Today is Palm Sunday. I love Palm Sunday because it means that Lent is almost over. While I love the season of Lent, I love its end as much as, if not more than, its duration. I enjoy thinking about serious things, but I also enjoy the excitement that comes with Easter and realizing that all the suffering and sadness comes to an end with the risen Christ. Though I am not silly enough to think that all of our earthly suffering comes to an end. I know that very real pain exists in this world, and I know that even remembering the resurrection of the Messiah is not enough to assuage some pain.
Palm Sunday is also one of my favorite Sundays because, for many churches, it is one of very few high holy days where children are encouraged to play a part in the service. Too often, I think, churches don’t have children participate in the service (they might totally mess things up, right?) unless it’s a special service, like a Christmas play or something. Children and youth seem to always be an afterthought in the Church, but we’d be well off to listen to their voices and learn from them, like a reciprocal relationship, instead of always putting them off to the side, in Children’s Church or the Nursery or the Alternative Youth Service. I love Palm Sunday, because it almost always involves small children, and any willing youth, waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”
I remember how special I felt when I was a child and I got to be one of the Christians who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. I (probably over-zealously) shouted my Hosannahs and waved my palm branch before (possibly not so) delicately laying it on the pile of branches on the altar of the church. I had a little extra spunk when I was younger. After Sunday School we got to go collect a branch apiece to take home with us, and I would always take it home and press some of the individual leaflets in my little white leather-bound KJV bible with Jesus’ words in red letters. That bible was so cool because it was a children’s bible, but it was a real translation (if you can call the KJV a real translation), and it had these strange watercolor type pictures in every book. I remember the one for Genesis was Joseph in his amazing rainbow coat. The Preface to the Christian Scriptures had this picture:
I remember getting in so much trouble in Sunday School over this exact picture. One of the adults was explaining to us, “See there is no door knob on the door, which means that you have to open the door to let Jesus inside. He can’t just open it himself. You have to let him in.” Then I said, “Um, the side of the door you can see has the hinges. The hinges are never on the same side of the door as the knob. Jesus is standing in front of the knob, so we can’t see it.” Let me just say, it doesn’t pay to be an observant little kid in a conservative evangelical denomination (Nazarene). I am sure my punishment by my Sunday School teacher for this event is one of reasons we ended up becoming Methodist. For all their faults, at least Methodists use their brains! But back to Palm Sunday.
I am not sure that I’ve ever missed a Palm Sunday service before in my life, but today we chose to sleep in and then go for a walk at Mounds State Park. Going to Mounds was a great choice since all the wild flowers were bloomed out and the weather was a little drizzly but perfect for hiking. We walked the opposite direction that we usually do, and it’s the way I like better, because I notice more beauty coming around that way. I’m not sure why I notice more, but I do. And today was no exception. The park was absolutely beautiful. Breathtakingly so. I didn’t wave any palm fronds, and I didn’t shout Hosannah, but I was able to worship in a way I don’t usually worship in a building called Church.
So this week, as I look forward to Easter, I plan to do several things to remind me of what is coming.I am going to play more, run more, and swim more. I am going to fast, eating only one meal (dinner) each day. And, I am going to pray more and be more mindful of the beauty all around me.
I have found that writing here (nearly) every day during Lent has done wonders for my mental health. Paying attention to the things around me and reflecting in a spiritual way always makes me feel better, more connected to my surroundings. I don’t know why I don’t keep this up. One entry a day isn’t too much to ask, right? Also, I just cut my hair; it’s pretty crazy, but so am I.