Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road,
and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 
The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”
(Matthew 21:8-9, NASB)

Today is the first Palm Sunday that I've ever spent at home. There will be no palm leaves waved and no shouts of Hosanna from the crowd. There will be no crowd, at least not as we have known the crowd, but don't be fooled: A crowd is gathering. A crowd is shouting.

There's an interesting phenomena called herd mentality, or mob mentality, that social scientists love to study. Oversimplified, the idea is that a person might do something in a crowd they wouldn't do individually. It's part of what makes people flash strangers at Mardi Gras celebrations or break store windows during riots. It's every mother's worst fear; yes, your child probably would jump off a cliff if enough of his friends were doing it. The crowd feels safe, and we can lose ourselves in it. We don't think about what we are doing, we just do it.

I suspect there were some people in the crowd that first Palm Sunday who didn't really know what was going on. They saw the crowd, they were curious about who was coming, and they found themselves shouting and celebrating. Hosanna!

These are hard questions, but please hear me out: Do we ever fall into the crowd at church? Is our worship ever a result of social expectation instead of our love for God? Is service to others a result of earning status as a servant instead of love for God? Is our tithing inspired by tax deductions instead of our love for God? Do we take communion because we fear what the crowd might think about us if we don't? Do we carry our Bible, wear certain clothes, or say certain words because that's what the crowd does?

The crowd is fickle. It is easily influenced. In Matthew 21 the crowd shouted Blessed is He, but in Matthew 27 the crowd shouted Give us Barabbas!

This Palm Sunday is an unprecedented opportunity. We can worship God without the influence of the crowd and know that our actions are intended only to bless Him.

Today I will re-evaluate my motives.
Today I will pray that my actions are solely to worship God.
Today I will celebrate at home.
Today I will sing and shout Hosanna in a crowd of one. 

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