This week was Palm Sunday, marking the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the beginning of the end of His earthly ministry, and the start of our Easter season. Like many churches, we passed out palm leaves and waved them during the service, this year in particular there was a march around the inside of the building, singing and waving. A few things struck me during the service. As we read the story of the entry, there is a line that jumped out this year.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:39-40)
I have attended several different churches over the years, and admittedly, none of them have been of the crying out variety . Not that there is anything wrong with that, being a rather introverted individual, it's usually a good match. But as Jesus' words above tell us, there are times when nothing short of loud, raucous celebration will do. In this case, we have the fulfillment of a 500 year old prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-10) debatably to the day (some interpretations of Daniel's 70 weeks Daniel 9:24) that is reason enough for celebration that even if there were no people shouting, the very earth would be shouting.
We have a great deal to celebrate everyday, should we be out waving palm branches every day? Every week? Is there something to be said for such actions, or would that be moving into ritual? Psalm 51 tells us that "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (16-17) The point of worship is not our actions, it is our motivation. If we raise our hands or shout only because it is what everyone else is doing, or only because it is tradition, it is no different than the rich people Jesus humbled by pointing out the widow's offering of her last coins (Mark 12:41-44) By the same token, if the urge to shout rises inside us, and we hold back for fear of embarrassment or breaking tradition, is that any different?
Easter is a season full of tradition and ritual in virtually every church. Palm Sunday, Easter egg hunts, Good Friday, sunrise services, and communion among them. As we go through the season, let us ask ourselves, are we performing out of obligation? Or are we looking for the greatness in everyday and every action that calls out the kind of celebration that makes the very rocks want to cry out?