A perfect, little palm cross lay soggy and discarded in a puddle in the Superstore parking lot early yesterday afternoon, mere hours after it was accepted with reverence, humility and maybe regret, during a Palm Sunday church service.
They say history repeats itself, but then again, they’ve said that before.
On the first Palm Sunday, the joy and excitement felt by those palm-waving Jerusalemites was awfully short-lived. “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” – Mark 11:11
Twelve? What happened to the dozens, hundreds or thousands who waved palm branches, shouted ‘Hosanna!’ and threw their cloaks on the road for Jesus’ donkey to walk on? I guess once the parade was over, they picked up their coats, tossed aside their palm leaves and went back to their regular lives.
Kinda like many of us did yesterday after attending Palm Sunday service – including me. (Otherwise, how would I have stumbled across the soggy little cross in the Superstore puddle?)
I spent a lot of time getting ready for yesterday. I carefully chose worship songs to try to reinforce Palm Sunday’s bittersweet themes and messages, and presumptuously prepared a mini-sermon in the guise of a Call to Worship for my church’s congregation. I listened to my pastor’s Palm Sunday sermons from the past six years in chronological order (I highly recommend this exercise, by the way – they got better every year!); and when that was done I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar. This was probably the hundredth time I’ve heard the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera, but I normally save it for Good Friday. Hearing it while in Palm Sunday Mode highlighted those events for me in a new and powerful way.
As a result of all this preparation, I was ‘in the moment’ of Palm Sunday more this year than ever before. I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence while giving my call to worship and had to choke back tears as I spoke and sang. Pastor Stephen’s sermon (www.holytrinitycalgary.org/downloads.htm) was extremely impactful once again, and I left the church very much aware of what Palm Sunday meant for me.
Then, I went home, had lunch and went grocery shopping – just like I would any other day. (I’m not sure if there’s any earthly activity that would do justice to what was in my heart during the Palm Sunday service, and those groceries had to be purchased sometime, but my choice feels somewhat hollow in hindsight.)
We tend to look down our noses at those fickle, fair-weather followers from the first Palm Sunday, but really are we any better? Their enthusiasm for Jesus faded to indifference in hours, and turned to scorn in days – helping to usher in the darkest day in the history of humanity. (How did they get from ‘Hosanna!’ to ‘Crucify Him!’ in five days?!?) Our misdeeds don’t appear nearly so ugly as that, but remember, we’re on this side of the Cross. We have access to the whole, mind-blowing story of who Jesus really was and what He was really doing here, and even the best of us often fail to bring our best to Him. Can we really think that if we were in the sandals of those first palm-wavers, we’d have done any better than they did?
In a sense, they did our dirty work for us and rejected Jesus on our behalf, because He wasn’t the Messiah humanity wanted. But thank God He doesn’t reject us, because He is the Messiah we need.
Peace be with you.