We have a busy and joyful day planned for Sunday. As you arrive you will receive a palm frond to wave during our Palm Processional. Our Gathering Hymn: “Ride One, Ride On in Majesty,” will include a ‘parade’ of our children through the sanctuary as they wave their palm branches and colorful streamers. Feel free to join them as they march up and down the aisles!

After we’re all settled we will share in a responsive reading of Psalm 118, a pilgrimage psalm that would have been used during Passover when Jesus was in Jerusalem. After that we will receive 5 new members into the life of South Church in a simple and tender ceremony. Then our children and youth will go off with Ann Roche and friends to learn and grow.

After that we will share in a time of prayer, listen to our lessons—Lucy Garrison will help me read Luke 19:28-48. We’ll also listen to the Chancel Choir share a moving anthem: “Draw Nigh to Thy Jerusalem.” And then I’ll share my reflections titled: “The Time of Visitation” — a quote from Jesus as recorded by Luke.

I haven’t gotten to what happens after worship — but first here’s what the sermon is about. The time of visitation that Jesus speaks of is that God has come to Jerusalem in Jesus and yet very religious people are about to reject and crucify him. How does God deal with that? Does God reject us when we fail and don’t listen? And then: Why do religious people reject the coming of the God of love? What is it about our human nature that keeps us from seeing the love right in front of us? These are some of the questions swirling around as Jesus enters Jerusalem at the head of the parade and then weeps over the city and then upends tables in the Temple.

Where is all this leading? That’s what I’ll be talking about. It will include a humorous anecdote that Bob Blafield told me a while back that captures some of the energy of Palm Sunday. There’s a lot of emotion on this day of parades, laughter, and tears as we enter Holy Week.

After worship we will head to Barrett Hall for coffee hour, the May Mattoon Spring Bake Sale, and a special meal. With the help of the Diaconate and our youth and confirmands, we will create our simplified Seder meal to share together. Through the symbolic foods of parsley, egg, horseradish, matzah etc. we will remember the time of Passover and how that ancient experience forms the context for Jesus, the disciples, and Holy Week. Using words from the Haggadah of Temple Anshe Amunim we will enter that ancient story which for us Christians continues with the story of Jesus. This ‘telling’ (which is what Haggadah translates into) helps us remember our Jewish roots and honors the richness of the Jewish tradition.

Following the ceremonial reading (that will include a number of our youth) we will share in a simple lunch of soups and bread. A basket will be passed to defray costs, but there is no set cost. We want everyone to come and share and participate in the mystery of God’s love that comes in word, song, prayer, and the breaking of bread, and sharing of a meal. My plan is that we’ll be all done by 1 p.m. and you can go forth to enjoy the day.

Be sure to come on Thursday at 7:30pm for our very moving Maundy Thursday service that enters into the shadows of the betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. By going into the dark night together we can discover a deeper light that can help guide us through all such nights as we journey on towards the abundance and joy that is still to come for each of us and for our world.

Blessings and peace in this holy season.

— Joel