Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Palm Sunday

My childhood memories of Palm Sunday include parades of palm-waving children, liturgical dancing with ribbons, and a familiar church member dressed up as Jesus. It was corny, but when we sang “Hosanna in the Highest!” my young heart felt all the joy that accompanies the commencement of Holy Week.

Passion Week begins and ends in exaltation, yet in between is a cornucopia of other emotions. We see Jesus overturn tables; people hanging on Christ’s every word; cloak-and-dagger deals made to kill the Messiah; proclamations made and prayers offered.

From our perspective today, Palm Sunday is just another milestone on the road to the Resurrection, but think about what it must have been like to be in that moment—the King you have waited and wished for is finally here! Here’s how the Gospel of Luke describes the “triumphal entry”:

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
I have to think that even if the stones were crying out in that moment, they would have gone unheard for the joyful song coming from the crowd.

It’s hard to throw ourselves into the celebratory spirit of Palm Sunday knowing Jesus will be crucified by the same hands that are here waving in adoration. Soon the sea of gratitude will become a a storm of mockery, and even Christ’s disciples will lose faith. But when we gloss over the exaltation of Palm Sunday, we miss a valuable part of the Easter story: the sense of expectation.

Today instead of being a child waving palm branches I was the person leading the children. Before the service the children gathered to hand out palm branches to those who attended worship. They were so eager to do so it was cute. I think each person got offered a branch at least three times, so no one was left out that's for sure.
The kids are eagerly awaiting people to hand out palms to.
Jacob REALLY wanted to be the student to give me a palm branch

Mrs. Jennie has three kids at once trying to give her a palm

The service for me was much a blur. After handing out branches the children went downstairs and I joined the handbell choir as we played along to the traditional liturgy. It was an added bonus to an already beautiful service.

After playing first part of the handbells I ran downstairs to assist with Children's Church. Children's church is Sunday school but it takes place during the church service. This Sunday in Children's Church the kids made an Easter Garden. Using potting soil, a tiny buried flower pot for the tomb, shade grass seed, & crosses made from twigs the kids created their very own resurrection scene. With proper watering and sunshine it will be green for Easter.

In hindsight having kids play with dirt, rocks, and sticks while dressed in their Sunday clothes may not have been the best idea but the kids had fun and no one got too messy.
Working on their Easter Garden.
While their mothers teach Children's Church Isabella and Landon play together.

They are coming along nicely.
Adding the seeds, now just a little more dirt to cover them.
Adding the seeds
Completed project today...
...and what it looks like a week after watering :)
After Children's Church (it goes until the Sermon is done and then children join their parents in worship) I headed back upstairs for the remainder of the service. Handbells played along with the pre-communion liturgy. During the offering the choir sang with handbells. Since a lot of choir members are also handbell members there was overlap. We are talented and sounded pretty good if I may say so myself.

After worship the youth assembled Easter eggs (placing candy and a Bible verse in each one), and then hid them as next week we have a large Easter Egg hunt and puppet show for children birth-5th grade.

Palm Sunday was busy for me but also a great time of celebration. As Christians, we celebrate Palm Sunday in anticipation of Easter. What a marvelous thing: Jesus, God made flesh, died for sinful humanity’s sake and then rose from the grave to conquer death! Words don’t do justice to the joy that still fills my heart at the thought of such love and hope.

Palm Sunday remains a day of expectation, even if our expectations differ from those of the crowd that welcomed Jesus. Today, we are expectant of the glorious event at the end of the week, when Jesus returns as the King of Kings to bring forgiveness to all those who want it.

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