Hi Friends! Happy Palm Sunday! We had such a wonderful weekend at church. We had a drive-thru palm distribution on Saturday morning and then people who had ordered soup for our Drive-Thru Soup Supper came to the church in the afternoon to pick up their soup and we gave them palms, as well. The weather was perfect and it was just nice to be outside be together and feel a little piece of normal again.
Here is my Palm Sunday sermon, as well as the video from this morning’s sermon. One of the cool parts about how we do worship is that I am following the comments on Facebook throughout the service. It was SO cool to see the shouts of “Hosanna!” pop up in the comments from all over the country.
Peace be with you, friends. Let’s journey to the cross together.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Sunday, March 28, 2021
We’ll Figure It Out Later
I was talking to a friend of mine from seminary this week about preaching on Palm Sunday and I shared with her that I was having a hard time getting motivated to write my sermon. As she and I reflected on this, I realized that, in some ways, I am just not ready to talk about Palm Sunday this year because I am still very much stuck in Good Friday from last year.
Last year during Holy Week, we were, essentially, locked down. I streamed all of our services from my house, we made the very difficult decision not to hand out palms or have any kind of in-person gathering over the Easter weekend and we all, kind of, braced ourselves for the surge we knew was coming.
On a personal level, I was pregnant; I was a week away from giving birth and both trying desperately to stay calm for the sake of my baby, my family and my church, but also to hold onto hope that light eventually would break through the darkness we were facing.
The hope that I had proclaimed from this pulpit for ten years.
The hope that I believed in.
The hope that was being tested for all of us.
I remember reading a lot of conversations in my clergy circles about Easter, itself. There was a little bit of a movement started to actually postpone Easter. I realize how ridiculous that sounds now, but remember, at the time, this was supposed to be over in two weeks. The theory was that a switch would flip and we would emerge out of this darkness proclaiming the Good News of resurrection.
One year later, while things are certainly improving, that switch has not flipped. In some ways, it feels as though we are still stuck in Good Friday, desperately awaiting resurrection.
For the record, I was team Easter last year; I thought it would be a true testament to our faith to sing of the Good News of resurrection with hope, even though that hope was really difficult to see. This was, after all, why we do the hard work of strengthening our faith when things are good – so that we have that strong foundation when things are not easy.
What I did not realize, however – what we all have slowly been coming to grips with over the past year – is that there never would be a clear-cut end to the pandemic, that we were going to have to slowly enter and figure out a “new normal”. The switch that we were all assuming – hoping – would flip was and is more of a dimmer slide that slowly moves up and down.
And so it feels weird to be going into Holy Week again this year, because, in some ways, it feels like we never really got out of it last year. And yet, there is hope, right? We are in a better place than we were a year ago.
This past week, my Facebook memories showed me that, one year ago, Deb Woodard had just delivered the first round of our Peace Be With You yard signs. Those signs were meant to be a symbol of hope, a visual sign of encouragement to people as they passed by.
The really cool part about those signs is that we put them in our yards and declared this message of peace and love at a time when people really needed it. And that was wonderful! But, looking back, I am not sure we completely understood just what that meant at the time. I think that, even more than simply putting out signs and declaring this massage, we then spent this last year really living into it and learning what it meant.
We never stopped doing church; we never closed. No, we could not do church the way we were used to doing it (or, quite frankly, the way we wanted to do it), but we found a way to make it work. Our Missions Committee hosted drives, prepared meals and made monetary donations to local individuals and organizations. Our sewers shifted from making items to sell at the bazaar to making PPE to donate to local hospitals. Our musicians figured out how to use recording equipment and software so they could still sing together. Our Church School was able to remain in session, using pre-recorded videos, craft kits, live Google meets and care packages dropped off at their houses. Our Deacons hosted a prayer service online every single night. People sent cards and gifts to one another. We adapted and found ways to host some of our favorite worship services and events. The Deacons and I served communion, rain or shine (but not during the blizzard, which I think everyone understood).
My point is this – not really knowing what it meant at the time, in March of 2020, we declared this message of peace and love and then we figured out what it meant.
In some ways we are still figuring it out.
As strange as this sound, I think this is kind of what the Palm Sunday story is all about. People created this triumphal entry for Jesus into Jerusalem; a parade along a path lined with cloaks and palms. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” probably not actually knowing fully what that meant at the time. They boldly proclaimed this cry of praise and adoration, not completely grasping what was going to happen when they arrived in Jerusalem.
But they lived into it. As the story continued to unfold, they learned what it meant to say those words. They continued on this journey. The experienced the crucifixion, not knowing that resurrection was coming. Like we all did one year ago, they put their faith in something that they could not necessarily see or understand. They shouted Hosanna without a clear understanding of what that was going to mean moving forward and yet those shouts were bold and confident.
As Christians, part of our call is to do this, as well.
To shout, “Hosanna!” on the way to Jerusalem, even if we do not know what is going to happen when we arrive.
To be harbingers of the light, even when the darkness feels blinding.
To share a message of peace and love, even if we are only just beginning to figure out what it means to live into it.
This year has taught me many things. But one of the lessons I have learned is that you do not have to understand something to believe in it – or have all of the details worked out before you step out on a journey.
Our faith, after all, is a journey; and not one where we arrive at our destination, with life and faith completely figured out and then just coast, but one where we are constantly learning, constantly growing, constantly challenging ourselves to understand the world differently.
And so, as we wave our palms this year (and you have them to wave this year because we were able to hand them out, praise be to God!), I do not have a clear vision of what is next. I know that we are starting to move that dimmer switch up, but I do now know how quickly that will happen or what that is even going to mean.
But I do have confidence that we are going to figure it out along the way. Because we always do. In so many ways, we proved that last year.
So may we, members and friends of the Rehoboth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our Lord!” even if we do not know, exactly, what that means. Let us boldly declare this cry of praise and adoration, even if we do not, exactly, know how things are going to play out next. Let us continue on this journey, learning, growing and challenging ourselves. Let us, with faith and conviction, proclaim the Good News of hope in resurrection and peace to all.
We will figure out what it means later.
Thanks be to God!