I love Palm Sunday. When I was in Adelaide Australia in a downtown church I regularly took park in an ecumenical palm procession at the Catholic cathedral one block away from the church I served. We processed around a city block waving palms and singing. And because there are palm trees in Adelaide, we had so many large palms with which to decorate the church. I love Palm Sunday at Ascension, with palms around the altar, with palms in our hands processing in and around the sanctuary with singing. I love seeing the annual palm procession down the Mt of Olives and into Jerusalem, following near to where Jesus actually was on the donkey, with crowds of Passover pilgrims shouting out Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna – the word – is both a word of praise, and a prayer – Save us, or save now. What an appropriate word to shout right now around the earth -God, save us. Save us now. Sometimes in past sermons I have reflected on what Jesus disciples might have been thinking in that procession. They must have got carried away in all the excitement as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as kings did when they were bringing a message of peace. I wonder what they thought Jesus might do in Jerusalem. Even though Jesus had told his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, I don’t think that was on their minds at all. But I’m sure that in the midst of the excitement and praise, it was on Jesus’ mind. In Luke’s account of the Palm Procession, when Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem ahead of him, he stops to weep, lamenting that Jerusalem will not accept the kind of peace that he comes to bring, and in time Jerusalem will be destroyed.
According to Acts chapter two, the earliest converts to Christianity led a fairly simple life. They gave up all personal possessions and lived communally. They devoted themselves to learning from the writings of the apostles (bible study), fellowship (pastoral care and friendship), breaking of bread (communion), and praying.
We have again entered the season of Lent. The word Lent means spring, and according to the blessed groundhog, we might be seeing signs of spring early this Lent. Lent developed as a time of fasting and preparation and teaching especially for those who would be baptized at the Easter Vigil, the night before Easter. Lent was really designed for growth for new Christians and older Christians alike, all walking the journey with Jesus to the cross, to the empty tomb. That’s our growth goal again this year.
How was Easter for you this year? Personally I had a deep and very meaningful Holy Week again this year. Some of you were able to attend the Seder meal on Maundy Thursday led by Jewish professor Rachel Bendor. That helped me feel the setting of that last supper Jesus had with his disciples before we went into our Maundy Thursday worship. Along with many others, I was very moved by our Good Friday evening worship, with the music, the singing, the story, and holding a nail, and then being able to drop it in a metal bucket right at the front of the church. Easter sunrise worship was awe inspiring, seeing the sun rising, and also being able to see the moon in the other direction, and to get our Easter lantern lit from the fire there in Serenity Park, and then a few hours later seeing a lot of children hunting for eggs in that same park. It was wonderful to see our sanctuary so beautiful with flowers and candles and banners and people, and to sing those Easter hymns and songs, and hear again the Easter Gospel. Thanks to all who made this year’s Holy Week at Ascension so memorable.