Palm Sunday holds a special place in my heart. This Palm Sunday, April 5, is the 28th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. It was on Palm Sunday that I first preached and presided at the Holy Eucharist. One could say it was a baptism by fire, but I loved it. Palm Sunday invites us to “enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby [God] has given us life and immortality.” Palm Sunday is a chaotic mixture of pageantry and solemnity, of triumph and defeat, that provides us with a jolting awareness of what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. At first, like the crowds who proclaimed Jesus as King of Kings and spread their garments and branches of palm along his way, we want a hero made in our imagine. We want the guy who can overthrow the Romans, and make our lives what we think they should be. And when that doesn’t happen, we are ready to shout, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into town, into the holy city of Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, not a very impressive entrance for the kind of super-hero we want. In his life and ministry, Jesus teaches us that life is not always about what we want; it is about love and service and sacrifice. With his word, with his power to love and forgive, with his body and blood, with his willingness to suffer the pain of the cross, with his death and resurrection, with his giving of the Holy Spirit, Jesus offers us an abundant life, a life full of wonder and surprise, of triumph and defeat, of pain and joy, but best of all, a life where even death does not have the final word.
I remember another Palm Sunday, many years ago, pre-ordination, when, as everyone was singing the beloved hymn, “All Glory, laud and honor,” the palms on the Altar caught on fire. For a moment or two, the blazing flames went unnoticed. Fortunately, a quick acting Altar Guild member doused the flames with water from the sacristy tap, and little damage resulted.
I am sad to say, that this year, I will not be presiding at the Holy Eucharist on Palm Sunday. The chaotic Covid-19 virus has upended our lives, and coopted our observance of Holy Week and Easter, but that won’t stop us from worshiping.
Here is what we have planned. Soon you will find resources for celebrating Holy Week and Easter posted on our website. Adam has done a wonderful job in putting these together. This Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will hold a Zoom Adult Sunday school class at 9:30 a.m. on how to observe Holy Week and Easter in the safety of your home. In addition to the home resources, we are offering audio files of sermons and music and two live Zoom services. The Liturgy for Good Friday will be offered live via Zoom at 12:00 p.m. On Easter morning at 10:30 a.m., we are offering Morning Prayer live via Zoom. Please participate at home and online as we offer God glory and prayer for the needs of the world.
The Covid-19 virus is challenging us to be faithful to that life of love, service, and sacrifice which Jesus calls us to live. With God’s grace holding us together, with patience, with endurance, with compassion, with the skill of our doctors, nurses, caregivers, and scientists, with generosity, with the power of the resurrection, nothing can defeat us, not even death.