[I gratefully notice that Jessica is going to pick up this theme as well today, and her post will further illuminate why this is important to our faith.]
On Palm Sunday, way back in the mid 60’s, according to the traditions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, I became a man, with all the responsibilities to God that that carried. It was also when you traditionally got your first suit. The Sunday before was Examination Sunday, the test was verbal, in front of the congregation. This entitled me to take my First Communion on Easter Sunday, as was considered meet and right.
As always the Sanctuary was decorated in palm fronds commemorating Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also as on all special Sundays we processed behind the Pastor and Choir up the center aisle to this, Hymn No. 1 in the old E&R Hymnal.
And so I became responsible for my own everlasting fate, which up until this time had been my parents (and Godparents) responsibility.
Palm Sunday was, of course, the most triumphant day of Jesus’ ministry. With the adoring and worshipful crowds which of course would soon demand and receive his death.
What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:
For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .
A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.
We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks, or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our forefathers (and mothers) but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.
But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection, that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages He died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week He went from the darling of the populace, to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.
The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as He did, the fate that awaited him. But He never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith, if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.
Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most American conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama
wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality. In some ways he reminds me of a magician who has managed to turn some of Christ’s miracles into mere magic tricks, for glory and money.
And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:
First the Mission
Second the People