Palm Sunday 2010
I came across a lovely poem in my reading this week. It is a poem written by Wendell Berry who has been a farmer/poet in Kentucky together with his wife Tanya for more than forty years. I think this poem may have been written to her.
Over the Edge
To tell a girl you love her?my God!?
that was a leap-off a cliff, requiring little
sense, sweet as it was. And I have loved
many girls, women too, who by various fancies
of my mind have seemed loveable. But only
with you have I actually tried it: the long labor,
the selfishness, the self-denial, the children
and grandchildren, the garden rows planted
and gathered, the births and deaths of many years.
We boys, when we were young and romantic
and ignorant, new to mystery and the power,
would wonder late into the night on the cliff’s edge:
Was this real love? Was it true? And how
would you know? Well, it was time would tell,
if you were patient and could spare some time,
a long time, a lot of trouble, a lot of joy.
This one begins to look?would you say??real?
Palm Sunday is dedicated to reality. What is real? What is true love? When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day the very air seemed to be full of love. Everyone seemed to love Jesus and what he brought to Jerusalem, the promise of something completely different, the promise of healing instead of more wounds, the promise of liberation instead of oppression, the promise of the rule of love rather than the absence of love, the promise that there could be a better world and not the same old thing, business as usual, where the strong rule over the weak and it was every man for himself, God help you if were a woman or a child. But this love had the depth of the romantic love of a young boy who is clueless about the ways of the world, not even interested in reality, but only in having what he wants.
Such love is sweet (hopefully we have not forgotten what love was like when we were young) and the celebration was real that day but it was short-lived. It couldn’t last. This love had expectations that had nothing to do with reality either. Some of these people actually loved Jesus or thought they did but they were also hoping that Jesus would do something for them, would deliver them from their misery of oppression and poverty, would make things right for them finally.
Alas, it was not to be. It was not to be so easy as that. Jesus who was the promise of what love could do would have to show them what love would do, true love, not just the love that meets our needs and makes us happy for the moment but the love that breaks our hearts, the love that makes us whole, the love that reveals what is real, the love that endures all things.
Those, like the poet, who are blessed with a long marriage know about the love that endures things. Jesus did not enjoy a long life or the joys and sorrows of marriage but he lived a long life in a short time. He lived deep into life. True love knows something about grief. When we are young and in love for the first time we do not know how it is that love can end, can be lost before its’ time. We do not know how love can break our hearts. We do not know what risks we are taking falling in love for true love is as vulnerable as a lamb being led to slaughter; vulnerable to be wounded, vulnerable to injustice, the injustice of oppression, false judgment, malice and lies, in short the reality we would deny if we could for as long as we can.
Palm Sunday, introducing us to the holiest week of our faith story is here to tell us that we cannot deny reality but only embrace it with faith that love, true love, is painful, yes, but strong and real, real enough to see us through the night. Furthermore, God will bless those who suffer for love, those who remain steadfast and true, those who overcome the end of the illusive romance for the deep and abiding love that faileth not. What we may not know when we are young is that a broken heart is also a heart now opened to God.
Palm Sunday is a difficult roller coaster of emotion from the joys of expectation and excitement of the promise of love to a more somber understanding of how long it will take to know true love. The short and deep life of Jesus reveals that love is not the easy way or the way that always gives us what we want but it is the way of life, the way that teaches us that life is not about getting what we want but about giving what we want and the more we give the more we have. The only love we get to keep is the love we give away. This is a hard lesson to learn. It has to be for it is the love that gave itself away on a cross that saves us all. To think that it could be easy is to be completely clueless about just how far we have gone astray not only from God but from what love demands. It is to ignorant of what love demands. Palm Sunday/Holy Week is all about what love demands.
This is why our story is so dramatic. The beloved one embarrassing the powers that be by pretending to be a king on a donkey dressed in rags to unmask their unjust rule, a hideous rule hidden behind expensive garments and illusions of grandeur and the props of earthly power, the people giddy with new hope, only to be bitterly disappointed and even angry when the king of love is crushed under the boot again just like anybody else. How true is our love? Will it last when things get rough? Is it only for the moment, for the feeling of exhilaration, for the illusion of a world without trouble or pain? Will it last long enough to see where the real power is, in the lasting and in the enduring, in the words of the poet,” the long labor, the selfishness, the self-denial . . .” Will it, in the end, be real?
Yes, love was crushed on Palm Sunday and the days that would follow but only to rise again and last forever. This is what true love does. It lasts.
Office hours at 421 Common Street in Belmont (phone: 617-489-0730) are:
Monday through Friday
9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Office hours at 80 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown (phone: 617-926-2931):are
Tuesday and Thursday
4:00 - 6:30 PM
The United Methodist Church