Signpost for 13th April 2014, 6th Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
The last Sunday in Lent – the beginning of Holy Week during which sinners are reconciled – time to reflect on the final week of Jesus’ life, the agony of the Passion and the joy of Resurrection. I wish everyone the joy of this Season.
Interesting discovery No. 1: In the early Church on this day heads were shaved and people washed in preparation for the sacrament of Baptism, which was conferred, after weeks of preparation, only on the night of Holy Saturday. One serious thought here – do we baptise too lightly?: and a frivolous thought – those early Christians would have had such beautiful heads of hair! And images are conjured up of Samson and his Nazirite vow not to cut his hair.
Interesting discovery No. 2: The triumphal entry into Jerusalem was a parable. Jesus, the great Teacher, enacted his message instead of telling a story. But, as with the stories, you still had to work out the meaning. No doubt the Jews at the time would have been aware of Judas Maccabaeus’ arrival in Jerusalem 200 years earlier after conquering the pagan armies that had oppressed Israel. He too was welcomed into the city by a crowd waving palm branches. But Jesus entered on a donkey rather than a warhorse, symbolizing the type of Messiah he was – which as we all know was not the kind the Jews expected or wanted.
Interesting discovery No. 3: The spreading of cloaks on the ground was not a “first” (nor a “last” – think Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I). As the palm-waving, cloak-spreading people would have known, Jehu was hastily anointed King by one of Elisha’s young offsiders and instructed to strike down the house of Ahab, his master. When he came out to tell the servants of the master he perhaps looked rather dazed. “Why did this mad fellow come to you?” they asked. ‘And on hearing the news every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed “Jehu is king.”’ Poor old Ahab! This has surely got to be an interesting re-discovery. How could I have forgotten those details of the Jezebel story? What a wonderful story it is. It’s got everything.
Interesting discovery No. 4: The word “hosanna” was originally a cry to save or rescue, but became a shout of praise and adoration. The Mormons have taken up on it big time and turned it into an organised ritual whereby, on occasions such as the dedication of a new temple, the whole congregation stands, raises their arms and shouts to the limit of their strength, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna …” How not very Anglican! Perhaps we have something to learn from them. Many famous songs and anthems have been written around the word – but who can forget the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera Jesus Christ, Superstar, and its “Hosanna, heysanna, sanna, sanna ho,” which is ringing in my head at the moment, no doubt showing the level of my musical appreciation but nevertheless making the word known to millions.
And a household hint (if it’s not too late or too obvious): make your palm crosses out of palms! We used flax last year, and it’s sooooo difficult to turn into ashes.