people who refused to join in the pageantry but rather sat comfortably in their designated seats watching as the rest of us paraded by. After all, weren't we reenacting a glorious and momentous event?

Truth is how many of us really have a clue as to what Palm Sunday is all about? Some, of course. But my suspicion is that if a passerby saw such a crowd standing outside the church as we were that day, they'd wonder if the custodian had forgotten to unlock the doors. But even those of us who try to re-enact such an event fall horribly short. We sing "Hosanna!" and wave our palm branches and most of us even do it with joy, but what we fail to remember is that this One of whom we praise was not entering as just the King but as the approaching Sacrifice. This King who entered on the back of a donkey arrayed with fishermen's coats because there was no royal accoutrement. This King whose entourage consisted of street people, of the mentally deranged, of questionable women -- and the like. This King who entered in disgraceful poverty. No, it was no common parade that day. In fact, Matthew 21:10 tells us, "the whole city was shaken." Yet, Jesus entered and He did so in complete control -- which only makes the scene all the more scandalous, for He knew the end of this peculiar parade was the cross.

But isn't that what was stated just a few weeks ago when we began this journey of Lent? Did Jesus not steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) ... to die?

And so, yes, I sang my hosanna's this morning as those precious sweet ones marched in with their palm branches. But this particular Palm Sunday found me not only in greater awareness of the day's activity but my heart shaken due to the wrenching paradox of this King who rode in to lay Himself down.

Just an ordinary moment...

1 comment:

rebekah a. said...

Hello, Church girl ~ yes, I know. As I read that you wave your palm high and hard, I pictured the palm of our hand. The palm leaves are symbolic, as we really need nothing but ourselves to passionately wave to glorify the LORD. But the green, living branches do add to the joy!