We are approaching the end of our Lenten journey, which one Facebook meme describes as the “Lentiest Lent we’ve ever Lented.” This time of isolation, of insecurity and fear, of suffering, has aligned somewhat appropriately with this season of the church. It has forced us to pause, to reflect on our priorities, to face questions of life and death. Now, however, as Holy Week draws near, we begin to anticipate Easter and the dawning realization that this will not be like any celebration of the resurrection that most of us have experienced.
Before we get there, however, we must pass through Palm Sunday and its account of Jesus entering Jerusalem through the east gate on a donkey to the triumphant cheers of gathered crowds. This procession stood in stark contrast to events at the western gate where the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, would have been entering with the full pomp of Caesar’s imperial representative. Where Pilate’s entourage would have carried royal banners and shown every bit of Caesar’s worldly power, Jesus’ humble entry was very much its opposite.
At times such as the current pandemic we depend very much on the structures and authority of government to organize medical care, to advise us on best health and welfare practices, to distribute resources where they are needed most. That is government’s purpose. As we come upon Palm Sunday, however, we remember that Jesus embodies a very different, and far greater, power and purpose. This Palm Sunday power that Jesus represents is lived out through faith, embodied in self-sacrifice, enabled by hope, restorative at its core.
As the secular structures of our society live out their roles, we as the church must stay true to ours. That begins with maintaining an active prayer life, because our discipleship is birthed and sustained through our relationship with God. We must maintain relationships with one another in whatever way possible – by telephone, text, email, online. Offering hope while staying rooted in the reality of our context, demanding justice for those most deeply affected, giving generously in support of our neighbors near and far – this is Palm Sunday power.
We may not be together again through physical community for some time. Our spiritual community, however, is where our real strength lies, and this is our opportunity to remember and recapture that. I am learning new ways of being in ministry, like gathering the Faith Village children over the internet through a Zoom conference and designing worship to be entirely online. While we will eventually gather back together in one place, we are also increasing lasting opportunities for community. May your faith, also, grow in lasting ways in the days ahead.
Peace for the journey,