God is addressing you through the scriptures, calling you to participate in what God is doing. That’s never truer than in the psalm appointed for the Liturgy of the Palms. Note its dynamism and allow it to carry you forward.
We praise the God who saves and delivers us. We join the procession with the multitude and shout, “Open to me the gates of righteousness.” Presume that God answers this prayer, for we thank this One who has become “[our] salvation.” Entering the Temple, we might think that we’ve reached our goal, but we are not there yet. Notice the next prayer, “Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD,” and even then the psalm continues to carry us forward toward the altar.
What’s going on here, and for what are we praying? Those words save and salvation are a major part of our faith language, but perhaps we’re only beginning to understand what they mean. Sometimes we speak of salvation as if it were a credential; in its worst use it is something like a ticket to heaven that some of us receive and other unfortunate souls do not. What if salvation means far more? I encourage you to hear it as God’s ongoing intention to bless the world, using us as willing instruments of that blessing.
In the days ahead, some churches will follow ancient precedent and hold palm processions outside, but I invite you to do your own walk through your community with or without a palm branch. As you walk, notice your neighborhood and those who live there. Imagine their lives and hold them before God’s altar. Pray for them and for yourself.
God, thank you for my neighbors and my neighborhood. Help us to see that, in you, the whole world is one neighborhood. Amen.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 22:14–23:56. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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