April fools, traditions and change
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for April 1st: Psalm 31:9-16; Lamentations 3:55-66; and Mark 10:32-34. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is April 1st, commonly known as April Fools’ Day. The New Year was once recognized as beginning at the Spring Equinox and its celebration lasted until April 1st. The observance of the New Year was subsequently moved to January 1st. The ones who resisted this change and who stuck with the April 1st celebration of the New Year were called April Fools. Their obstinacy was mocked by others. They held onto a tradition that was no longer meaningful. They were locked into a tradition but only for the sake of the tradition. Everything else had changed.
Traditions are to be cherished. If you are like me, you have traditions associated with Holy Week and Easter that are a beloved part of these sacred days. The traditions become a hallmark of these occasions. I have been dying Easter eggs with red onion peels since I did so with my grandmother when I was a child. Those Easter eggs are an important part of Easter for me. Traditions, however, cannot be allowed to become straightjackets. They can’t lock us in place for their own sake. Life requires the ability to change.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His closest followers for the third time that He will suffer and die when they come to Jerusalem. On each of those occasions, the disciples could not hear what Jesus was saying. The traditions they associated with the Christ, the Messiah, were of a powerful and triumphant leader. They held onto their Messianic traditions with such a deafening-obstinacy that they could not hear what Jesus was saying to them plainly the first time, the second time, and not on this third occasion.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. The citizens and pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Passover hail Jesus with Hosanna’s, basically save us, deliver us in Hebrew. They claim Jesus as Son of David, thus the Messiah. They cut down branches of palm to lay on the road in front of His beast as a sign of honour. They, like the disciples, have an immovable tradition in their mind as to the image of the Messiah. When Jesus does not fulfill the expectations that their traditions have ingrained in their minds and hearts, they turn against Him. The same people who hailed Jesus with Hosanna’s on Palm Sunday are the ones who will cry “Crucify, crucify Him!” on Good Friday – because their traditions were straightjackets.
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, let us look at the expectations our traditions hold before us. Are we open to a Saviour who constantly surprises? Are we willing to adapt as change alters our lives and our world … and our faith? Do we hear Jesus, as did the disciples in today’s Gospel, but are we not willing to listen, just like they could not? Are we like the people of Jerusalem who rejoice at Jesus’ approach when Jesus is the Saviour we make Him out to be, but who then pull back when Jesus challenges us with an unexpected, maybe unwanted, revelation?
I invite you to come and join us for our Palm Sunday worship tomorrow. Take one of the blessed palms home with you. Keep it visible throughout the year. Let it remind you of the example of the first Palm Sunday when words of praise were not sincere because they were offered without listening to what Jesus had to say. Let them help us to make the conscious effort to listen for God’s still-speaking Word. If you would like to join us online for our worship Service, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom login.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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