On Palm Sunday five-year-old Jason had a very sore throat and had to stay home from church with a sitter. When his family returned from the Church service, they carried several palm fronds. Jason asked them what they were for. "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his father told him. "Wouldn't you know it," Jason fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go, and He shows up!"
This will for certain be one of the oddest Palm Sundays of my nearly 30-year ministry. It will be odd because it will be almost totally silent. Palm Sunday s one of those services where we let our liturgy out for a walk. Literally. This is the Sunday where we go for a walk around the Church in procession singing hymns like “Ride on, ride on in majesty”. There would be tambourines and noisemakers and lots of voices signing as they strode along. That will be happening this year. This year, there will be silence and I suspect I will be straining to hear the rest of creation cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
In the Gospel for Palm Sunday, Jesus rides in on a donkey to the City of Jerusalem. As he and the others go along a people gather into a crowd calling on Jesus “Son of David have mercy on us!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” People were looking for healing and mercy so that their lives could be better and they could do better things, do more things and have a better life. They wanted safety. They wanted to be rescued. They wanted to be blessed. Most of all they called for God to be merciful.
You know what mercy is? That is when one person stands between another person and the second person’s disaster, and first-person calls the second to himself to avoid the disaster. That is why Jesus and his death on the cross is crucial. He is lifted up so that we can see him and be drawn to him. God is providing mercy through executing judgment so that we can have that mercy and that rescue, that salvation. Through the cross, Jesus takes our judgment and our punishment. We, in turn, receive the mercy, the grace and the peace of God that passes all our human understanding. We are healed by the stripes he took for us. The cross teaches us about who we are and how far we are going to take this to make sure that we are in control. The cross also points out what God is going to do about it.
We are to follow, even chase if necessary, Jesus up the hill as he makes his way up the hill at Golgotha. We are to seek out the opportunities to build and reconcile relationships. We are to call out for healing and for rescue in the midst of the storm. We are prevailed upon to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus up the hill. We need to count the costs of following and not following Jesus. We need to guard our message and our integrity. We need to be wise in the ways that we walk and act, including our service of God.
Take time to look for Jesus. He is here and he has shown up. Cling to him!