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Isolation Reflections: A Not So Strange Palm Sunday

Apr 5 2020

What a strange moment in history to be celebrating Palm Sunday.  As a child I have distinct memories of my charismatic church having a full-on parade up the centre aisle of the orange pews that marked our sanctuary; men, women, and children waving palm branches and singing ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, HOSANNA, HOSANNA, HOSANNA!’ It was a Vineyard rendition of the Biblical anthem.  I too would have donned a gown and head covering on occasion to re-enact the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem the week prior to our Christian calendar celebrations of Easter.

So many years later as I sit in front of my computer screen, only 18 days into what seems to be an unending period of isolation, I have time to reflect on just what those celebrations would have looked like in that significant City of David. I sit here thinking about what it would have felt like to actually stand welcoming Jesus into their town, and to appreciate on a new level the gift of gathering alongside fellow believers and anticipate the day when we too will be able to stand together again and sing and raise our hands in celebration of the God who still appears in our midst, our coming King.

It strikes me in this moment, that the people of Jerusalem that day were going against the wishes of the authorities – many of the Gospel accounts recount the Pharisees and politicians of the day throwing up their hands at the notion of a ‘king’ riding through the wrong gates, on the back of the wrong domesticated mammal, attracting the attention of thousands of worshippers, defying the norm, defying the understanding of what the moment of the Messiahs coming would actually look like.

And here we are. Hillsong services on at full volume, my children dancing in the lounge room and shouting ‘What a beautiful Name it is, the name of Jesus’, encouragement and prayers scrolling on chat sites too quickly to write it all down.  Defiance of the prevailing mentality at its finest.  No one here in my lounge room seems to notice the statistics today, the gloomy reports, the doubts that either a vaccine OR a divine miracle urged down by the fervent devotion of defiant Christians could be the end of this traumatic season.  Instead, there is joy, there is hope, there is expectation…

And then there is the donkey.  Who’s was it? Who actually owned the animal that plays such a pivotal role in this historic account?  I searched the text, but the writers of the Gospels never gave us his name.  I want to know what he thought when the disciples came to get what perhaps was his prized animal, or his only form of transport, off the fence post that day.  Was he hesitant? Or, if like Matthew predicted, the beckoning of ‘…the Master needs them’ was all the convincing it took.

I wonder if he knew that his generosity in that moment would see himself represented in thousands of narratives and church plays for centuries to come? I want to ask him, “Did you know that all four gospels would record your sacrifice?”

It got me thinking about what these last 18 days have looked like for me.  I’ve been hesitant to jump in with my thoughts, petitions and opinions.  Worried about adding to the ‘noise’ that seems to bombard us from our phones and zooms and texts and televisions each day. A bit unsure that my musings about motherhood in lockdown, puzzles and playdough as teaching tools, and observations about marriage and the mundane of everyday life amidst praying for a miraculous end to this pandemic, would mean anything to anyone. Yet, reading this morning about the man who gave of his donkey reminded me of something.

Maybe my little part, no matter how seemingly insignificant, undignified, unrefined or unusual, could help travel the Saviour a bit further down the road. Maybe what little I have to offer – if offered with open hands and pure intentions – might actually further the Gospel into a place where people line the streets (spaced 1.5 metres apart of course) and finally recognise their King who loves them.  Maybe your small gift or gesture of generosity, open handedness with your learnings and experiences this week will prompt someone to ask about how you see the story ending…

Maybe our shared gifts in this season, whether you have a donkey to borrow, a cloak to throw, a branch to wave, or a song to sing are adding to the chorus of voices that will rise above the city walls and cause others to ‘come and see’ also.  Maybe the Palm Sunday I experienced as a child and the one my children are experiencing right now don’t have to look so different after all…