Childhood memories of Palm Sunday bring sounds of anthems and Hallelujahs! Palm branches decked the Sanctuary and joined the children's voices singing "Loudest Hosannas, Jesus is King!"
The day was, in my mind, rehearsal for the great Easter service to come. The sweetness of Easter Lilies replaced the palms, and the people brought their pet canaries to church to join the 'joyful noise.' How the caged birds would sing on Easter Sunday harmonizing with one another and human voices on trills of Alleluia!
Today, a "bit of palm" is what the church-goer receives while canaries, once prevalent as household pets, can scarcely be found in pet stores. (Did talking parakeets really chase them from the market?)
At any rate, in my memory Palm Sunday was a glorious day. It still is, but the somber figure of Jesus riding toward Calvary makes the entry into Jerusalem less triumphant. Our hearts and minds quickly become engaged in the passion events of the week. The day is now often entitled Palm/Passion Sunday. It's as if, once you know, it is difficult to pretend to relive childhood sights and sounds. With maturity comes experience in human fickleness and deceit, exploitation and absence ofintegrity. Life is less complicated when you "go with the flow", hide with the crowd. This Jesus, if He is really King, is going to make it anyhow. What does it matter whether or not you join the raucous crowds or trustingly sing with the children's band?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul uses an ancient Christian hymn to jerk us into reality. From the perspective of centuries we realize that we are not called to be observers of the procession, but participants through the very mind of Christ. "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness and being found in human form. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross."
This is not a Jesus being taken to Jerusalem. This is one who chooses to go. His words "no one takes my life, I give it" should ring in our ears and inspire our hearts to overcome the vicissitudes of life. We are not helpless individuals plodding through life, but, in God's sight and purpose, we are persons of value. Our minds God would use to save the world.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the words: "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2.
As we follow the scriptural passion narrative of Jesus we witness his institution of the Lord's Supper. As He takes the bread and breaks it, and gives thanks, gives it to His disciples, He symbolizes His body being broken - for them, (and for us). The cup, He says, is the New Covenant in His blood. Jesus interpreted His own life within the context of the New Covenant made by God through the prophet Jeremiah.
"The days are surely coming says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and house of Judah. It will not be like the Covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt - a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the, Lord. It will put my law within them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more."
Jesus settles a dispute about who is the greatest among the disciples by defining and modeling servant leadership. This is the mind of Christ.
He predicts that Peter will deny him. He leads the disciples to the Mt. of Olives, his customary place of prayer, withdraws from them and struggles to do the will of God. Obedience does not come easily, even to the Son of God.
His betrayal, arrest and crucifixion follow. He is obedient unto death. This is the mind of Jesus.
When in marking Palm Sunday, we wave the branch of palms, or wear the neatly cut crosses made from the palm, we are called to remember not only the drama of the day, but also the purpose of the day - so that we, with renewed minds and hearts, can by the depth of God's love for us transform the world.
A procession this past August brought alleluia! and Praise God! to my lips. Hundreds of children, parents and adult escorts marched 30 miles on a Children's Crusade to Death Row - from the Bruderhof Community of Farmington, Pennsylvania, to the State Correctional institution in Waynesburg. There they demonstrated - with prayer, songs and speeches - against the use of capital punishment in the United States.
The record of this event is included in a recent Editorial of Christian Social Action under the heading "End Capital Punishment, Celebrate life instead," in commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who came to give life - abundant life to all. The words of Jonathan Kozol to the Bruderhof children call renewal in the mind of Christ.
"In this benighted nation that denies food to the poor while it finds money it needs to build new prisons, it is fitting that children lead us in that search for our salvation. The death chamber is our national sacrilege and shame. It celebrates murder by the state, betrays the gospel, and tramples on the scriptures. The children's crusade celebrates life."
May we have the mind of Jesus, Christ!