OF PALM SUNDAY, DONKEYS, FICKLE CROWDS AND POETRY

Today’s Palm Sunday, which for us started in the teeth of a bitter icy gale on the beach, and a procession with branches through the town, to end up with the congregation sitting sensibly in the warm church waiting for us to arrive and start the worship.

I’m not sure how much of the story of Palm Sunday still exists in folk memory, but we recall how Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.  Everyone got very excited, because they realised it was the fulfilment of a prophecy – that their king would come to them, humble, and riding on a donkey.  So they pulled down branches from the trees and took off their outer garments and threw them on the road for Jesus to ride on.

We’re nearly always reminded that it could well have been the same crowd, who 5 days later would be yelling for Jesus’ death. The challenge to us is, how consistent are we in our following of Jesus?  Do we give him bits of our lives, but hang on to other bits, trying to shut out his spirit?

I’ve posted a few of Malcolm Guite’s poems now (he’s a priest-poet and songwriter who lives in Cambridge).  He’s written a series of sonnets to mark the special occasions of the church’s history.  They are unusual in that they are meant to be ‘public’ poems, not just personal reflections.  I love his sonnet for today:

Palm Sunday

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,

The seething holy city of my heart,

The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?

Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find

The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

Changes their tune. I know what lies behind

The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

Of a perverted temple. Jesus come

Break my resistance and make me your home.

Modern Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem (from http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2005/mar/21/56131/ )

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