Sunday, March 20, 2005

Palms Sunday

No, that's not a typo. Or, at least, it's not an unintentional typo. Today is Palm, or Passion, Sunday, and I simply combined the two ideas. The palms signal the crowds' fair-weather devotion to Christ, while the Passion shows us our true capacity for evil. We, sinners all, wave palms in our hands only days before piercing the palms of Christ's hands. As we heard in the Gospel reading today, we humans shouted "Hosanna!" only days before shouting "Crucify!" Such is life on Palms Sunday.

Out of nowhere, only minutes before the Mass started, I was asked to read the first passage. I was nervous, but it felt so good to be *involved*, even just a little, in my parish. Even so, it took me a few minutes to "warm up" today at Mass. I've been tired and I wasn't sure what the order of worship was to be. As I listened to the readings, though, I was drawn into the mystery of redemption. During one of the kneeling times, I was struck quite forcefully by the idea that Christ chose to enter Jerusalem ("a death he freely chose"), and how his courageous love empowered me to enter his New Jerusalem. He chose to enter our world precisely so we could choose to enter his Kingdom. As Max Lucado titled one of his books, "he chose the nails." Christ chose the nails, rose again, and now calls us to choose his pierced palms.

Once again, I waved my palm branch at Christ to welcome him into my life as King. "Besiege me, O Lord, overtake my defenses." I wave the palm of praise, but it is only by grace, the grace shed in Christ's blood and spread over the whole world in his resurrection -- it is only by this grace that I can shout "Hosanna!" without also capitulating to shouting "Crucify!" in my thoughts and actions. Sin is a metaphysical accident, a moral aberration; holiness is the only necessary force in the cosmos.

Certainly the high point of Mass today was the moment I readied myself to receive the Eucharist – and then came back to my senses. “No so fast, Mr. Protestant,” I told myself. One more week until the Easter vigil, until I enter the fullness of God’s home on earth. What might have seemed like a legalistic leash actually hung around my neck like a necklace of reward. My anguish and confusion and patience are all about to be vindicated. God has been with me the whole way and now he bids me walk one more week without his Holy Gifts. The wait is worth my while.

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