Pastor’s Friday Comments (04.03.20)

Along with all the other calendars and routines and cycles that have been thrown off by our new (and temporary) stay-in-place existence is the rhythm of the Christian year. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day that ushers in the most holy week of the annual walk with Christ. Under normal circumstances, on April 5 the children would have marched in a more-or-less solemn procession into the sanctuary, reminding us of the crowds that lined the roadside as Jesus made his fateful final entry into Jerusalem. (A small logistical note: We usually burn the palms at the beginning of the next Season of Lent to use on Ash Wednesday. Not to worry – I still have last year’s bunch in the basement.)

This year, of course, sanctuaries around the world will remain empty, not just for Palm Sunday, but also for Easter, a possibility that had never entered my head until a few weeks ago, and for some weeks thereafter.

Christian worship has always been intended to be a communal activity. We draw encouragement and strength from the presence of others around us, doing what we are doing, directing their prayers and praise toward the same God at the same time. But for now, while we stay connected in spirit and in virtual conversations, we have to remain apart physically.

Neighbors in many communities have made touching attempts to let others know that they are still there, despite all evidence to the contrary. Some neighborhoods are having “bear hunts” for the kids who can still walk the streets by putting stuffed animals in their windows. Evidently ours is a neighborhood of Baby Boomers. In addition to the animal hunts, people have taken to inscribing Beatles song titles (“Here Comes the Sun – It’s Alright”, “I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends”) in sidewalk chalk in front of their houses.

Someone has suggested a similar gesture by Christians for the upcoming weekend and I commend it to you. As a reminder that Sunday is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, place palms on your front door. If you don’t have traditional palms readily available – and I don’t recommend going out looking for them – then any greenery will do. The Palm Sunday text for this year is from the Gospel of Matthew, and in that account the people in the crowd just broke off branches from nearby trees to lay at the feet of Jesus. You could follow that example.

It’s a small gesture. But so is the applause that has been ringing out every night for health care workers and the spontaneous concerts by musicians from their balconies. A lot of people are trying to find a creative way to express the theme we are hearing most often right now: We’re all in this together.

That has been a resounding phrase for Christians since Christ established the Church. We are all in this together. By the power of Christ, his followers are united with one another and united in service to the world. Palm Sunday is an opportunity to remember that and to proclaim it in a small way to our neighbors.

Do me a favor. If you put greenery on your door, send me a picture. I can use the encouragement as much as anyone.