I’ve been thinking ahead to Palm Sunday… yep, in our brave new world Palm Sunday will be upon us at the end of the week. I have been amazed at how quickly my mind has adjusted to the yawning chasm of unknowing that has opened up before us. Q: When will we do x? A: Dunno, won’t know, later. Q: When will we do y? A: Dunno, won’t know, later.
The structure of the regular pattern of meeting together has been disrupted and I for one have found that this has left me feeling ‘untethered’. Especially as we move through Lent and to its culmination in Easter. It feels as if there is no culmination!
So in thinking of Palm Sunday I was struck by the crowd’s cry ‘Hosanna’, and the odd way that language works. In broad terms Hosanna means ‘Lord, save us!’. It is an immediate cry for help, i.e. ‘I am in a pickle and need help’. Yet in the mouths of the crowd it becomes an acclamation, ‘Lord, you save us!’, i.e. ‘You are a great God who is able to save.’
This funny quirk of language impressed me as being helpful for our untethered times, and perhaps a way in to our task given the usual is not possible. Right now we as people who are subject to forces we cannot control really do need to be able to cry out for help. Being bereft of help is a far worse predicament than coming to the end of one’s own resources. So Hosanna – Lord help us – works.
Yet the way that the cry twists in the mouths of the crowd actually points us to a second, and powerful, use. Naming the Lord as the one able to save takes us out of this situation and leaps over the gap of unknowing that has opened. Indeed, it actually straddles the gap. To cry ‘Lord, you save’ rests on a confidence in what God has done in the past, and Easter of all days reminds us of God’s redemptive power. Yet to cry ‘Lord, you save’ also pictures a time in which we will see that salvation full and unhindered. It is a cry of hope.
Friends, as we walk toward an Easter unable to tread the usual path the opportunity is to cry Hosanna – Lord please save, Hosanna – Lord you have saved, and Hosanna – Lord you will save. Amen
Bishop Matt Brain