As I prepared my sermon for this Palm Sunday, I felt this sinking feeling. At first, I couldn’t figure out what it was. The truth is I’ve never been a holidays person. Even as a child I asked, “Do we have to do this Christmas thing every year. Actually, I get anxious during almost every holiday season because for me they feel like times when people are especially expected to conform to a particular way of showing up. And I’m not very good at that at all. “But it’s Christmas!” people might say if someone doesn’t express excitement about that time of year. I’ve heard it numerous times and on several occasions have been blamed for ruining the season for folks when I tell them how I really feel.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not anti–holiday. I’m just not personally into them. To some degree I have an appreciation for witnessing how other people express themselves during these special days. I can even participate. I just don’t particularly feel like I’m the most enthusiastic person to be out front during those times. Especially when some people base how they experience their holiday, at least in part, on my excitement level–which admittedly is not that high about most things.
So, not wanting to make people’s Palm Sunday feel like an downer, I tried to write a happier sermon worthy of the pageantry generally associated with Palm Sunday almost ignoring the fact that the Cross that actually looms over that day. In my head, I had it all worked out. “Just stick to the Triumphal Entry. It’s a celebration.” I told myself. But the intelligence analyst in me couldn’t get past something in the surrounding text that has bothered me for 35 years. And so, that celebration quickly transformed into a challenge–one first to myself and then to everyone who might hear it.
It’s not easy to accept that you believed something incorrectly for 35 years or to reconcile that the people who taught you innocently passed on to you a narrative that is contradictory to the teachings you’ve committed your life to. But that’s exactly how I feel right now. I feel like scales have fallen from my eyes. I know that learning new things is not a betrayal to your past teachers. But for two decades now, that’s how it’s felt. On some level, my soul tries to apologize for shifting from what I was taught. But the reality is that what I was taught was tainted by the idea that I come from slaves and that whatever freedom I express is somehow suspect and underserved in some way. Even the way I read scriptures that are meant for my spiritual and physical liberty has been compromised by this thought system. But by God’s grace, this Palm Sunday, I had a breakthrough. And now, I’m working toward breaking free.
So, even though I wasn’t able to stick to my original sermon plan, I’m excited for once because, I may finally be ready to receive the gift I believe Christ came to bring–freedom for the captives.
I hope this message serves you in hearing it as much as it served me in struggling to write it.