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 But Jesus gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that governor was greatly amazed. – Matthew 27:14 

 My sabbatical taught me a lot! Thank you and the staff for the gift of time to be away. As I said before I left, my sabbatical was a time to seek the Spirit’s work in my life and a hope to strengthen and renew my faith. It was also a time of learning, visioning, and resting. As with any planned journey away, unexpected stuff happens. And the funny part of that is I learned the most in those times. I didn’t expect that being off the beaten path in Israel to be the most interesting and educational. I didn’t expect to get stuck and lost on a mountain in Arizona but I found that struggle was transformative and what I needed at the moment. I didn’t expect that my family needed me the most during my sabbatical and I was able to focus on them and be intentional with my time.  I didn’t expect the trip to the Island of Acutupu in Panama to be the most healing for me, where I truly could step away, let go, and be me. 

 Grace often is revealed in unexpected ways. This is what our readings on Palm Sunday will teach us this week. In fact, God’s plans can seem vague and unknown, even confusing. Holy Week invites us to consider that reality. 

 We will read two Gospel readings this Sunday, one at the beginning of the service where Jesus enters Jerusalem, and the other in the middle of the service. In the first Gospel reading, the expectations of the crowd are clear from their greeting:  

 “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” 

 Jerusalem was the ancient capital of Israel, and it was under Roman control. In Jesus’ day, its people wanted their independence.  Jesus was the one whom they had hoped to bring it to them. In my time in Israel, it was so interesting to literally walk in the places where Jesus served and to see people still oppressed and wanting independence. It was unsettling to be able as a US citizen to cross borders with ease and watch long lines of others struggling to make it to work. 

 In the readings this Sunday, there is much misunderstanding. We see that in conversations Jesus has with leaders and in the statements of people passing by during the crucifixion. In each case, Jesus’ accusers inadvertently speak the truth. They accuse him of calling himself the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah, a prophet, someone who would raise up the temple in three days, and a savior. He was in fact all of these things, but their understanding had wandered so far from God’s that they could not see the truth even when it was right there before them. In their misunderstanding, there is a challenge for our own faith journey. We have our own ideas of what power and glory are and it can distract us from our faith in Jesus. 

 Palm Sunday reminds us that God’s way is not always the way we expect, but as we discover in our travels through Holy Week, Life Endures! Join us this Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week! Easter becomes that more special when we journey together as a community of faith in the powerful and life-transforming story of Jesus. Amen.