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  • Hope on Union

Up and Down

Palm Sunday is one of the enjoyable rituals in the life of the Church, but it leaves the pastor's side of me in a quandary. The schizophrenic nature of Holy Week leaves even the stalwarts of faith in a disconcerting emotional roller-coaster.

The children's cry of "Hosanna" or placing palm branches on the ground comes from sources Protestants do not accept as a part of the Bible. The reference is from 1 Maccabees 13:51, during the Intertestamental Period when the Protestants believed that God was silent. The crowd's cry of "Hosanna" and placing palms on the ground was for Simon Maccabeus, who secured political independence for Judaea in 142 BCE. He was chosen by the people as "leader and high priest forever."

The New Testament writers repeat the story of Simon in an attempt to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Because it is repeating a story of a military leader of the past, and the story of Jesus turning the money-changing tables is also a repeat from earlier stories, some question the validity of the Palm Sunday stories. The role of the Palm Sunday story is that it works well to bookend the Holy Week events.

Palm Sunday is not about imitating the children's actions of the story but recognizing that the death of Jesus is nearing. Palm Sunday is not only about singing "Hosanna" but is about our recognizing our need for God's grace and mercy in our lives. Palm Sunday's story does not prove that people of Jesus' time believed that he was the Messiah but was included to convince the new converts that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the appearing of the Messiah.

The modern-day Church often misses the point of Palm Sunday because we ritualistically wave palms to start the worship service without reflecting on the meaning of waving palms. The people in biblical times used Palms to show that the person being ushered in was so important that they should not touch the dirty ground. This act was reserved for a king.

The question for us is when we wave the Palms on this Sunday morning, we need to recognize that our declaration is that we take the teachings of Jesus for justice and mercy seriously. Just as Simon freed the people of Israel from Syrians, we are crying out that Jesus freed us from condemnations, judgmental expectations, and every other source that deny the love of God for us.

This Palm Sunday, let us wave palms with the joy of recognizing the freedom we have in Jesus.

Pastor Sunny

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