Even If We're Silent the Stones Shout Out
What a different Palm Sunday celebration this is from the one we’d planned. At the 10:30 service it was to have been a fun, lively inter-generational service with the children joining in the whole thing, and taking part in different ways. It was to have been a high holy day in every sense, joining the crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as their king. We would have waved palm branches with them, sung and rejoiced, and processed outside and around the church.
But everything has been turned upsidedown – as, indeed, everything was turned upsidedown back then. We’re shut in our homes, the church is locked, we’re unable to see or touch each other. We’ve been told, “Go home, and stay home,” just as the Pharisees wanted to tell the crowd around Jesus to be quiet and disperse. And we know that the crowd did go, and later Jesus was very much alone as he continued on the way that would lead him to the cross.
And yet there’s a verse in the gospel reading that stands out for me today. When the Pharisees tell Jesus to make the crowd of followers go, he says, “I tell you, even if these people were silent, the stones would shout out.” [Luke 19:40]
We may be silent and shut in, but the voice of creation is not. The voice of creation is all around us, everywhere, rejoicing, witnessing, mourning, praising. We see it portrayed in art, in poetry, in Scripture: in times of celebration the trees clap their hands, the valleys shout for joy and sing; and in times of sorrow and lamentation the sun and moon are darkened, fruits dry up, waters fail.
We are not alone, and our reality is not the only one. The voice and surrounding presence of creation can comfort us, set a new perspective, speak and act when we cannot. We can’t gather today and wave palm branches, but the trees are clapping their hands. We don’t know when this pandemic is going to end, but spring is on the way and crocuses, snowdrops, buds are appearing to give us hope. God speaks to us through all of these.
Perhaps, in a new and unfamiliar but very real way, we can follow Jesus on his path to the cross more intensely this year than ever. Perhaps when we go for a quiet walk outside we can notice the presence and the voice of creation and see in it God’s presence and God’s voice. Perhaps we can make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as we journey through these dark and difficult times.
We are having to give things up, suspend old ways of being, face fear and aloneness, grieve and struggle. This Holy Week may we do so in the company of Christ, joining him on his path, bringing our fears and tears to him.
This Holy Week let us be disciples of Jesus as never before. We may not be able to be together to sing and pray and share the eucharist, but we can draw closer to Christ in his suffering. We can sit quietly at home, read his story, and knit our world into his.
Outside the main doors of the church today are jars of palm crosses for you. We invite you, if you’d like to and are able, to make a pilgrimage to the church sometime today, and pick up your cross outside. Take it carefully, without touching the other crosses, and carry it home with you knowing that you are a disciple, you are walking through all this with Jesus, and he with you. And take heart: the stones are singing out, the trees are clapping their hands, God is with us, and healing and new life will come. Amen.