Palm Sunday 2011

Scripture readings for Palm Sunday's Mass are here.

My post from last year " In Anticipation of Palm Sunday" is here.

So Palm Sunday has finally arrived and we enter the intense drama and most significant week in the life of Jesus, marking the climax of His work and ministry on earth. 

The journey into the city of Jerusalem fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah, where the Messiah will ride into Jerusalem on a young donkey (or was it a colt ? I'm mightily confused by Matthew as he suggests Christ rode both at the same time.)

However, I am a complete ass for overlooking the deep theological significance of the text - Click here for the explanation!

This symbolism leaves a strong impression on the mind of the crowd. The Pharisees plead with Jesus to tell the crowds to be quiet, but in reply Jesus says "even the stones will cry out". His actions always speak louder than any human words and cannot be squelched.

Ever since I was a child I have always had the expectation of Holy Week as being a very special time.

Sometimes my experience of the Lenten journey has been like travelling a road with strange and unfamiliar contours, my recollection of time as crawling a little more slowly with fleeting moments of clarity; at other times being wildly scattered and rocked out of place and then a few rare but gifted moments of  encounters with God in the powerful liminal thin places.

Painting above by James Tissot

 Lent for me has always been a way of finding the means to "let go ", it often involves me being taken by the hand to tread jagged uneven and dark paths where I would rather not go !

Sometimes the vitality of Easter has passed me by with little enrichment or joy but there has always been something to take away.

Certainly within the beautiful services and liturgy of Holy Week there is often a sense of time itself deepening and becoming more intense at certain points.

Every day in Holy Week allows us to move deeper into what the Bible calls the fullness of time, the time that discloses the very heart of God's story and our own, when the God beyond all time, from whom all time comes, enters into His time of suffering - and also into ours.

Every day in this week allows us to see Him taking a step closer to the cross which he embraced for our sake. 
But the message of the cross reveals a truth and love that will last for all time and will get us through the worst that time can ever bring, if only we have "eyes to see and ears to hear !"


The Gospels that tell His story are embedded by two Greek words for time: Chronos, which is the time measured by clocks and calendars, and Kairos, which is God's time, the right moment, the time of revelation, of judgement, of choice, the time of our visitation; a blessed time.

I posted here on the theme of Chronos v Kairos time last year here as Advent drew to a close.

Jesus begins His Holy Week by looking in compassion on Jerusalem and weeping because the city did not know its own Kairos - the time of its visitation.

This Holy Week, we have a chance, to turn Chronos into Kairos

to enter into the fullness of time and walk with Jesus, who walks with us, into the heart of life. 

Jesus  approaches Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover.He sends disciples to find a colt, and then rides into Jerusalem to the acclaim of crowds spreading cut branches and their cloaks.

But those waving welcoming palm fronds laid in the road to smooth His path will soon be trampled by a bitter ironic truth of betrayal.

The palm branches signalled their expectation of a military victory. 

Here they were, captive in their own homeland.

Foreign soldiers ordered and organized their society. 
The boot of Rome crushed their necks. 

These people came out to cheer for Jesus, the miracle-working rabbi from Nazareth, because they wanted him to overthrow their oppressors. 

They expected Jesus to lead an uprising of military and political liberation, not to lay down his life as a spiritual sacrifice for Romans as well as Jews.

The Palm Sunday crowd loved Jesus for what they expected him to be, not for what he was. 

That “love” evaporated between Sunday morning, when he rode into Jerusalem, and Thursday night, when the Roman and Jewish leaders collaborated to try him for treason.

Even his hand-picked followers, who had spent three years watching him perform miracles and listening to him teach, fled in fear.

It is tempting to harshly judge the people who betrayed Jesus because we have the benefit of hindsight. We know “the rest of the story”— that He died on a Roman cross  but he rose from the grave the following Sunday and defeated death, offering forgiveness, acceptance and eternal life to all who believe in him.

It is so easy to condemn the hard-hearted spiritual blindness of some of the characters around Jesus and we often can’t understand why they just  "couldn’t get it."

Yet, not all that much has changed in 2,000 years and each of us bears just as much responsibility for our own inability to hear and act on the true message and values of Christ's kingdom.

