The best experience I’ve ever had with palm trees was a few years ago when my sister and I went to Cancun. We spent hours sitting under the shade of palm trees reading the books which had weighed down our suitcases on the trip down. It was peaceful, it was beautiful, and most importantly right now, it was warm!
For most kids who grow up in New Brunswick (those who don’t travel south on vacations) their experience of palm trees is limited to the occasional house plant, and the palm fronds that are passed out to the children in churches on Palm Sunday. In churches around the world palm branches will be passed out to children this Sunday in commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem which began what we call Holy Week.
I started thinking about what we do with the branches in relation to what was actually done on that first day. I always assumed that the children waved the branches in the air, which may be the case for some, but mostly they laid them down on the ground in front of him, creating a carpet of green, a palm carpet. As far as the people were concerned, Jesus was entering Jerusalem as a king and deserved special attention. They gave him the “red carpet” treatment on Sunday and then by Friday they were crying for his death.
My dad was saying the other day that it seemed strange that we consider Palm Sunday as a celebration when it really is the beginning of the end for Jesus and based on the Jew’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ role as the Messiah. He wasn’t here to be an earthly king who would defeat the Romans and seize control. That is the person they were dancing, cheering, and quoting scripture about, but it wasn’t the man on the donkey.
By Palm Sunday word was definitely spread wide about all the miracles that Jesus had been doing, all the radical ideas he had been preaching, and definitely the news that he had just raised a man who had been dead for four days! This was, to borrow from the popular rock opera of the 70’s, a Superstar entering the temple city! Jerusalem was already filled to overflowing with people who had come to celebrate the Passover at the temple. Everyone wanted to see him. For our politicians today it would have been a photo-op and media event for which they could only wish!
I think the reason we celebrate Palm Sunday isn’t that we are commemorating the erroneous reason from Jesus’ day, but celebrating the true meaning of the entry of the Messiah. Jesus was entering Jerusalem as the man who would not conquer the Romans, but would conquer death itself! So, get out your palm branches, or whatever materials you choose, and make a carpet for our king. “With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118: 27)
Posted in Bible Study, Lectionary, Reflections
Tagged Bible, change, Christ's triumphal entrance, Christian, Christianity, church, Easter, God, Jesus, king, man on a donkey, Messiah, Palm Sunday, palms, Psalm 118:27, reading, red carpet, reflection
The story of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well doesn’t stop where we left off yesterday. This woman doesn’t just accept Jesus’ word, but she immediately starts to evangelize. She goes back into the town, where many people probably don’t normally speak to her because of her lifestyle, and speaks to everyone she meets to let them know that the Messiah is at the well! These are not the right people, and they are not in the right place!
Jacob’s well, the scene of our story, is at the entrance to the valley between Mt. Gerazim and Ebal. The source of much of the division between the Samaritans and the Jews was that the Samaritans built an alternative temple on Mt. Gerazim. In Jesus’ talk with the woman, when the discussion of which place was correct to worship God, the mountain where Samaritans worshiped or the temple in Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped, he makes it clear that it won’t be long before the issue of place will not matter. The huge divide between the Samaritans and Jews will not matter anymore because everyone will worship in spirit and in truth wherever they are.
Why is it that the wrong people are so able to see Jesus as Messiah and to accept this? Why were the Samaritans who followed this woman out of the city able to see and accept what the disciples were not? Is it because they have no vested interest? After-all, if you aren’t in a position to deserve anything and it is offered anyway wouldn’t you jump at it?
Whatever else might be said of the disciples, they were Jews, the chosen people, they worshiped God and followed the customs and rules of the temple. They would have firmly believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the proper place to worship, that the Samaritans were not people in God’s favour, and that Messiah was coming for them alone. The Samaritans, on the other hand, did not even expect Jews to talk to them, especially after some Samaritans had scattered bones in the temple in Jerusalem, and after the Maccabean uprising was put down, allowed their temple to be dedicated to Zeus. They had nothing to expect of Jesus, so when he offered them the living water they were happy to accept.
So, are we thirsty? I know I am. As thirsty people, are we more like the Jews who are sure of our position and right to the water, or are we more like the Samaritans unsure that we deserve anything?
With potable drinking water at risk all over the world, and especially in Japan and other places which have had recent natural disasters, this seems like a good time for this question of thirst. We in Canada don’t have much to worry about in terms of water. We have lots for us, so much so that we are careless with it and just expect that it will remain this way. Physically we are more like the Jews in this story, sure we will have the water while others may struggle. Spiritually, though, I think our thirst is a bigger problem for us than those in the developing world. As Christians we are lucky to have found the rock from whom the living water springs, even if we stray and find ourselves thirsting again we know that through prayer Jesus is still there for us.
There are so many people out there who don’t even know for what they thirst. They will try anything to fill that need, but it won’t work in the long-term. They remain thirsty. Like the woman at the well we need to go back to town and tell people what we have learned and offer to lead them to the man at the well. If you meet a thirsty person do you not offer them a drink?
Posted in Bible Study, Reflections
Tagged belief, Bible, Christianity, evangelism, faith, God, Jacob's well, Jesus, Lent, Messiah, prayer, reflection, Samaritan woman, temple, thirsty, worship, wrong people, wrong place
As Lent begins and along with it a series of noon time talks by Bishop Bill Hockin and Dr. Barry Craig, I am listening to their series of talks from this past Advent. With their talks being at noon, my parents are able to attend and I am not. So here I am listening to talks about Advent (a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas) during the second week of Lent (a season of fasting and reflection and repentance between Ash Wednesday and Easter). The series is called Shopping for a Messiah: The Eternal Search for a Better Life and is available at billhockin.ca and I highly recommend you check them out at billhockin.ca. The first week’s topic is A Messiah Who Takes You Home to Dinner, the second is A Messiah Who Loves the Loser, the third A Messiah Who Switches the Price Tags, and finally there is a reflection on A Messiah Who Turns the Tables on Religion.
I realize that it sounds rather odd to be listening to Advent reflections while reading Lenten devotions. The thing is that Advent and Lent are not as different as they may seem. “Jesus is the reason for both seasons!”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 Jesus is the Messiah whose coming we anticipate during Advent, upon whose life and ministry we reflect during Lent, and who ultimately took all our sin on his shoulders through his death on the cross and rising at Easter.
Posted in Bible Study, Lectionary, Reflections
Tagged Advent, Ash Wednesday, billhockin.ca, Bishop Bill Hockin, Christianity, church, Dr. Barry Craig, Easter, God, Jesus, John 3:16, Lent, Messiah, promise, reflection, repentance, waiting