The sun is out, full and bright, birds dance along the branches, birds I have seen, one I haven’t — which is apparently a brand new species since I can’t find it in my books. That, or I’m just not looking right. People are busy this morning, dogs are barking, reminding me that not all find this to be a holy day. For a Palm Sunday, however, it is perfect weather, not a cloud in the sky, rain anointed flora decked in the most brilliant greens, life abundant celebrating, worshiping, in its own way.
I awoke this morning with thoughts of Palm Sunday. Not an odd thing, one might think, being today is that day. Odd for me, however, as I am firmly within what could be called the ‘low’ church tradition, meaning the liturgical year is something which the unbelievers take part in. I kid about that, certainly, though it is the unconscious perception. So, I sat in my bed looking out at the lush colors of the forest outside, watching the birds, considering the day.
It’s an unusual celebration, that is for sure. We celebrate on this day the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, welcomed by excited crowds, fulfilling prophecy, the entering of the triumphant King to his city of rule.
And yet… this isn’t it at all. The end of the story, well at least the end of this part, tells us a different tale. He was welcomed in word, not in deed. Palm Sunday is, if anything, a celebration of the hypocrite. We rejoice in those who spoke loud words on Christ’s behalf, then a mere week later gave him up to death. Yes, I know, you can say that these were different people, that’s likely true. However, the point still remains.
I heard it said once that this was really the day history turned. If one is open to God being able to have multiple paths dependent on the choice of people then one can see this day as the day of real choice. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. There he could have been met by priests and pharisees, sharing with the people the praise and welcoming of the coming messiah. They did not meet him, he was not welcomed, and indeed he seemed a little mad at the fact, deciding instead to overturn tables, make whips, and beat the merchants trying to make a living.
His entrance, on Palm Sunday, was in fact rejected. So, to the cross he went. Rather than restoring the Kingdom as God intended (maybe) he had to bring salvation the other perfect way. Israel was destroyed, the nations were welcomed into the people of God, and here we sit today celebrating what was both a terrible and wonderful day.
It is the way things are supposed to be because it is the way that it was. Maybe, though, it was not the way it was supposed to happen. Like all people the leaders of the day had a choice, to lay down their pride and arrogance or to fight with all their being against what God was in fact doing.
The people who rejoiced are the people who stood back later, or changed their own minds.
Palm Sunday, the day of hypocrites. I’ve never thought of it that way before. Not sure I should, though it does make an interesting insight as I daily choose the path I shall take.
In other news, not because it’s connected, but because I found it interesting. Last night I was dreaming. I’m not aware of my dreams very often, so when I am it is curious to me. There was a point in the storyline in which I was opening different doors or, I can’t remember the details very well, clicking through in some sort of internet virtual reality that would open different scenes. I was moving along and I opened or clicked on this one scene, it was a religious dream, connected with my meditations on the cross, and I suddenly felt a burst of the strongest evil, like I had opened a secret door, and the forces within were furious. Suddenly, the dream shut down like a malfunctioning program and I sat up wide awake. I did not just stir, I was forcefully thrown out of my own dream.
That’s never happened, and I don’t know how to interpret it.
So, today I go forth, celebrating this holy day, realizing also in my mind the warning it contains. Waving palm branches is not the sign of true devotion, worshiping with exuberance is not the indicator of a holy life. They are separated from the reality of the heart, and tell us little. For the reality of the Gospel is not in our praise, it is our willingness to stand through trial and tribulation. We celebrate the coming of the king today, knowing that daily we too reject as the people did, and because of our rejection on this day and every other, we must celebrate also Good Friday later in the week.