This essay was written as part of the outreach program of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington to continue to minister to our community in this time of uncertainty and “social distancing” that requires not meeting in person.For essays by my friends and colleagues go to “Calming the Storm.”
This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. Father Hendree, Father Jon, and all the worship team provided us all with a wonderful worship service, despite the distance and technology needed to accomplish it. I sat with my family in our home and worshiped with you all. We did not have the blessing and parade of palms, nonetheless around the world millions of Christians worshipped together and remembered those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
I have always envisioned those people lining the streets of Jerusalem as being happy and cheerful, waving their palm fronds and shouting gleefully, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The flannel graphs I remember from Sunday School and the parades we put on in the halls of the church were always joyous and fun! But, as my friend and scholar Daniel Falk reminded me this weekend, that is not the image presented in the Gospel. Hosanna doesn’t mean what we think it means.
It is a Hebrew word (transliterated into the Greek of the New Testament,) that means “Save us, we pray!” The people crowded the streets, shouting at the top of the lungs, with vigor of voice and in fear, are begging Jesus, “Save us, we pray, O Son of David!” Save us! Deliver us from suffering! Free us from our pain! Save us, Lord! If they are joyful, it is with the future hope and expectation that their current state of sickness, hunger, and oppression will soon be over.
Can there be a more appropriate cry this Holy Week? Save us, Lord!
Holy Week is a time of tension in the life of the church, a tension that we live in at all times. We see Jesus at the beginning of the week enter Jerusalem to engage with the world deeply and passionately. He teaches those who will listen, turns over the tables of the money changers, and heals the blind and the lame (Matt. 21). Yet we know that his deepest engagement with our needs and sin is yet to come, it is what will turn the horrors of that Friday, into Good Friday. Then there is what, for the disciples was perhaps the longest day of their lives, what we call Holy Saturday. As they mourned the death of their friend and teacher and sat in their despair. Unlike the disciples, as we keep the vigil and mourn the sacrifice that Jesus made for the whole world, we know the rest of the story, that he conquered death and rose again! What a week! What a world…that God so loves.
As we experience this Holy Week of home quarantine, sickness, and even death, as we sit in grief living between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are perhaps more aware than we have ever been of the need to call out to the Lord, “Save us, we pray!”
Remember that our call for deliverance comes out of the conviction, the experience of knowing that God is with us, that God has saved us and will save us again. We find this in the pattern of Psalm 118, which opens the Liturgy of the Palms. It opens with the call to remember the presence and love of God in our lives.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
No matter the circumstances in your life or mine, in our society or across the globe, the Lord’s love for us remains and endures forever. Consider and reflect on all those moments when God has been present in your life. Write down those memories and recount the grace of God in your life. Remember the people who have loved you, the point at which your need was met, and your pain was lessened. As you rejoice in the love of God, it is good and right also to call out to that same God for comfort and deliverance now, in this time of need. “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!” (Ps. 118:25) Then watch and see how grace of God will begin to move into your life, as the rays of the sun begin to creep over the hills and trees on this spring morning.
May the light and love of the Risen Lord fill you this day and always. Amen.