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Palm Sunday - March 24, 2024

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be wholly acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Please be seated.

Good morning! Happy Palm Sunday!

So, I know that some of us are on social media and some of us aren’t. I am; I enjoy it: I like these little glimpses we get into each other’s lives. And I really enjoy trends on social media: I find it pretty fascinating what we latch collectively onto, and then decide to replicate and share with one another.

My favorite trend to follow right now involves people making short videos, montages, really—a minute or so—montages from photos and smaller video clips, all chronicling the hard parts, the difficulties, that are part of some transformative experience: something like the path from college freshman to college graduate or something like a weight loss journey or a major floor-to-ceiling home gutting and renovation. Every one of these videos, regardless of the specific subject, memorializes the defeats that are always part of making a life-altering change, but every video also ends, with a glorious success: proud college graduate in cap and gown, a slimmed down figure in a new outfit, a beautiful shiny home.

Now, the way we know that someone has made a video and is deliberately, consciously participating in this trend isn’t just the collection of images alone. There’s also music, this one specific song that’s played over the images in all these videos. It’s called “The Good Part,” and the refrain, the section that’s always in the videos, goes like this:

“Can we skip to the good part? Ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh Can we skip to the good part?”

The music choice adds rich layer of meaning to these videos, a revealing layer. This music expresses a tension, one we all experience, and all understand—the tension between, on the one hand, of wanting the whole of our experience—including the struggles—to be validated and recognized, and simultaneously, acknowledging that on the other hand, it would be nice if we could just bypass all that struggle and skip on to the good part. (Just edit it out, buzz past it, you know, and get to the enjoying and the celebrating.)

But, of course, we can’t. We can’t skip the hard stuff. It’s part of the journey. We know this.

We know that the transformation from college freshman to college graduate will involve, at some point, a meltdown in the library or a bathroom or a dorm room or in a professor’s office or all of the above because college is super hard and the stakes feel really, really high and we don’t know if we are good enough and we do not think we are going to make it and we think we are going to disappoint every single person in our lives.

We know that the transformation of weight loss is probably going to include at least one day, if not more, when we are at the gym, and we are working our hardest, and we are counting our calories and our steps and our reps and nonetheless the scale is not moving and we feel completely defeated, and we are convinced in that moment that change is never coming, and things will never be better, not for us.

We know that no house renovation is complete without the afternoon when we finally get to rip out those ugly kitchen cabinets and walls only to reveal 600 separate, expensive repairs that have to be done before we can install and enjoy our shiny new stuff.

And in those moments, we all wish, “Can we skip to the good part?”

But there’s no skipping. These days of suffering, of worry, of disappointment, of fear and doubt and tears and grief—these days help get us from where where we are to where we need to go. No skipping on these journeys. Not on these journeys of transformation and change.

Holy Week invites us every year to go on a journey. In between the Hosanna of Palm Sunday and the Hallelujah of Easter Sunday, a whole lot happens and a lot of things change. Today: we celebrate. As we should! Jesus has entered Jerusalem! Hosanna! It is a good day to celebrate.

And, at the same time, we know what’s coming. We know what the next days bring.

We know that we cannot have the glory and beauty and celebration of the resurrection without the terror and grief and loss of the crucifixion.

And we know that don’t get to the crucifixion without betrayal, abandonment, flight, and denial.

There is such a good part at the end of Holy Week’s story. But that’s not where we are today, and we can’t skip to it. To get from here to there we have to walk the path. And this path can be challenging to walk—especially if we try to go it alone.

But: thankfully—thanks be to God!—our liturgies, our Holy Week observances in our communal, corporate worship, give us place and time and space to encounter the beauty and the terror and the mysteries together.

My hope and my prayer for all of us this week is that this journey through Holy Week works on us, in the ways we most need. Which may or may not align with the ways we want.

Full disclosure: I have about a 60% chance of dissolving into tears at the end of the Maundy Thursday service. And I don’t mean pretty <sniff> <sniff> dainty tears; nononononononono I mean full-on ugly cry.

And the first time that happened, I was mortified. I mean, I made a spectacle of myself, y’all. And I tried to dismiss it as a one-off weird random thing. Until it happened again the next year. What will this year bring? Come Thursday night we’ll all find out! I don’t know!

But I do know this: wherever those tears came from, as unexpected and discombobulating as they were, they showed me things that I did not know before. They helped to break open a part of me that needed to break open. And maybe that, maybe that, friends—the breaking open, the seeing that which we could not see before, even as we have to look through the tears—maybe that is a good part.


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