Waving Palm Leaves
Every year with excited anticipation, I’d gather with the other children from church in Hyde Park Sydney, waiting to be handed my palm branch. We’d line up with the palm leaves, often taller than we were, and wave them as we walked towards the church on Pitt St.
Growing up, the waving of palm leaves, in a joyful, celebratory procession each year, marked the start of our Easter journey. It was Palm Sunday, and we were remembering Jesus entering Jerusalem to a cheering, hope filled crowd.
But in less than a week on Good Friday, we were remembering Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem, burden by a wooden cross, surrounded by a now jeering, hope-less crowd. We were remembering nails being hammered into his hands and feet, questioning cries to God, ‘Why have you forsaken me’, final breaths, earthquakes, darkness. We were remembering a body being wrapped in cloth, laid in a tomb, the grinding of rock as a tomb was sealed, silence.
we were remembering Jesus entering Jerusalem to a cheering, hope filled crowd. But in less than a week… we were remembering Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem, burden by a wooden cross,
The emotion and perceived hopelessness of Good Friday was something which lingered into Saturday until Sunday, resurrection Sunday, Easter. Easter often included for us a sunrise service in a drive-in theatre, Easter eggs, another Easter Service, and roast lamb for lunch. I remember how each service started with the enthusiastic greeting, ‘He is risen!’ and response ‘He is risen indeed!’ It was a day of celebration, joy, hope.
Remembering my family’s Easter tradition, I’m reminded how much of it reflects the emotions of life: joy and celebration, the sense of hope one minute, then pain and struggle, a sense of hopelessness the next, then celebration, joy, enthusiasm, hope returns. Yet the good news of Easter is our hope comes not from the circular, up and down nature of life. Our hope comes from the resurrection of Jesus. ‘He is risen! He is risen indeed!’
The hope of Easter remains because it is not Christ the example, or Christ the miracle-worker, or Christ the teacher, but Christ crucified, dead, buried, now risen, ascended, alive. The hope of Easter is Christ who makes it possible to receive God’s forgiveness; who makes it possible for us to have a restored relationship with God; who makes it possible for us to experience a new beginning—abundant life—and receive the power for living a rich, satisfying, full life; who gives us hope for the future as well as hope for our resurrection to eternal life.
The hope of Easter remains because it is not Christ the example, or Christ the miracle-worker, or Christ the teacher, but Christ crucified, dead, buried, now risen, ascended, alive.
In a letter to a group of Christians, who had just chosen to put their trust in Jesus, Paul reminded them that: ‘. . . If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead,’ (1 Corinthians 15:19-20a, NLT), Paul basically says, ‘If there’s no resurrection, we Christians are a pretty sorry bunch of people!’
God is With Us, for Us, and He Has a Plan
The hope of Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus, shows God has not abandoned creation. He has not abandoned you and me. Instead, he is about redeeming and restoring. He is about overturning injustice, violence, poverty, and exclusion.
And God invites us to join him, to be his ambassadors, to speak and show the hope of Easter, to be part of creating communities of faith, justice, hope and peace, to be part of making a better world for all.