Yesterday on Palm Sunday, members of our congregation marched the few blocks from downtown to the nave of the church. As we processed up the street, we sang a call-and-response song with our minister as the cantor. “Hosanna, Hosanna. Hosanna, Hosanna. Blessed is the one who comes. Blessed is the one who comes.”* We were a weird entourage in the midst of people heading to restaurants, shoppers with packages and skiers on their way to the slopes. As many times as I have participated in this ritual in different towns and cities, I still felt a little awkward. Others in our group hung their heads, giggled, and started side conversations. My guess is we were all a little embarrassed. We are not used to displaying our worship rituals outside of the safety of our church building.
Once we arrived in the church we sang the traditional Palm Sunday hymn “All Glory Laud and Honor.” Even in the church with the encouragement of the worship leaders, people looked awkward and self-conscious waving their palms. Most of our normal worship is with words and not with our bodies. Raising our arms, even with a palm as an excuse, is an uncomfortable action.
A member of the congregation recited the entire Passion Gospel reading from Mark by memory. It was riveting. What I noticed most was Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter was probably terrified of the authorities but he also may have been just plain embarrassed. Who would want to be associated with a weirdo and seeming loser like Jesus? I’m sure if I had been there, I would have done exactly what Peter did.
Following Jesus is not an act of social conformity. It is not about looking good or appearing strong or being perfect. Following Jesus often demands acts of embarrassing surrender and a willingness to let go of my finely-crafted self-image. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he says, “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ.” (1Corinthians 4:9-10 NRSV)
My word for today on my Surrender calendar is embarrassing. Am I willing to face embarrassment and to surrender my ego not only to worship Jesus but to follow on the unlikely, seemingly foolish paths to which I think I am being called? I really don’t know.
*Music By Heart: Paperless Music for Evening Worship, “Hosanna, ho!/Palm Sunday Processional” by Ben Allaway, p.67, 2007