12:15 a.m. It’s just after midnight, on April 1st, and officially Palm Sunday, though still dark outside, and nowhere near morning. During worship, we’ll read together the Passion of our Lord according to Mark, a congregational reading I have come to love. The church has been cleaned, the palms have arrived, and now we wait for the night to pass.
6:00 a.m. Morning is here, with a hard frost. Our plum blossoms and azaleas seem undaunted, as are the daffodils, used to the sudden cold of March. I thought of the very elder members of our congregation this morning, three of whom have just been admitted to nursing homes. All three resolute in their own way of bearing pain and loss, all three faithful women, like the three Marys at the tomb, tending our Lord. Later today, we’ll bring them palms.
9:02 a.m. The children have arrived for Sunday School, and everyone is excited for the procession around the church. It takes so little to involve them, just a walk around the church waving palms, or singing at the top of their lungs. They know it’s a different day, and their interest, their energetic bounce, and perhaps even their wonder fill their classrooms. The choir is robing in the choir room, the organist is practicing the morning hymns.
Today, during the service I will read a lovely small poem by Mary Oliver as a way of inviting us into Holy Week. Here it is:
The Poet Thinks About the Donkey
On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.
How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.
But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.
Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.
I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.
As it turns out, pastors all over the web have used this poem in their blogs about Holy Week. Perhaps we love the donkey’s sense of obedience, the slow placing of one foot after another, which, in the end, might be called faith.
A blessed Holy Week to you,