Today is one of jubilance and celebration as we commemorate Jesus’ final entry in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover… it is indeed where he will spend his final days. We know it is a day of Hosannas, singing Palm Sunday hymns, waving our palm branches over our heads. But we don’t have those things this year because of COVID – 19. We are still working on this adjustment. Will the day come when this feels like our new normal, where the virus won’t be pervading our thoughts, our actions, our conversations…? I wonder… When we look at our story, we find Jesus’ rag tag entourage of former fishermen and tax collectors, queuing up, securing a donkey with her colt, while over on the other side of town there’ the pomp and circumstance of Pontius Pilate coming into the city in full procession, riding a horse as the head of Roman imperial cavalry accompanied by soldiers. It is a scene of world’s colliding: Jesus bringing hope and loving kindness on the back of a donkey; Pilate bringing military might and violence at all costs to keep himself popular and in power. When I think back, I have always felt very far removed from this parade scene because I live a life of freedom and in a land of democracy… I don’t know what it is to live under oppression or foreign rule as those did lining the parade route in our story. I have so many freedoms that I take for granted. Life however, feels different now in light of COVID 19’s arrival. I used to enjoy sitting in Starbucks, visiting the art gallery, looking around Winners and Homesense… and when there wasn’t shopping, there were sports to watch. My Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Raptors both expected to make the playoffs will likely have to wonder about what could have been and look to next year.
But in these past three weeks, since COVID – 19 made its presence known, those things have fallen away. I miss them… The reality of this situation, my new worldview this Palm Sunday has shifted… if I imagine myself standing along that parade route that entered Jerusalem, I’m in a different position today… We still are asking the questions of what this virus is going to mean to us… Who and what is coming to save us? What is change going to look like? To whom, to what do we shout our hosannas... or in 2020’s case… to whom are we banging pots and pans from our open windows? The enemy isn’t a person or a political ideology… it’s a virus, a micro-organism that is virulent and the cause of so much death and upheaval around the globe. It has turned the tables on how we move and live and have our being. We learned on Friday that it has infected more than 1 million people worldwide. Because of instructions to isolate and socially distance from one another, we have seen trips cancelled, planes grounded, businesses closed. Jesus, it’s really not the parade we were hoping for. But we come looking for hope anyway this morning. We come and stand in the crowds, social distancing at 2m apart of course… the mantra I set at the outset of this was to keep my life simple. This unique time in our world’s history is calling for simplicity. It’s a gift to be given the time to do some self-reflection… of considering the things that give meaning to life. And please, do not waste this opportunity we have been handed! We know that change is afoot. How can we experience something that has globally seen us intertwined with one another and not be changed? I too struggle with being patient with it all. But I keep up my hope, that we will be changed for the better. I dream about new ways the world will work together to share resources, that we will come through this economic slowdown with a view to abundance rather than scarcity. That wealth won’t hold the power over us it once did. That we will take time to savor the sacredness of all human life… to notice how our natural environment is benefiting from new patterns of human behavior… my daughter told me the other evening that with a reduction in tourism, some beaches are seeing the return of sea turtles. There are so many examples of our Mother Earth uttering a sigh of relief. Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem… but he went anyway. He went loving. And this is our work also… to love our way through this. We know we are not alone, that the Source of Our Beings, the Holy Spirit is within us to comfort and console… it means giving up freedom of movement and staying in as much as possible… but we have not lost our freedom of spirit. We mustn’t lose sight of this very precious gift. This will be a Holy Week unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. New life awaits us… but in this moment, may we take our time… not rush to the end but savor the parade. Hosanna, hosanna! Amen and Amen.