From Palms to Silence

Scripture Reading: Mark 11: 1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Today is Palm Sunday. It was glorious this morning! The day was beautiful. While it was a little dark at the early service, by the time 11:00 rolled around, it was sunny with a little breeze. (Not like last year, when the gale-force winds wrapped a Lenten banner around me just as I was rounding the corner into the church! I’m sure I provided quite a show for the passersby on Main Street.) The crowds poured into the sanctuary, palms waving, while the brass ensemble played. We like parades. We like celebrations. Just for a moment, we are at the height of Jesus’ life–his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Just for a moment, we feel like victory is about to be declared, that our player has won the game, that our beliefs have been proven right. We wave the palm branches and sing the triumphant hymns. And then….silence.

Just as quickly we move from the Palm Processional to the Passion. Just as quickly we move from triumphalism to surrender. We read through the account of Jesus’ Passion, suffering, and death. The palm branches now litter the sanctuary floor. We step on them to stand and sing “O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done.” And reality sets in as the sheer purple fabric is draped over the cross.

I have not usually liked the idea of the whole Palm/Passion Sunday thing. It has always felt like we were trying to cram a whole week of despair and suffering into a few minutes and get it over with–sort of like swallowing bad-tasting medicine quickly before it causes any real damage to our palate. But I am struck with the rawness of juxtaposing the whole triumphalism thing with the images of hopelessness and despair. Perhaps it makes us wake up and take notice. Perhaps it makes us finally realize the ludicrousness of the way we sometimes lives our lives, of the way we sometimes think about things, in the face of what God is calling us to be, in the face of where God is calling us to follow.

And so we enter this week by moving quickly from triumphalism to silence, from celebrating to listening, from action to waiting, and from feeling justified because we believe the way we believe to the Passion of Christ crucified.

Our hosannas sung, our palms waved, let us go with passion into this week.
It is a time to curse fig trees that do not yield fruit,
It is a time to cleanse our temples of any blasphemy.
It is a time to greet Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One,
to lavishly break our alabaster and pour perfume out for him

without counting the cost.
It is a time for preparation…

(From “Holy Week”, Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 67.)
So go forth on your journey to the cross and prepare for your Christ!

Grace and Peace,


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