I remember as a child gathering outside of my home church on the front lawn as the church service was beginning. We had our palm branches in hand and were already waving and running around as we waited. Then, at the appropriate time, one of our parents would open the doors to the church and we would proudly march, wave our branches high, and shout “Hosanna!”
It was the only time we could act this way in church. The parade like behavior on Palm Sunday was only reserved for Palm Sunday.
The limitations were removed on Palm Sunday. We did not have to be “just right and proper.”
While church is indeed a sacred place, too often limitations are placed on young people and the young at heart. Too often the limitations frown upon processing through the building making a joyful noise or the excited behavior little bodies show when they come to church. This kind of parade like behavior is not always welcomed. We like things to be “just right and proper.”
Yet, Jesus, the Rabbi who always did and said the unexpected, was not always “just right and proper.”
Take this parade into Jerusalem for example. Scholars have suggested that Jesus planned this event. Over 40 years ago, one scholar said that this scene “looks like a planned political demonstration.” It was Occupy Jerusalem.
At first glance, we may think this is nonsense. Jesus wasn’t political. Jesus wasn’t that kind of Rabbi. Jesus was “just right and proper.”
But we need to consider what was happening on the other side of Jerusalem. While Jesus was parading in on the east side, Pilate was entering on the west side at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers.
One proclaimed the Kingdom of Peace; the other proclaimed the power of empire. One proclaimed the theology of grace; the other proclaimed the imperial theology.
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem stands in stark contrast to that of Pilate’s; a contrast between two kingdoms. And that is the point, isn’t it? That is why Jesus planned the event. He wanted his actions to stand in stark contrast to Pilate’s. He wanted the people of the time and us today to accept that the Kingdom of God is nothing like this earthly kingdom. Was it planned? No doubt. Was it political? Maybe. Did it hold a higher meaning? Most def.
Palm Sunday is more than just a day of celebration and praise. The parade is more than just a recognition that Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Palm Sunday is a call to march; a call to service; a call to not be “just right and proper.”
50 some years ago, children marched peacefully through the streets of Birmingham, even as they were exposed to the abuse of power as water hoses and trained dogs attempted to stop their parade of peace.
This past summer during our vacation Bible school, each day children came in filled with excitement waving little zip-lock bags of loose change. And while it doesn’t seem like using that loose change to buy a cow to send to a developing country is a huge deal, through the work of the Heifer Project, it is transforming a community.
This spring was the first time in fourteen years that the Jamaica mission team did not make their trip due to a mosquito carried virus. If they had made their trip this year, like all the other years, you would have seen doctors and nurses with child-like excitement as they unpacked and laid out their tools for wellness visits and eye exams.
Too often the excitement of Palm Sunday gets forgotten in the shadows of Holy Week. As we turn towards the cross and the tomb, encountering Christ as servant and king, let us not forget the praise and excitement of Palm Sunday. Let us infuse into the church this child-like excitement in all that we do to give others a glimpse of the Kingdom.
Let us, with child-like hearts, parade throughout our church, throughout this city, and throughout the world to raise awareness of injustices, to raise up young Christians, and to send praises on High. Because it is through these acts, no matter how big or small, that God’s kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven.