Palm Sunday – The Journey to Jerusalem

         I really love Spring. Not so much the pollen. But, the sunshine coming around a bit more often, the green of the plants emerging from the ground, the colors of the flowers offering these bright spots among the gray backdrop of the retreating winter.

         And. Baseball.

         I love baseball. Opening day is massively important in my world, usually reserved as it’s own high holy day in my personal liturgical calendar. Though, when my personal high holy day falls this close to Holy Week, I am unable to take the day off to watch all of the baseball.   

         Usually, on Opening Day (which was Thursday), I am filled with the optimism and hope of a goldfish, or a golden doodle: completely forgetting what has happened in the recent past and so excited for new things to be discovered.

         This year though, my optimism is a bit lackluster. Usually opening day brings hope, and the idea that anything can happen. But for me, my beloved team, the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals, hope is a fleeting idea. You see, my beloved team isn’t expected to be particularly good.

         We might actually be particularly bad. We’re in what’s known as a rebuilding year. Which is quite common after winning a World Series.

         It’s a strange feeling for me, as I celebrated opening day, while also having this sinking sense of dread that the season is actually going to be difficult for me to watch at times, compared to the way I have devoured games, even when we were mediocre.

         Palm Sunday kind of feels the same to me – filled with hope and also quite sad. It’s one of the most paradoxical days in the liturgical calendar. We start by waving our Palms around like we just don’t care. Welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with a raucous parade.

         But then, we are reminded of what Jesus is walking towards as we read the Passion narrative.

         As I have been reflecting on Palm Sunday this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what must have been happening inside Jesus.

         Let’s reflect for a moment on what Jesus might have been thinking or experiencing as he took the last several steps on the path to Jerusalem.

         Jesus and the disciples have just left a complicated visit to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The early steps on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem were probably solemn, or at least quiet.

         The walk actually wouldn’t have been as long as what they were used to walking. Several hours, maybe a day. Bethany was an immediate suburb of Jerusalem, kind of like Cambridge to Boston; not a long journey to set out on.

         And Jesus knew as he started out on that journey he was walking towards his own death.

         That sense of “what am I doing?” or at least that thought, must be repeating through his mind with each passing kilometer.

         But as they reached the outskirts of Jerusalem, the streets began to be lined with people. At first a few here and there, then more, and more until Jesus and the disciples are surrounded by the throngs of people who are welcoming their fellow Israelites back to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover.

         And all most all of those people would have known who Jesus is by then. This was probably a pretty common scene for Jesus and the disciples when they arrived into a new town or region. They were Rock stars!

         This sense of dread would have been joined by the joy and excitement being pointed towards him as Jesus continued his march and eventually hopped on to the borrowed colt.

         One of the more paradoxical parts of being human, to me, is that we can feel completely contradictory feelings at the same time.

         Fear and excitement. Dread and joy. Love and sadness.

         Jesus was probably feeling all of the feels. It is moments like this that show how fully human Jesus really was. Fully God, fully human, marching intentionally towards a profoundly human death, while the gathered crowds cheer and make him feel loved and wanted. Like royalty. Like a god.

         The next time we hear the crowd they will be cheering again, but for his crucifixion. A reminder of how quickly everything can change. And how quickly things changed for Jesus. And, how awkward and difficult this must have been: to know what he was walking towards, and walk intentionally towards his violent death anyway.

         This path to Jerusalem is, to me, a reminder that in order for something to be resurrected, it must first die.

         His death causing another round of complex feelings: sadness at death, joy at resurrection.

         This week, I invite everyone to sit with the idea of complex emotions, and contradictory emotions. Especially if over the course of our individual Lenten journeys we have come across those contradictory emotions.

         I have definitely stumbled across some complicated and contradictory emotions on my Lenten journey considering redemption, what that means, what it means to me, and why this is so important in my life. Encountering difficult things is part of the journey. Faith happens when we walk intentionally towards those things, especially the things we don’t want to walk towards.

         A lot happens in our faith between today and Sunday. Please, everyone, be intentional this week. Consider what, if anything, this week, Holy Week, means in your life and your faith. Sit with the paradoxical emotions of fear and joy; confusion and clarity; love and betrayal.


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