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Meditation for Palm Sunday


A Palm Sunday Meditation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about free will. About human beings having the ability, the space, and the opportunity to make choices. In that space, that freedom of will, it seems to me that there are essentially two kinds of choices one ultimately makes – we can either chose what is life-giving or we can chose what is life-taking. Smoking, drinking, lying, hating are all life taking choices. Loving, truth telling, forgiving, eating properly are all life-giving choices.

Today’s story is a story that begins with hope and promise and possibility with the charming picture of Jesus entering the holy city on the back of a humble beast of burden. The story turns, however, into despair, darkness and fear. And it is all about choices.

It seems obvious enough that everyone in this story makes choices: the crowd angry and crying out for relief, Pilot trying to find a way through a complicated political mess, Judas succumbing to his darkest self, Simon Peter lying over and over. Everyone makes choices in this story and the amazing thing is, none of them are life-giving, none of them except one – Jesus, the young teacher from Nazareth, that rabble rouser, trouble maker, rule breaker – only he makes a life-giving choice. And even he struggles.

If Jesus were telling his own story, I suspect the hardest part to share, for him, might be the garden part. The garden where he is alone, searching, searching his heart and pleading with the heavens, “What,” he begs, “what am I to do? What is the life-giving choice??”

He could have saved his own life. He could have taken back all his teachings, renounced his truth telling, put out a disclaimer on the miracles – he could have lied. But lying is never a life-giving choice, never. Making a life-giving choice, for him, will mean losing his life. Few, if any of us, will find ourselves in the garden making such a choice, but we find ourselves daily making choices that are in fact life-giving or life-taking. And there will be times when making the life-giving choice will mean letting go of something, may mean letting something die. Funny how upside-down this feels, how paradoxical it seems – give up to get, let die to live, embrace fear to know courage. And rather scary to think of boiling the whole of life down into two essential notions: either what I am about to say or do is life-giving or it is life-taking.

Today is Palm Sunday and our way into the holiest of weeks. With intention, let us mark and observe the choices we make. With honesty, let us own those that take life away. With relief, let us embrace those that give life. With gentleness and compassion, let us learn to know the difference.