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The Holy Week Journey Begins

March 27, 2021

It is easy for us to brush right on past Palm Sunday and Holy Week in our eagerness to get to Easter Sunday with all of its trimmings. I know that I have been guilty of that many times through the years, especially when I was in the Air Force. However, this past year has taught me so much in terms of life and taking things for granted. Last year’s Palm Sunday and Holy Week were unusual thanks to being in the early days of the pandemic when so much was still unknown. This year, it is much different and yet it will still be different from prior years. I believe that this invites us to slow down, be still, and ponder what this day really represents and what Holy Week really offers. 

Palm Sunday holds memories for so many people from their younger years or when they watched their children and grandchildren “parade” into the sanctuary with palm fronds waving. As a pastor I have watched (and chuckled) as kids bat each other with their palm fronds not only as they parade in, but throughout the service until a parent takes away their “weapons” and they settle down. All of this does, unfortunately, take away from what this “parade” was really about as Jesus entered Jerusalem to begin the last week of his earthly life. 

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem it would have been a festive occasion for the city. At Passover the faithful would gather from around the country and the known world at the time to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving at the Temple and gather with family and friends for the Passover celebration and observances. In all of this rush, it would have been easy to overlook Jesus and his disciples as they came into Jerusalem through the very gate that the sacrificial sheep would have been brought through earlier. The festive mood of the crowd and his disciples would have caught the attention of the civil and religious authorities. Hosannah! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosannah in the highest heaven! (Mark 11:9b-10) Yes, those were revolutionary words! They were words that threatened the Roman government (another King?!) and the religious authorities who were trying to pacify the Romans and keep their jobs!

Caught up in the moment, I wonder how many members of the crowd realized just what was going on. They may have been caught up in the celebratory nature of the festival and the “parade” and failed to realize just what their cries of Hosannah really meant. If the cries of crucify him that would ring out later that same week were any indication, the people quickly abandoned their loud proclamations of Jesus as the Messiah. 

For me, this day of commemoration carries a cloud of deep foreboding despite the festive atmosphere. Palm Sunday invites me, and in turn, each one of us who follow Jesus, to consider the strength of my commitment to Jesus. Am I a fair-weather believer who sings out with the crowd when the going is good, only to become quiet and look for cover when the going gets tough? Or am I willing to speak out against the oppression of God’s children by the state and by the church? These are the thoughts that are running through my mind as Holy Week approaches. You see, Palm Sunday is about far more than rituals and memories. It is a challenge to each of us as we seek to follow Jesus. 

Archbishop (Saint) Oscar Romero’s life comes to mind as I reflect on the holy week ahead. Initially, he was considered a conservative who would be friendly to the right-wing government of El Salvador. After one of his friends and a fellow priest (Rutilio Grande) was murdered by agents of the government for his work with and protests on behalf of the poor; Archbishop Romero began speaking out against the government and their suppression of the poor and their advocates. He could not remain quiet as the poor were oppressed by the government and his support of the poor and the marginalized put him at odds with the government and people within the church who were government supporters. His stance resulted in his assassination by agents of the government while he was celebrating mass on March 24, 1980. 

As I join with the congregation as we sing “Hosannah! Loud Hosannah!” tomorrow, I will be thinking of Romero and so many others who followed Jesus through the literal and figurative gates of Jerusalem. I will be considering the challenge to do more than wave palm branches. Am I willing to speak out against the injustices of this world? Or will I remain silent? Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! May we follow Jesus wherever he leads us, even if he leads us out of our comfort zone and into the calling of the Prophet Micah to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (and with one another as we seek to follow Jesus).

3 Comments
  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    Michael, beautifully said, beautifully illustrated. It is the ongoing call to discipleship, the discernment of what following Jesus truly requires of us, of me.

  2. It’s always the question isn’t it? Will I speak out against injustice or will I be silent? It would be easier to figure out, if we weren’t worried about the consequences of speaking out.

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