Dear Lenten Pilgrims,
As Holy Week draws near, we approach some familiar narrative territory: the waving of palm branches, the washing of feet, the breaking of bread, a friend’s betrayal and the agony of death.
We are also aware of the tragic turn that the crowds would take against Jesus. The same people who would cheer him on as he entered the Jerusalem gates on Palm Sunday would yell “Crucify him” just days later.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all four gospels, but John is clearest in pointing out this mood shift in the crowd. The other three gospels chronicle the events of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but John skips right ahead, jumping from Palm Sunday in John 12 to Maundy Thursday in John 13. And, while the other gospels say that Jesus rode a donkey from the beginning of his entrance, John’s version tells us that he got onto the donkey only as a response to the crowds.
With people expecting their warrior king to come riding in on a mighty stallion, it is as if Jesus said in John, “You think I’ve come to meet your expectations? Well, guess again.” So, by the time the week’s public opinion polls close, the people have shifted, from praise to prosecution, from adoration to indictment.
But before we criticize those crowds too harshly, let’s ask ourselves the question: Aren’t we just as prone to sudden mood shifts in our view of Jesus? Is it possible that, even in our best efforts to worship God, we are really emphasizing ourselves – our own needs, our own desires, our own expectations?
Maybe we should call it “boomerang praise.” It is an attempt to worship God that simply circles back to our own needs. It’s a kind of devotion to God that is more descriptive of ourselves than it is directed toward God:
- We pray to God, but our prayers contain more personal pronouns than divine ones.
- We celebrate God, but only to the extent that we are in the mood.
- We come to worship, so long as we find it entertaining.
- We give God our gifts, so long as we have ability to do so (and as long as we have enough left over.)
- We will follow this Jesus, so long as it costs us little.
No, we may not have the same palm fronds in our hands, but we have the same sentiment in our hearts.
So why do we observe Palm Sunday? To remind us that the Lenten journey is not at all about aligning Jesus with our needs and expectations. It is the exact opposite: to radically reorient our lives toward the way and will of Jesus.
I invite you to join us this Sunday for the start of the pomp, pageantry and passion of this most important week of the year. Come experience again the wonder and glory of Holy Week, and discover how you can get unstuck from yourself.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor
HOLY WEEK, EASTER, AND HOSPITALITY
For the full schedule of our Holy Week services, including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, visit our Easter web page. And we can use your help in greeting and serving the thousands of guests we are expecting throughout the week. Sign up to usher, greet and park, on our Easter Hospitality form.