March 28, 2021
Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” ~ Mark 11:9
Over the last several weeks there has been a rising chorus of Alleluias and Hosannas in the air. The days are getting longer and warmer. A few bright flowers are poking their heads above the snow of winter. Birds are chirping. I saw my first fox of the year up by the “Y” in the road. Many times, I have heard neighbors say, “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!” “I feel so much lighter.” “I’m starting to feel more alive again.”
After nearly twelve months of fear and isolation due to the pandemic and political wars, we are starting to feel buoyant again. We see glimpses of hope as the vaccines roll out, the daily death toll drops, and the restrictions ease up in our daily lives. Palm Sunday is here, and we sing with our ancestors, “Hosanna!”
I also hear, “My friend is on a ventilator.” “I can’t take another mass shooting.” “I’m struggling.” “Our kids are really suffering.” “I can’t take one more political scandal.”
Isn’t this life?
Our lives (individually and corporately) are full of light and darkness. Hope and disappointment. Joy and sadness. Faith and doubt. We might say, “Lord I believe but help me with my disbelief.” Reverend Debie Thomas writes, “On the one hand, the light at the end of the tunnel revives us and renews us. On the other hand, it shows us just how bleak and dismal the tunnel has been.” I know we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” but that valley sure seems lengthy. In our lives it does not take long to go from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” It does not take us long to go from praise to pain.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and it embraces the entirety of our human experience—the highs and lows, the victories and losses, and our wholeness and our brokenness. “In the span of seven days, we do it all: we praise, process, break bread, wash feet, make promises, break promises, deny, betray, condemn, abandon, grieve, despair, disbelieve, and celebrate,” says Thomas.
It is gut-wrenching, trying, and endearing to ride the roller-coaster of life, but we find lasting hope in knowing that Christ is with us and love perseveres through it all. After it is all said and done, never doubt that it is about Grace. Is God’s Grace sufficient for us?” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
As Jesus, the Prince of Peace, rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shout “Hosanna!” which means “save now!” Save us now Jesus. We are in trouble. We need you. Save us from our enemies. Free us from Roman oppression. Save us now!
What do we need saving from today? Think about this. What do we need saving from?
The Jewish pilgrims singing “Hosanna” expect Jesus to destroy their enemies. He does not and their hopes turn into disappointment, their “hosannas” turn into shouts to “crucify him.”
How often do our expectations turn into disappointments? How often do we praise someone one second and condemn them the next?
Holy Week embraces and holds all our complex natures. “If we live in a world full of pain, mystery, and contradiction then we need a religion robust enough to bear the weight of our messy world,” writes Thomas. We need a patient, compassionate God who can hold our ambivalence.
For God so loved the world… (John 3:16).
Who/what do we love? Who do we trust? Do we love the humble, peaceful defenseless Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem? Or do we love the power and force of empire? Who will save us?
Welcome to Holy Week and the questions. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Blessings and peace,