Palm Sunday: Our Hope Is For Nothing Less Than Life Itself
Palm Sunday is the gateway into Holy Week, and, perhaps, on this day, the most anxious Palm Sunday many of us have ever known, we might relate all the more closely to this journey toward Easter.
Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, two scholars of the historical Jesus, pondered one formative question while seeking to understand the Gospel stories of Jesus, “What does then have to do with now?” As we look at the path Jesus took to his final sacrifice, this question remains at the forefront of my mind.
Contemplating this question from my home office, I am reminded of the sacrifices that many of us are taking in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). State and federal authorities have given us instructions to stay at home. My 13-year-old daughter’s school is closed. The movie theater where my 18-year-old son works is closed to the public. The college he was hoping to attend is no longer allowing students on campus. Only essential businesses, like the hospital where my wife works, are open.
Many of our neighbors work in the service industry. They are gardeners and housekeepers, restaurant workers and home health aides. The county health department has deemed these jobs, and the small businesses that employ them, non-essential. One neighbor who cleans homes for the elderly shared her worst fear of making one of her elderly clients sick. For her, losing that income was difficult but necessary. Her sacrifice and the sacrifices of my other neighbors are different from mine but just as vital for the good of our community.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the chants of “Hosanna!” knowing full well what was in store. He knew the sacrifice he was making. His perfect sacrifice was necessary to bring about a new reality. Riding on that donkey, Jesus entered Jerusalem in humility, so that the poor and oppressed who were casting palm branches on the road before him might have hope. Jesus rode toward his own self-sacrifice in order to bring life to others.
I do not know what the future will bring. I am not sure that the sacrifices my neighbors and family are taking will help to stem the pandemic. But as I ponder the question, “What does then have to do with now?” I can see we are entering into our own Jerusalem with the deepest hope and desire that our sacrifice will mean that others will have a greater chance to live. We are on this journey so that in the end, life will win.
Our hope is the hope of Easter. It will not be easy. There will be pain and fear. We might feel alone. We might pray that God will ease our burdens. But we must keep our hope alive because that hope is for nothing less than life itself.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.— John 15:13 (NRSV)
Jesus made his ultimate sacrifice out of love (John 15:13), and it is love that will get us through this time. In the week ahead, we will journey together to the cross, and then on to new life, but it is love that will uphold us. So, reach out to others in love by phone or email or Skype or whatever way you can connect in a healthy manner. Find ways to recognize God’s love in your life. When you reach out to others, feel God’s love in you and acting through you. That love is for you, too.
I am grateful for my colleagues at Episcopal Relief & Development. They model the power of love in all that they do. We might be isolated from one another but the care they exude in their lives reminds me and our church partners that we are not alone. It is the love that they share that truly transforms lives and I know that love keeps me strong.
May we all know that love and may that love provide strength for the journey. Amen
Sean McConnell is Senior Director for Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development.
First Image: Sean’s wife walks on an empty street in their hometown.