Many of us still love Jesus for what they want Him to do for them, not necessarily what God sent Him to earth to do, which was to offer spiritual healing to all people, eternal life to anyone who will embrace him in faith.

This Palm Sunday, I need to remember that I am in that crowd that lined Jesus’ path. 

I need to remember the palm branches and allow them to remind me how little I understand Jesus’ mission, how wrong I still am about so many things and what I need to do or not do (!) to let Him transform my life, root to branch.

But rather than look back, I need to pray for humility and ask God to grant me vision to superimpose God’s will for my life over my own selfishness.

'Kairos' is a Greek word meaning 'right or opportune moment' and is used in theology to describe a time with grace potential. 
Contrasting with 'chronos', meaning 'ordinary or chronological time',  'kairos' means holy or God-given time, laden with meaning and choice.
Kairos signals new possibliities, repentance, renewal and action.  It can be a pinnacle moment although that is rare, or a steady stream of moments in response to small injustices that encourage me to speak or act for good.

Throughout time, Christians worldwide have sought to identify and respond to the special grace-filled moments of Holy Week.

Each evening of Holy Week, and for three hours on Good Friday, milions of us on this planet will  gather together, and, with our minds and imaginations opened by scripture, by poetry, and by music, we get yet another chance to know even more deeply 'the time of our visitation', and the depth and power of the Love that visits us in Christ. 

For some, the significance of Palm Sunday is nothing more than Jesus making a grand entrance into Jerusalem as a potential Messiah and less than a week later making a dismal exit via the cross; all hope and dreams shattered.

Were it not for Christ's Resurrection this is all we would be left with.

Just as Jesus spent his forty days in the wilderness reflecting and stepping back from the world to look at Himself, God and what that meant for Him, He then moved out into the world and applied the decisions He had made which He knew would lead to His death.

This Palm Sunday Jesus asks us all once again as we watch Him pass me by to take a good look at God, who Jesus is , and what that means for us as individuals and as a community.
Then we too have to move out into the world and apply the decisions we have made.

But this week I need to keep that image of Jesus entering Jerusalem as a Prince of peace.
My task this week is to be able to recognize God when He comes to me ...

Please God, give me eyes to see you and a heart to believe and trust in you.

Regular readers here will know of my love of donkeys . 

At least twice a year I get to post on them with an official " spiritual "pass : in Advent/ Christmas and Holy Week.

So here are a few resources for today when a donkey or was it  a colt ?(!)  make a very important journey  with their rider along the Palm Sunday road to Jerusalem..............

Photo ; Modern day view of the path taken on Palm Sunday

Below is an illustration from the children's book THE COLT AND THE KING, by the late John Winch;  This is the Palm Sunday story told from the colt's point of view. 


    Happiness made my hooves tap high,
    and joy was in my breath. 
    My heart welled up with wonder
    like a barrel that fills with rain. 

But then there is  the donkey version..............................................

Normally I can't be doing with all this hand waving in the air stuff but on this occasion the hands remind me of the wafting palms and I like the passion of this next song - 

It reminds me of how fickle  humans can be ; one minute all lovey dovey and warmth, the next they're open "palms" are fists; they are baying for your blood , spitting and cursing and then they turn their backs on you...hmmph !

And now for a poem -              yes it's about ME !!       Can you believe that ??

The Donkey
G.K. Chesterton

WHEN fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will,
Starve, scourge, deride me I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet. 

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Phil Ewing said...

Welcome Pearly. Glad you found me ! The Spirit blows well !
I agree that there seems to be less and less as each year progresses.
That's why blogs have become such an important provision for people too- Happy Holy Week and many thanks for your wishes.

Phil Ewing said...

Welcome Manja- it's great to have you visit. Thanks for these lovely blessings - they are much appreciated and I wish you a Happy Holy Week !

Pearlycarole said...

Thank you for this refreshing site - I came upon it by accident while trying to find out if there are any tv programmes on today regarding Palm appears there are not - so sad in this so called Christian country of ours. Thank you for the words here. God's peace be with you this Easter and always

Manjablessings said...