Last week I had a lot of fun talking to our local Church school about Palm Sunday. Taking a ‘leaf’ (groan) from Bob Hartman’s style of story telling, I quickly realised that this story lent itself to being told by the letter P.
Palms, parade/procession, people, prayers….
For my primary school crowd it didn’t need to get any more profound than that.
But the idea lingered in my mind long after the school service. You might even say I pondered on it.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Our preacher Ken brought a few more P words to the party that this story was playing out in my mind: popularity (often misleading), power (often risky) and plots (plenty of them).
Then I also saw that it was a story of Paradox. A paradox, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, is two things that are opposite but are both true at the same time. Carl Jung also said that Paradox is the greatest treasure of the church (or words to that effect).
Here are some in this story:
Jesus – fully God and fully man.
Life and Death.
Rejoicing and Rejection.
Joy and Sorrow.
Meekness and Majesty.
Crowds and isolation/loneliness.
That all of these things should exist alongside one another is a mystery. But a mystery is not something that shuts you out because you cannot understand it. ‘A mystery’ said Richard Rohr, ‘is something you endlessly understand’. The more you think into it, the more it reveals to you.
So what do these mysteries mean to me, what does this story say to me, today?
Firstly, it says that God is found in the midst of mess, confusion and uncertainty.
And secondly, that God understands all the experiences of my life: the highs as well as the lows.
And just when I thought I’d finished, there was one more ‘P’ word that popped up in my mind, perhaps it was the one with the most potential. It is the word PRESENCE.
Presence is like a thread, that links every event of the Passion story, the presence of Christ is there at the heart of the story. Christ eating, laughing with his friends. Christ praying alone. Christ crying. Christ being beaten and abused. Christ being stripped of his clothes and any shred of dignity. Christ saying ‘Father forgive…’
The Presence of Christ in the story IS the story. On the Palm Sunday part of the story, Christ is like the still centre at the heart of that jostling crowd.
He calmly rode a calmed but untrained colt through a confused and over-excitable crowd. (You may have noticed the letter C is creeping up to make a take over bid)
And what about those disciples did they really have any idea about what was going on?
Did they heck!
All they could do was try to keep as close to Jesus as possible and tried not to lose sight of him as they followed along.
That’s not a bad example for us at the start of Holy Week. Can we try to keep as close to Jesus as possible and try not to lose sight of him as we are jostled along through life and pushed about by other people, circumstance or events?
Can we remember that there is ONE who is a CALM PRESENCE? (Hallelujah – a truce between the letter C and the letter P!)
Can we remember that this Calm Presence is always at the heart of it all, always moving forward? Can we ask for the grace to draw closer and follow along?
P.S thank you Dianne Enefer – she added another P word to this when I shared it with her: if you stay close enough to the Presence you get Peace