It is Palm Sunday - the Sunday of the Passion. It is the moment we in the Church reenter an old story, a story we know almost too well. Today we ride with Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. Today we lay palm branches, new and soft and green, at his feet.
But today we read the story aloud. We hold old copies of the script on red or pink photocopy paper, each whispering or shouting the old words. And then we all shout, one huge crowd in the red church: Crucify him! Crucify him! Because the One we hail is also the One we reject. The man who in one moment we call King, the next moment we send to a cross with a vengeance.
Sometimes I forget that I am that kind of hypocrite in my own life, too. I hear it on Palm Sunday in my neat Sunday best, hair wavy, not one thing out of place. I hear it echo through the Church, that we are hypocrites in the story. But I say, "that's so long ago." I say, "that's a part of the story from then, not now." I say, almost gleeful to myself, "I am so glad I'm not like that."
But this week, friends, this week Jesus Himself appeared, the heartbeat and the reminder. This week, as I rest my bare feet against the leather couches, or when I laughed skeptically at an idea, or when I stayed silent in a class when I could have spoken out for faith... the One I hail is the One I rejected.
And He looks at me now, on Sunday morning, from the icon of the Christ of Mount Sinai. He looks at me, so knowing and so righteous, so filled with judgment and so filled with grace I can't keep looking at him. Palm Sunday is the Sunday of the King of the Jews, but it is also the Sunday where the grace of Christ goes forth, hidden underneath our hypocrisy. It is the Sunday where His love begins its journey to the Cross and we hail him in one breath and deny him the next.
And this week I let that grace go forth, without thanksgiving. This week, I sang with palm branches in one moment, and hoped that God really wouldn't notice or care that I said that horrible, mean, ungrateful thing that same day.
But the arms of Jesus are strong and mighty to save. They are mighty to save not just from death, but they are mighty to save us from hypocrisy. They are mighty to set our faces towards the Cross. They are mighty to shake us awake from our deceit.
This Holy Week, I pray He might shake us all awake from deceit, that we might recognize His unseen love. That we might set our faces to the Cross, knowing that to walk it with Him is to truly know life. I pray He might bend our hearts until they burst with His grace for this world, and that we might know forevermore that He draws the world unto Himself.
Can we pray together, that His grace might overcome our blindness?
Almighty and everliving God, who, of thy tender love
towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the
cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his
great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the
example of his patience, and also be make partakers of his
resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.