I guess I’m at the point where I’m too stinkin’ old to adapt to change. When I was a kid there was no such thing in the Lutheran liturgical year as Sunday of the Passion. The story of Our Lord’s Passion was reserved for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. If you really wanted to experience this powerful week in the history of salvation, you couldn’t just show up on Sunday. You had to journey through the whole magnificent eight days—the waving of the palms and shouts of “Hosanna!” on Sunday, the washing of the feet and the Last Supper on Thursday, and the blackness of the crucifixion as the world went dark on Friday. Then the community would experience the joy of coming to the garden at sunrise on Easter morning to celebrate God’s promise of eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus. It was meant to be a week-long pilgrimage.
You’ll understand, I hope, why I don’t look at the Sunday before Easter as anything other than Palm Sunday—that day when Jesus came to Jerusalem, humble and mounted on a donkey, and was greeted with a carpet of peasants’ ragged clothing, flying pennants taken from the palm trees, and the desperate cry of “Hosanna!”
This word “hosanna” is a word imploring “save” in the sense of “rescue me.” We find the acclamation of the crowd welcoming Jesus in Psalm 118:25-26. The psalmist assumes that the call for God’s saving action will certainly be answered. It’s rather like getting a cramp while swimming and calling on a trained life guard to help you out. You know it’s the guard’s job to pull you out of the water to safety, and that he or she will assuredly do so. Your cry of “save me” is only an acknowledgment of your own distress. A good life guard—just like our Heavenly Father—has already seen your predicament and is swimming towards you before you even began to call out.
Just like us, those peasants who cheered Jesus were in need of saving, and they felt confident God had sent the answer to their prayers in the form of the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth. They were right that God had sent salvation, but utterly confused as to the way by which that saving grace would be experienced.
We’re just like them. Today we implore God’s rescue from a deadly world-wide pandemic, but rescue won’t come from a vaccine. It will come, perhaps, from a new sense of gratitude, and, as we see in the love of Jesus, a real, renewed faith in the power of sacrifice. Our salvation will be in living the words of St. Paul from Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God— what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God bless, my friends. Stay home and stay safe!