By: Chad Hyatt
Reflection—v. 5, humble and mounted on a donkey
This Palm Sunday, we celebrate the Savior King, and we let our loud ‘hosannas’ ring out with joy. But we know where the road that leads up to Jerusalem will take him. We know that the cross is not far away now, that other loud shouts will soon rain down upon him whom we praise today—calls to ‘crucify him’ and that ‘we have no king but Cesar.’ And as much as we identify today with glad shouts of praise, we cannot deny that we—in our sin and our selfishness—also betray, deny, abandon, and yes, nail him to the cross, just as his contemporaries did. For this reason, we must never allow our worship, even as we remember the ‘triumphal entry,’ to become triumphalist. It is the one we crucified who has been raised from the dead. And this truth gives a new beauty to our praise, for the victory of God is not the defeat of enemies but their reconciliation. The triumph of God is mercy. Our salvation is forgiveness. Knowing this, let us praise him who comes ‘humble, and mounted on a donkey’ instead of a ‘warhorse.’ (21:5; cf. Zech. 9:9). If nonviolence was not at the heart of the gospel, then surely we must know that none of us would be saved—for we have all made ourselves enemies of love, of life, of God. In a climate where we are constantly being told to hate our enemies, to wipe them from the face of the earth, we must refuse hate. We must choose love and the way of the cross as our most faithful praise, today and always.
Prayer Savior King, help us live the way of the cross, in love and mercy for all people.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 39, the stones would shout
Can you imagine, how would you feel if true peace were within reach—true world peace, true inner peace—where each individual is respected and honored and loved. A world in which each person is self-reflective and is open to God’s loving work of transformation. I imagine that on that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on that peaceful little donkey, that the air was electric with joy and hope. There is no stopping love. While we have not yet accepted fully love, love has not been stopped. God is truly at work in the world. We have to pay closer attention these days, but that movement of God’s love and joy has not stopped—it’s still palpable in intimate gatherings and wildly hopeful uprisings, in the fields and forests, expansive night skies, a gentle touch from a loved one, sacred rites of passage, the soft light of a candle, and the birth of a new baby. It’s that joy and contentment that catches us by surprise, that sensation we feel welling up in our chests and marks a moment as special. It may seem random and accidental, but it’s always there. With practice, even in those sparse, empty moments, if we take time to sit with God, we can find that joyful flutter in our hearts of stone. The time we spent in Lent praying helps us to remember that.
Prayer God, your love makes the stones shout—may I too know you in my heart.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 30-35, tied…untie…untying…
Five times the passage refers to untying this tied donkey (a symbol of peace, ridden instead of a horse in order to sign a treaty), this animal that had never before been ridden. I wonder about those things that need to be untied, loosed, liberated and how these might point toward peace. I am thinking of those things within us, or in our closets, which we dare not use. When I was little, I distinctly remember having multiple arts-n-craft sets that I never used—if I used them, I felt I wouldn’t have them to use later. The irony didn’t strike me until years later when I babysat for a two year old who had an incredibly generous and creative spirit. She loved art, doing some kind of craft almost every day, knowing that her creativity and materials would not run out. She was also never shy—and even insistent—to share her snacks and toys with others. Life is so much better when we not only use what we have, but share it with others. What is the point of fancy dishes, if not to feast with others? Or Legos, if not to play with friends, regardless of if the set pieces get combined? We don’t give of our self or our things because we, or it, might get hurt, stolen, or broken; consequiently, we miss out. As we journey toward the cross this week, may we consider who or what needs to be liberated in order to usher in the Prince of Peace.
Prayer Liberate my heart, dear God, that I might share your joy with all.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 36, spreading their cloaks on the road
Wait, what? Cloaks? I thought it was palms… Palm Sunday, right? I’m intrigued by this change in detail as Luke describes Jesus’ final arrival in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Luke, more so than Matthew or Mark’s Gospels, aligns Jesus with the poor and marginalized. He understands his ministry of love, hope, and healing to be for all people—Gentiles and Jews, men and women, the rich, the lowly, and the despised. I wonder if this detail points to the poverty of the crowds who have gathered to welcome Jesus to town. At Mercy, more so than anywhere else I’ve been, I have witnessed a radical generosity with things. If one hears that we have nothing more to offer from the clothing closet and someone is in need—clothing is damp or dirty—almost without fail, clean clothes are procured from a bag and gifted. Moreover, we have to be creative with what we do have. Neck ties become festive belts and drinking glasses become candle stands. Years ago, as one of our congregants started to miscarry at the end our Sunday service, we laid the cloth from the communion table on the floor and tried to comfort her as she cringed and wept. Things are just things. Surely laying cloaks—the most expensive clothing item—on the ground to be trampled is a messy business for their owners but what a wonderfully selfless, creative, repurposed carpet to greet the King of Kings.
Prayer God of creation, may my resources be used as radical hospitality for your glory.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 9, ‘Hosanna!’
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ The word hosanna remains untranslated in most Bibles. In Today’s English version, it is translated ‘praise God!’ And that is how most of us in the pews understand it–as a cry of adoration. But hosanna is a Hebrew word, and in the Old Testament it is often translated ‘save us’ or ‘deliver us.’ It is a reference to how God will liberate God’s people from enemies, usually political oppressors. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people entreat him, ‘Save us! …Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! In the name of God, save us!’ Jesus was recognized by them as the coming messiah, God’s chosen political leader, who would save them from yet another politically and religiously oppressive empire. His entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of a revolution.
Prayer Hosanna, Lord! Blessings on the one who brings the kingdom and the revolution of love!