Sunday, April 01, 2007

Thoughts on a Palm Sunday

For Christians, Holy Week is the pinnacle of the church calendar. We left Ordinary Time as we entered Lent, and now with Palm Sunday, we move into Holy Week. This is always a week that whipsaws your thoughts--Palm Sunday, a high point. We all get palms at church, children love them--waving them back and forth. On many years, the choir and ministers process with children and their waving palms. These palms can be woven into crosses, or sometimes they are burned to provide the ashes for the coming year's Ash Wednesday. We saw many woven palms, hanging over doors, last year when we were in Spain.


Then we come to Maundy Thursday, a low point, "with maundy being an old English word referring to Jesus’ mandate for us to love one another" (explanation by my pastor). Our church always has a service where we worship with a sister Presbyterian church in town. On Good Friday, another low point, (which was originally God's Friday that morphed into good), we go to their church for a Tenebrae service. During this service, the events of Holy Week as recorded in the Gospels are read, and after each passage is read, lights are slowly turned out until the entire church is in darkness. It is an eerie unsettling experience.

Holy Week, of course, culminates with the highest point Easter--with all its wonderful significance. The popular symbols connected with Easter--bunnies & eggs, for example--derive more from pre-Christian celebrations of spring. These are not symbols I want to associate with Easter--Easter for me is about life, death, belief, renewal and resurrection.

But right now, on Palm Sunday, my mind is more on death. Two days ago, early on Friday morning, our church's Director of Music died suddenly. Now, he was not a young man, in fact he was 77, but with the possible exception of Christmas, there is no time that music figures more prominently in our worship than Easter. It has become a tradition that the postlude on Easter Sunday is Widor's Toccato from his 5th Symphony. And our music director raised the roof on the church every year as he pulled out all the stops on the organ. Not this year.

As I sat in church this morning, I listened to one of the Scripture lessons, and then wrote this poem. I occasionally write poems based on a particular passage of Scripture--writing serves as a kind of discipline for me. And I frequently find that my poems focus on how odd people then must have found the events that we have heard read so often we think them normal.

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The Unridden Colt
Luke 19:29-34

You just have to stop and consider the implications of the command
Jesus telling some disciples to steal—if only for a day—
A colt, a colt that has never been ridden. If you were hearing this—
Be honest with yourself—wouldn’t you have said
If only inside your head—well, now he’s finally lost it?

After everything we’ve done—walked the entire length of Palestine
Even those forays in Samaria. Wearing out our sandals.
Battling the crowds, all those great unwashed sickly needy people
And the fishing! Always the fishing—by day and night.
Even going to sea in a storm. And now this!

Stealing colts! What are we to say if the owner protests?
The Master has need of it. Really? You think that’s going to cut it?
So we just walk away with it, paying no money—
What about the authorities, why can’t someone else do this?
What will he come up with next?

By Donna F. W.
© 2007

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7 comments:

Cathy said...

A sudden death like that is so unsettling. It's so sad that his departure will leave a great hole in your church's Easter celebration. Poor man.

Your poem is lovely. That last line is great.

"What will he come up with next?"

Oh, yeah.

Anonymous said...

Donna,
I don't look on is stealing at all, but either (1)a previous arrangement between Jesus and the colt's owner, or (2)the fact that "The Master has need of it" resonating with the colt's owner & he realized instinctively the voice of authority or even of divinity. One thing that fascinates me about many scripture passages is the details that are left unsaid. Anyway, thanks for the poem. Love, Father "C"

Mary said...

Sorry about such an untimely death. No doubt, there was a feeling of mourning... Our Pastor in Maryand died suddenly, just two days before our daughter's First Communion. Quite unsettling for the children.

You have a gift, seen in that poem. Wonderful, Donna!

Body Soul Spirit said...

No one seemed very upset about the borrowed colt. But we wouldn't ask someone to go to the next street to borrow someone's car like that.
I hope the passing of the D of M was peaceful. What a great loss for your congregation at this time. Your poem captures well the questions that the disciples may have pondered.
Ruth

Climenheise said...

Was that director the former music prof from lebanon Valley College (at least that's what it was called when I lived in PA)? His name escapes me, but I think I will remember it sometime tonight.

There's a subject for a future post: remembering people like this, who contribute significantly to our lives.

KGMom said...

Thanks to all for sympathetic comments about the music director's death. The congregation was incredibly quiet today.
Response to Father C who suggested that borrowing the colt may have been by prior arrangement. Interesting thought. I tried to capture how startling the request must have seemed to the disciples. Of course, they were sometimes a step or two behind anyway. Hence my last line in the poem.
To my brother (Climenheise, yes. Go to the Marketsquarechurch.org website for info.

Laurie said...

I imagine that it was quite a shock and very saddening. I am sorry for your loss.

I really enjoyed your poem. As Cathy said, the last line is great.