AVOIDING Palm Sunday Nostalgia

Sunday was Palm Sunday.

I have many fond childhood memories of Palm Sunday processionals up and down the church aisles, waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Maybe I’ve become cynical in my old age, but Palm Sunday doesn’t hold the same nostalgic charm for me anymore.  Maybe it’s the fact that Jesus’ 30-minute processional through the streets of Jerusalem is overshadowed by the coming week-long drama.  Maybe it’s the realization that the very palm branches waved to welcome Jesus will become the ashes we figuratively and literally heap on ourselves next year on Ash Wednesday.

Don’t get me wrong.  The glory and fanfare of welcoming the Prince of Peace with joy and celebration is not without merit.  We all would do well to emulate and authentically express such passion at our Savior’s presence.

And clearly, Jesus’ righteous, victorious, and humble arrival into Jerusalem, a city crowded with Passover celebrants, riding on a donkey and fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy was not accidental.  We cannot overlook its foreshadowing of what would really become the focus of celebration in just a week.

But, let us not get stuck nostalgically waving palm branches, welcoming, as the gathered Jerusalem crowds did, our ideas of a Savior.  We cannot perpetually remain along the parade route, reveling in the celebration.  Palm Sunday’s value, in fact, is that it illustrates an invaluable contrast to Easter.

Palm Sunday was a gathering of short-term duration that ended as soon as Jesus passed by.  Individuals gathered their garments again, parade watchers dissipated, and life returned to normal.  Easter, however, represents an eternal reality, lasting for all of time, initiated by Jesus’ presence.  Life becomes anything but normal.

The cheers and shouts of those gathered for the first Palm Sunday, eager to enthrone Jesus on a human, kingly throne, represented man’s idea for salvation.  Political power, they surmised, would be their only hope in overcoming Roman oppression.

Easter expanded reality, far beyond what any could ever imagine.  A human, kingly throne hardly could begin to establish what God had planned.  Salvation, true salvation – freedom, release and redemption from all that binds and oppresses – was what God intended.  Holistic healing made possible through Christ’s victory over sin and death represents true hope.

No matter how you may view Palm Sunday – either with palm branches waving and shouts of praise, or with cynical realizations that the very crowd who welcomes Jesus soon becomes those crying for his death – may we understand its true significance.  Will we look for our own idea of limited, short-term, political rescue or accept God’s plan for eternal, holistic hope and healing?

I, for one, hope to avoid Palm Sunday nostalgia.