I usually post on Mondays. I'm posting a little early this week so you have this in time for Palm Sunday. (I'm not losing total track of the days of the week yet!)
It feels odd to start Holy Week without going to church for Palm Sunday, knowing that we won’t gather for Good Friday or Easter Sunday either.
I miss sitting in the pew and hearing the voices rise in song around me, turning around during the passing of the peace to greet the couple behind me, feeling the vibrations of the organ travel up my legs and engage my whole body in the surround-sound of worship.
This week I also miss seeing the children parade down the aisles waving palm branches. As grateful as I am for online sermons and prayers, it’s different than gathering in worship.
And yet, entering Holy Week this way reminds me of a Christmas I spent in “my” little village in the mountains of Afghanistan. As I walked up the bare dirt path to the mud-brick hospital to see the patients on Christmas morning, there were no Christmas trees, no twinkling lights, no carols. The world around me didn’t know the Savior had come.
And yet he had.
In fact, he had come into a setting much like that one, where the sheep and chickens shared the homes of their owners, and where the neighbors beginning their days didn’t know the world had changed.
On that Christmas morning as I walked to the hospital, though I grieved not being with my family, and missed the lights and the turkey, the stockings and the children building new lego sets, there was a deeper sense of being in the story. (The donkeys parked outside the hospital might have had something to do with that as well!)
On this Palm Sunday here in Canada, there are no donkeys to pull my imagination into the story. No dirt paths or chickens living in the houses of my neighbors. And yet, this Palm Sunday, perhaps more than any I’ve lived before, feels real, and desperately important.
Jesus comes, and in the midst of sickness and questions and fear, He is King. This truth saves me moment by moment.
And He comes gently and humbly, riding on a donkey, not out to conquer the parts of me that struggle but to woo them, to lead them deeper into his healing, life-giving love. This reality makes me love Him all the more.
This Jesus who comes is the Jesus I need, and now (as always) is the time I need him.
I posted the words of James Bryan Smith on my bathroom mirror last week, words to read and affirm and return to live in many times each day.
“I am one in whom God dwells and delights.
I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God.
The kingdom is not in trouble, and neither am I.”
James Bryan Smith
As we begin Holy Week, watching the King take his next step toward his throne on the back of a donkey, let's remember that, even while so much around us is being shaken, this humble, powerful, life-bringing, Servant King—the One who doesn't hide from suffering but walks with us into and through it—sits firmly and unshakeably on the throne of the universe.
The peace of Christ be with you.
P.S. If you'd like to dig deeper into the character of this God who comes, you might enjoy my Bible study, "When Life Falls Apart: Relearning Trust in the God of Mercy." Click here to learn more and download your copy (FREE through Monday evening).