Why I’m choosing palms

Notice we have turned to ritual. The world turned upside down, and suddenly my Facebook feed is full of Morning check-ins and calls for door decorations. It shouldn’t be surprising; ritual has long been the way that we create rhythm and mark meaning in life. It is a visible expression of the faith we hold, the faith we need in our hardest times.

But in life before corona virus, few of us lived lives steeped in ritual. So now we are cobbling together whatever we can from memories, inspirations, and leftover craft supplies.  We are looking to proclaim comfort and hope.  Yet we need to be aware that rituals form as much as they express.  It is good to look for things that will embody faith, but as we create them we should be conscious of the deeper meanings we might be embedding

My digital ecosystem offered me several options for what to do with my door this week. Two seemed to gain the most traction. Hanging palm branches or marking the door frame with red. There are palm branches on my door.

We reach for ritual when we need something. Right now, we desperately want this quarantine to be over, for our friends and family to be safe, and to know that there is hope beyond the present moment. Some Christians have noted that the Jewish festival of Passover runs from April 8th through 16th. They recognize that we are all hungry for deliverance and are marking their doors with red cloth or ribbon. This is not the ritual we’re looking for.

First of all, Passover is a sacred Jewish celebration steeped in ritual and tradition.  Traditions which those of us outside the faith do not fully understand and should be hesitant to co-opt for our own needs.

Second, Exodus is a story of God’s deliverance. But the Passover comes at the cost of Egyptian children.  That is not a small detail. I firmly believe God does not require a blood sacrifice for anyone’s salvation. I’m uncomfortable with the implication that I would like God to pass over my house, but I have little concern for this disease and death that could be visited on others. I don’t think anyone intends such a statement, but rituals carry layers of meaning often beyond our conscious intentions.

Third, if we are looking to enact a great story of death and resurrection, we don’t have to search outside the Christian tradition. It is Holy Week. It is the moment when we tell our most important story. The Church has 2000 years of ritual tradition to offer us in this season. We should avail ourselves of it.

There are poms on my door because on Sunday my King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey promising a new Kingdom not ruled by violence and fear. On Thursday, I will practice washing as a holy act to remember what it is to serve and to prepare. On Friday, I will mourn for all those who die by no fault of their own, and I will face my mortality. So that on Easter, I will truly understand the glory of the resurrection.

This is a story we need to tell right now, and even though we are distant from our church buildings, it is a story we can enact in ritual in our home And embedded in our hearts. Join me on the journey this week. Put palms on your door, wash your hands, set aside space to grieve. And next Sunday, add some Flowers some ribbon some color to those leaves on your door as we mark Easter resurrection.

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