This year as we enter Holy week and think of Palm Sunday, as in everything else these days, it will be different!
Normally we would be walking around the nave of the church singing Ride on, Ride On King Jesus; Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest! Unfortunately this Sunday, St Andrews will be eerily silent. No triumphant entry into Jerusalem but rather directives of Isolate! Isolate! Isolate! as we journey towards the cross of Calvary. We find ourselves in a very different time.
However, no matter the circumstance we find ourselves, God’s love for us never changes. Henry Blackaby writes in his book Experiencing God:
“no matter the circumstance, I would never look at those circumstances except through the backdrop of the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God forever convinced me that he loved me. The cross, the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection are God’s final, total and complete expression that He loves us.”
For those who lined the roadway into Jerusalem, salvation and victory had a certain meaning. To them saying Hosanna -here he comes, meant one thing. They were going to be delivered from the dreaded enemy! Yet they would shake their heads in disbelief when they saw how the week was going to end. They cried, Messiah Save us!
Pretty safe to say that none of them: the disciples, the crowd, none of them, would have predicted this salvation was going to take the form of a cross at Calvary.
A meditation I recently read asked the question:
When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, “Hosanna,” do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from injustice.
Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. And for so many Save me from Covid19!
Save me, God, save me from my fears.
Some of us say: Lord save me from my iniquities, those things which I have done in thought, word or deed! Others: Save me from my guilt!
In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; as it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. “Hosanna.” “Save us.” Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, Save us.”
Each of us may come with a different understanding of what this salvation looks like! But as we do every Easter, we realize it is a journey. The journey begins in our first steps of Holy Week as we run out to the roadway and visualize Jesus riding on a colt before us. Ride on King Jesus, Ride on!.. But there is within the depth of our being, not a celebration but a sense of mourning. For we know how this is going to play out.
We look ahead to Maundy Thursday with the Last Supper, the washing of feet, the giving of the great commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and soul; and to love your neighbour as yourself! and finally the betrayal, and the arrest.
We come to Good Friday. We won’t be able to sit and listen to the Passion Story as we have done over the years. But I suggest we read the story by ourselves of the crucifixion (John 18:1 – 19:42) and we sit in our quiet spot and we meditate on the cross, the nails, the crown of thorns! Oh, how we wish the song Ride on, Ride On King Jesus, would once more echo through the transepts of our church.
During the dark hours of Good Friday; we will long for the chant: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!; Hosanna in the highest!
As we journey through Holy Week; it certainly could look like a road of disappointment if we stop on Friday at the place of execution called Golgotha.
For the road we travel this Holy Week, will be a journey into the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. We all know of coarse, that our road does not lead to disappointment for we are an Easter People, THANKS BE TO GOD! Unlike many in our society, our faith does not end with the Passion of Good Friday. Yes, we walk along side Jesus in humiliation and suffering. It is a hard journey for us Christians to acknowledge why Jesus endured the cross for us; but our faith is based on that third day when Jesus rose again! Not a day of disappointment but a day of Joy and Celebration! For on the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures.
Every Easter we are reminded that Jesus came riding into Jerusalem at the time of Passover. The two stories of Passover and Holy Week melding into one. That God Himself delivered them. As Christians it is God alone who saves!
The story of deliverance, of freedom from bondage is told over and over. Every Easter we tell the story of God’s work through Jesus the Christ, the Messiah the anointed one!. And this year, the passover means so much more than years before as we await the deliverance from Covid19!
Max Lucado says that it is fascinating that Jesus cure for the broken heart is the story of God. He started with Moses and finished with Himself.
The story of God’s salvation. Their story is your story.
Challenge too great? Read the story.
That is you crossing the Red Sea with Moses!
Too many worries? Read the story.
That is you receiving heavenly food from above with the Israelites.
Your wounds too deep? That is you, Joseph, forgiving your brothers for betraying you.
Your enemies too mighty? Read the story. That is you with David conquering Goliath.
Your disappointment too great? Read the story of the disciples coming to the empty tomb!
The story of the Passover was Israel’s story but it it is our story as well. For the story of Passover comes to completion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ found in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus!
The eyes of the world were on that Road to Jerusalem. Some followed close behind, some came out from the city to meet the Messiah! They came with shouts of joy -to proclaim Him King. The one who would deliver them!
During this time of Social distancing… a time when everyone around us cries out Isolate, Isolate, Isolate… we still watch over the road and we see our Messiah making His way to Calvary. Making his way to a cross for you and me… and we cry out: Ride on King Jesus, Ride on!
Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the Highest!
Rev. Merv Lanctot