40 Days...that is what it has been, almost at least. Lent began way back in late February and now we are almost at its end. Holy Week is next week. Palm Sunday is April 1 this year, no fooling! Next Sunday, we go with Jesus one more time through that dreadful week of his life that begins with his riding on the back of a donkey into Jerusalem, looking rather foolish, big guy that he was saddled on this tiny beast of burden--people waving and shouting and throwing down their coats and palm branches for him to ride over.
Hosanna! What an odd word. You only hear it in church and usually only on Palm Sunday or in a communion liturgy. Hosanna--it sounds like a praise word that we would use in church, shouting it all happy, smiling as we say it, thinking it sounds like some very holy church-word. It literally means "Save Us" though. It is a plea from those lining the streets that day for this most unlikely Messiah to bring his troops out of hiding so that he can conquer the Romans and bring the land back to its rightful owners, the Jews. Hosanna--the crowd shouted it out as he rode along looking very foolish in the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman soldiers who were watching. How very ludicrous that this Don Quixote of a savior could do battle with anyone much less the forces of the most powerful government on earth at the time!
The palm branches themselves were symbols of defiance against Rome. They spoke of disobedience in the face of the Roman oppressors. The waving of the palm branches and the shouting of that word Hosanna might have caused fear or anxiety in the hearts of the soldiers watching this display if the one entering the city had ridden in on a stallion carrying a sword and shield, dressed in armor perhaps. But the meek, mild mannered, Messiah who rode in on a donkey only brought laughter to those in power who were watching. They figured that this was only the latest of the crazies that the peasants had put their faith in. Nothing to fear here...only a good diversion to the boring duty to keep control in Jerusalem that the Roman soldiers had to endure.
So, we ride into Jerusalem this Sunday and walk with him daily in the city streets, as he turns the tables on the merchants set up in the Temple, as he argues with the religious leaders who are determined to frame him for something, as he plans a special meal with those closest to him, as he prays in the Garden and suddenly finds himself arrested, betrayed by one of those who had claimed to be his friend. We call it Holy Week. Jesus must have called it the worst week of his life.
We are ready for Lent to end. We are ready to eat the foods we have given up for Lent once again and get back into our routine. We are ready to say Alleluia on Easter Sunday, dressed in our finery and watch children hunt eggs and gather for our yearly feast and relax with our friends and relatives. We are ready for the good times to come that follows Lent. But....one week of Lent remains for soul searching and prayer and devotional reading and preparing to go with Jesus on that walk through the Via Dolorosa...the Way of Suffering.
Each year I want the story to end differently. Each year I want Jesus to run away into the hills of Judea and return to Galilee where people know him and may even like him and will defend him. Each year as he prays in the Garden I want him to take off into the distance and live to minister another day. That is the way we humans do it most of the time. We choose the easier of the ways....but Jesus is not like us...he considers all the alternatives and chooses the one that must be done, even if it is the most unpleasant or painful choice of all.
God help us to not be satisfied with easy choices but to choose and learn and act as God would help us to do, so that truly God's Kingdom will be done on earth, even as it is done in Heaven.