A few weeks ago, I was encouraged by a member of The Dale to share what happened at our Palm Sunday service. Palm Sunday is the day in the Christian church calendar when we take our place in the triumphal entry, sing our hosannas, and carry our palms. It marks the beginning of Holy Week.
On this particular Sunday we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It turns out that Luke doesn’t mention how the people following Jesus carry or throw down palms along the way. They do spread their cloaks on the road, but there is no mention of palms. He also doesn’t use the term “hosanna”, instead describing the people praising God with a loud voice. One more unique thing about Luke’s account of this day is found in verse 41: “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it”.
I invited us to consider the tearful aspects of Jesus’ entry; how Jesus wept not just for a city, but a condition: ignorance of things that make for peace, prejudice we hold against one another, and the destructiveness of fear. We also talked about how Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62) after denying Jesus three times. How are his tears familiar to us? What does it feel like to confess that our life is not what we want it to be?
A tearful entry into Holy Week means we must acknowledge the state of the world, and our own lives. Not all of us cry in the same way: some (like me) well up easily, others can’t muster a tear but are internally filled with sorrow. Wet or dry, they are both real. Either way, it is difficult work. Jesus’ heart was pierced when he saw the city, as was Peter’s when the cock crowed. When we recognize the reality of our own situation, our hearts are pierced as well.
I don’t know how to describe what happened next. It began as a wail. A person, one who knows the street intimately, whose mind is rarely at rest and had come in looking for help, cried without reserve. The space we use on Sundays is beautiful and large and has very good acoustics. And so, as I cautiously continued, the sound of weeping reverberated off the walls.
Sometimes our heart knows grief and death; guilt or disappointment. Other times it is burdened by the pain of the world and the suffering of another human being; dreams that didn’t come true or broken promises. Life can be hard. It can be marked with poverty, or illness, or loneliness. In whatever way your heart has been broken: you are not alone.
The wailing continued.
We all have stories of sadness. To deny our tears is to deny a part of ourselves the power of Holy Week and the joy of Easter life: life that is marked by forgiveness, healing, and rebirth into new life. On this Palm Sunday our friend who knows what it is to be misunderstood, shunned and poor, led the tearful entry. It was powerful, painful to listen to, and…sacred.
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it.”