Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week and the day that Christians for generations have celebrated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. When I was a child attending the Presbyterian Church, I would be part of the procession of boys and girls carrying palm branches as church began. It was exciting, and we all were smiling; the parents were smiling.
Today, as I look upon Palm Sunday several themes jump out at me: courage, hope, joy, releasing the old perceptions of our small self and leaning upon God’s understanding, not our own. But the theme I want to speak on today is that of allowing.
Allowing is non-resistance, letting go, letting God, being open to whatever happens without irritation and despair. Allowing is being with the energy of Spirit and letting it flow through us, into us, and then released back into Creation. Allowing is like a filter of sorts, whatever is good, productive, and working becomes a part of us, and whatever is unproductive, hurtful, and not working is acknowledged, noticed, and released. We allow the good of God to stick to us and the disfunction to pass through us.
This continues to happen moment by moment at all levels of our lives. Jesus allowed the flow of God’s Spirit to enter him, embrace him, mold him, and transform him into our Christ, our Savior, our King. Jesus allowed the prophesy of Zechariah to define his actions and choices. Although our Bible verse was written 550 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, he allowed God to guide him, strengthen him, and live through him. Christ accepted his role, the mission of bringing salvation to each of us.
Oh yes, he had opportunities to refuse and succumb to the temptations of the world, but he allowed the Love and strength and courage and power of God to always flow through him until he would claim, “The Father and I are one.” That is allowing.
Some claim that Jesus moved from being a teacher and prophet in the eyes of man and confirmed his being the Christ at his baptism by John. It was when God said in Matthew 3:17, “This is my Son, the one I love. I am very pleased with him.” Although baptism was not necessary, Jesus allowed the event because that is what God wanted. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, was later crucified, then rose from the tomb because that was what God wanted. To do what God wants is allowing Spirit to move through us.
Following is allowing. Following Christ is about allowing Christ to lead, to be the way-shower. We may follow Christ, but we must allow Christ to come to us, entering our hearts, minds, and being. It is one thing to notice Christ, but it is another to allow the Spirit of Christ to dwell actively within us. It is our responsibility to hear, acknowledge and respond to the teachings, guidance, and nuances of Christ. No one can do that for us.
Allowing is a part of our lives. As we look out upon the world today, we see situations that we have no control over; we cannot manipulate their outcomes. There is conflict at all levels. We must allow the Ukrainian War to unfold because we have no choice. We don’t need to agree with it. We can believe it evil, hateful, and horrific, but we still allow it to be what it is. We can acknowledge it for what it is – an atrocity that should never have started – and let it flow out of us. We do not need to cling to the despair and horror. We have no control over the situation or the results.
Our impact is accomplished at a personal level. We can donate to charities, take refugees into our homes, pray, contact our elected officials. But there is nothing we can do to impact it directly. Rather, we allow it to be what it is, while knowing that Christ is striving to open hearts and minds to love, tolerance, and peace.
While the Ukrainian War is distressingly real, it also serves as a metaphor for our own egos fighting our spiritual natures, and that we do have control over. We can’t stop Putin from destroying homes, hospitals, lands, and killing people, but we can intervene in our own negative thoughts and actions. We can allow the peace and truth of God to flow in and around us. We can release the hatred and anger and move into action by giving, praying, and speaking words affirming that God is doing His works.
We cannot control the Covid virus or whether our loved ones will suffer from long term Covid symptoms. But we can allow that situation to be, and since we have no control over it, we can acknowledge it and release it. We allow our thoughts to move from despair, worry, and bleakness to hope and optimism.
It is a difficult lesson to allow – whatever it is. Allowing is a neutral view of whatever we face ‘out there.’ Most often we feel we must fight it, resist it, change it, fix it, and yet, in truth, we cannot control it or impact it. We only have control over ourselves – our thoughts, our actions, our words. We can treat our own darkness as we treat the world’s darkness: we notice it, acknowledge it, and then let it pass through us without holding on to any of it or letting it become a part of us.
Of course, somethings cannot be allowed. Jesus demonstrated this when he overturned the tables of those who were taking advantage of people in the temple and turning spiritual events into business enterprises. At another time Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:11 – “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” What the people heard in those days was a reference to Deuteronomy 15:11. For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ This teaches us to focus rightly, open our hearts, and do what we can with what we have in the areas that we can impact.
That is what Palm Sunday is to me this year: a time to acknowledge the turmoil and darkness and release it, while focusing on and clinging to the good and productive. The Serenity Prayer embodies allowing: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Not allowing the negative to affect us does not make us weak or unsympathetic or uncaring or cold. It makes us balanced. When we are balanced, we can more easily allow Christ to move through us, guide us, lead us, and love us. When we are balanced spiritually, we can act with balance, think, speak, and react with balance. We can see and understand more clearly.
On that first Palm Sunday, the people were not allowing to flow through them the truth of what Christ represented or what he offered. So, although that Sunday was a celebration of joy, it was for erroneous reasons and false and misguided hopes; and those false hopes would ultimately ignite into fear, which would cause them to live through their egoistic desires to destroy Jesus.
Of course, Jesus knew all of this. He knew this was what God wanted and he would allow it; it was part of God’s plan. The lessons of allowing begin with permitting God’s plan to be revealed fully and naturally. We are to accept God’s will and intention and not judge appearances or dare to presume the intentions of others based upon our egoistic thinking and limited understanding. We are to allow the Love and Peace of God to overcome the violence of the world.
Another lesson is that what we think we want is not nearly as valuable as the good that God has planned for us. Which kingdom do we allow to rule our life – the kingdom of man with its ostentatious display of violence, power, might, and glory, or the Kingdom of God with its quiet whispers of love, peace, joy, strength, compassion, tolerance and wisdom?
So let us enjoy our worldly celebrations, while keeping our hearts and minds firmly rooted in Christ. Let us endure the pains and disappointments of the world, while knowing that we cannot possibly understand the reasons behind them, and that they really cannot influence us without our allowing them.
The journey that brought Jesus to Jerusalem was always about Love, always about hope, always about educating, demonstrating, and trying to awaken the hearts and minds of anyone open to the gentle tapping of Spirit ... and that continues to this day. The words and stories that are left to us describing his path and his teachings are pointers to the work that we alone must accomplish to fully absorb Christ's meaning for our lives and to understand the lessons intended for us as an individual.
It is my prayer that we will allow the message that Jesus brought to move inward. I pray that from this inner perspective we can see that what Christ truly brought through his journey of love – the freedom, salvation, the hope, and joy. Christ asks that we take his hand and choose which Kingdom we will adulate, and which we will allow to influence us: Man’s kingdom or God’s.