Thoughts for Palm Sunday
By the Rev. Dina van Klaveren
What just happened? Moments ago we were outside with an adorable miniature donkey yelling “Hosanna!” and waving palms. Why are we now pondering the depths of human experience together as we read Psalm 31?
The psalmist knows the depths- “I am in trouble… when people see me in the street they avoid me… I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.”
Do you know the depths of the human experience? Most of us have had some experience in life lay us low, very low indeed. And some of these experiences surprised us, laying us low when we least expected it. One moment you are on the mountain top and celebrating, the next moment you have been brought very low.
Your health is fine and you feel vital, then suddenly you are spending your days in a doctor’s office. Your career is moving along so well, you are on top of your game, then suddenly you’ve been let go, and everything turns upside down. You are jobless, isolated. You are feeling really great about that tough class, and you feel like you are doing everything the teacher is asking you to do, and you keep up with the homework – then, in a quick turn, you fail a test and sink very, very low.
The collect this morning describes how Jesus “took upon himself our nature” – reminding us that God entered into the highs and lows of the human experience when God became flesh in Jesus Christ. Christ knows the mountain top experience of “Hosanna!” ringing throughout the city of Jerusalem, and Christ knows the lowest point, the shame of a public execution on the cross. The collect prays that “we may walk in the way of his suffering” as we walk with Christ through Holy Week, so that, on Easter Sunday, we may “also share in his resurrection.”
Christ came into the human experience, and this week we have an opportunity to walk into his experience from the gates of Jerusalem to the crucifixion on Golgotha. God walks with us in the experience of Christ– we walk with Christ who leads us toward the cross and the great life-giving surprise of Easter morning.
Christ is always walking with us. Wherever we walk, whatever experiences we meet. Top of the world- Christ is with us. Hitting rock bottom- Christ is there with us. Moments of warm acceptance and moments of chilling rejection.Christ is with us. Christ never leaves us.
Do you know where Christ goes on Holy Saturday, between the moment of death on the cross and the resurrection from death? Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters know – Christ descends to the dead. On Holy Saturday, Christ goes to Hades, the place of the dead, also known as hell. Christ goes into hell to triumph over the bonds of death before resurrecting from death himself. (Read more about this theology here:http://orthodoxeurope. org/page/11/1/5.aspx )
Christ is always present with us – even going to hell and back to complete the full victory of God’s resurrection power over death. Maybe you feel as though you have been to hell and back, as well. You were never alone. Christ was with you, continues to be present to you, and will be with you forever.